Laura Roof, Director of Sorority and Fraternity Life, University of South Dakota
March 23, 2017
If you have ever been in a committed partnership, you probably have come to realized that mutual respect, trust, and communication tend to be major “keys” to a successful relationship. And like many aspects of our lives, these “keys” transcend both our personal and professional lives. For me, in my professional role as the Director of Sorority and Fraternity Life at the University of South Dakota, these lessons have been utilized in a variety of ways to build essential partnerships with the constituents I serve. But too often, when we (I) hear the word constituents, we tend to forget about our off-campus partners with the community; until of course, they come knocking at our door at 2am-sometimes literally. Particularly if we are not native to the town, city or community we have been placed; and those community partners are not in our network of professional “friends” yet.
With this reality in mind, the question then becomes: How can we make sure that we are building these essential relationships with our community partners, and modeling the way for our students to do similar before we meet them in a time of crisis?
Within the Sorority/Fraternity Life Community on our campus, the answer has taken two well-known forms: free food and phones calls.
Our first approach, free food, takes place early each fall as the Fraternity and Sorority Community hosts its Annual Emergency Professional’s BBQ. This BBQ is sponsored and coordinated by the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life and hosted at one of our larger-and more frequented- Fraternity facilities. Emergency professionals from around the community are invited to attend, along with their families; and are greeted at the facility by the newest leaders of the SFL community, as we share in community bonding over BBQ and lawn games. The hosting chapter gives tours to the emergency professionals and both sides joke about “when they will see each other next.” Now in our fourth year, the reception of this event has been great. Particularly by our emergency professionals that have high levels of contact with our Sorority/Fraternity Life Community; reporting that they enjoy meeting student leaders, and getting to know them, in positive settings early in the semester prior to any incidents.
Our second method of relationship building is one of the oldest in the professional book- pick up the phone and call. Each time I have a question, comment, feedback or just want to check in, I pick up the phone- and then follow up with an email if I cannot reach them. In a time when it is all too easy to type up an email, the power of a phone call can go a long way in building a partnership; particularly if you build a cordial relationship that can include a few personal pleasantries (how're the kids…the wife…the husband…the dog?).
Free food and phone calls, have been the current method for our Sorority and Fraternity Life Community and Professionals to build the ever growing committed partnership we have with our Vermillion Community Emergency Professionals; but we also realize that our method is not the only way to address this essential, but often overlooked component of our work.
Thus we welcome other institutions and professionals to answer: How are we building relationships with our community partners, BEFORE 2 am?
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