At the U of A, the strategic plan was unveiled in stages and with various constituency groups. As the Standards of Excellence were created, inter/national organization staffs of the fraternities and sororities on campus were informed regarding this document to ensure that standards were similar across the board. After the plan was approved by the task force, the group implemented their accreditation program as a pilot program for one year, which allowed voluntary involvement on behalf of the chapters with the understanding that the plan may be modified slightly and fully implemented the following year. Working with all of the constituency groups to ensure that what the task force came up with was in line with the common fraternal values as well as the mission and visions for both the University and the Fraternity and Sorority Programs office took a significant amount of time and energy. Implementing a strategic plan has challenges, but it can also be an uplifting and transformational experience. Creating sustainable cultural change through the plan should become the practitioner’s priority. Strategic action items provide professionals with a solid foundation to address community issues with a greater sense of purpose and urgency. Job responsibilities that do not seem relevant to the mission and vision of the community are replaced with developing an outcomesbased curriculum that outlines both the direction the community should move as well as how it should go about remaining relevant to fraternal values. Strategic Planning: Making Sure the Plan is Working An assessment of the 0-18 month time period, which concluded in December 2008, showed the K-State fraternity/sorority community was approximately 90 percent successful in addressing strategic issues. Several highlights of the implementation are curriculum-based membership development programs, the development and implementation of the Fraternal Relevance Accreditation and Minimum Expectations Program, and the revision and implementation of a comprehensive risk management policy and educational programs. At the U of A, after the first full year of implementation of the accreditation program, 38 of the 49 fraternities and sororities were at or above the “Chapter of Promise” level of accreditation, the minimum standard to be recognized by the campus. Those chapters falling below the “Chapter of Promise” level have an opportunity to resubmit their Chapter Assessment Tool at the end of the 2009 spring semester in an attempt to raise their overall score. It is anticipated that when this occurs, a majority of the chapters will rise above the “Chapter of Promise” level.
At both institutions, change is also evident anecdotally, as student leaders commonly discuss the relevance to their mission in decisionmaking processes, developing learning outcomes for council programming, and during annual membership and chapter events. In addition, chapters at the U of A are using the Standards of Excellence and the Chapter Assessment Tool as ways to guide bylaw revisions and regular operating practices, including updating scholarship programs, focusing on values-based recruitment, and improving overall risk management.
References Bureau, D., (2007, Winter). Barriers to greatness: Using the concept of fraternal relevancy to create urgency for change. Perspectives, 8-11. Bolman, L. G., & Deal, T. E., (2003). Reframing organizations: Artistry, choice, and leadership (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
Conclusion Although strategic planning has challenges, the opportunity for success is clear. Strategic plans and change initiatives are easy to place on a shelf and forget about, making change and improvement impossible or at least unlikely. Bolman & Deal (2003) point out that most change agents fail when they rely on reason and structure and neglect human, political, and symbolic elements within the change process. Fraternity/sorority involvement is centered on the concept of mission and action congruence and demonstrating relevance to the mission of the organizations and host institutions. Bureau (2007) states “our contribution to any relevancy movement is examining how practitioners do our work and what can be done differently to make the experience better than it is today” (p. 8). Strategic planning equips communities with the opportunities and means to create sustainable cultural change through innovative programs, practices, and policies. Strategic planning can be the vehicle for ensuring congruent and relevant change happens. Kansas State University and the University of Arizona fraternity/sorority communities embraced the opportunity to increase their relevance. Both communities have shown continued progress and growth in membership recruitment, retention, accountability, chapter performance, and the overall health of the communities. Strategic planning focusing on fraternal relevance will help any community become the change the fraternal movement needs.
– Brandon J. Cutler is the Assistant Director for Greek Affairs at the Kansas State University and Zachary D. Nicolazzo is the Coordinator for Fraternity & Sorority Programs at the University of Arizona.
Spring 2009 / Perspectives
AFA Perspectives Spring 2009