Making Our Case The Positive Impact of Fraternities
raternities and sororities provide experiences that are an important part of higher education, with an estimated 750,000 undergraduate members and nine million living alumni members in the United States alone. But how do you prove it? Anecdotally, many alumni point to their membership as the opportunity to develop lifelong friendship, gain valuable leadership experiences, and thrive civically. While many have leaned on those experiences, research on educational and experiential outcomes of fraternity and sorority membership has been limited. Until now. The North American Interfraternity Conference (NIC), the trade association representing 58 men’s fraternities, including Phi Gamma Delta, recently began an aggressive research agenda intended to empirically show the value and opportunities of fraternity membership. With many more projects underway, the results of three recent studies show positive impacts around student engagement, mental health and positive youth development.
Research Reaffirms Fraternities’ Positive Impact for Students In August 2020, Dr. Gary R. Pike of Indiana University, a prominent higher education researcher, released a study that examined the relationships between fraternity and sorority membership and student engagement, learning outcomes, academic performance and satisfaction with college. 36
THE PHI GAMMA DELTA|SPRING 2021
For this study, which is one of the largest of its kind, Dr. Pike replicated his 2003 research which utilized National Survey on Student Engagement (NSSE) data to determine whether levels of engagement and learning outcomes changed over time. According to Dr. Pike, the NSSE is a good instrument to understand students broadly and fraternity and sorority members specifically. “The scope of the NSSE data is significant to these findings. Each year, approximately 700 institutions participate in that survey and we get complete responses from over 200,000, either first-year students or seniors,” said Dr. Pike. “It is a tremendously robust and representative data set.” Dr. Pike found that fraternity/sorority membership is associated with significantly higher levels of engagement in several areas, including high impact practices, collaborative learning, student-faculty interactions, perception of a supportive campus environment and discussions with diverse others. Some specific conclusions found in Dr. Pike’s study included: • Fraternity/sorority membership also indirectly improved learning gains, acting through higher levels of student engagement. • Despite being less diverse than students in general, fraternity/sorority members reported higher levels of interaction with people different from themselves than other students did. • Membership in a fraternity/sorority is associated with greater involvement in curricular and www.phigam.org