Talking Greek with Corey Gant W&L’s new director of Greek life discusses his own fraternity experience and the evolution of Greek life at W&L.
“I started college as a very shy student, but I can honestly say joining [a fraternity] pushed me out of my comfort zone and introduced me to a world of opportunities on campus.”
~ Corey Gant
Q: What does a day in the life of W&L’s director of Greek life look like?
Two days rarely look the same, which is something I love about working in fraternity and sorority life. Some days I might be in back-to-back meetings with fraternity and sorority presidents checking in on the happenings of their organizations, while some days I may be driving independent students to a step show at James Madison University. Because of the size and scope of Greek life at W&L, I get invited to join a lot of working groups or meetings.
Q: At Virginia Tech, where you received your undergraduate degree in public and urban affairs, you pledged Delta Tau Delta. How did your involvement in the fraternity shape your own college experience and the person you are today?
Being a Delt has definitely shaped who I am as a person. The core values of Delta Tau Delta — truth, courage, faith and power — helped influence a lot of my decisions in college. I started college as a very shy student, but I can honestly say joining Delt pushed me out of my comfort zone and introduced me to a world of opportunities on campus. To this day, I still keep the block letters T, C, F and P in my office to remind myself of the oath I made 10 years ago.
Q: Is there a moment or time period you can point to when the Greek system became a career interest for you? Why did you choose this path — or did it choose you?
I really didn’t know anything about student affairs upon arriving at Virginia Tech. I bounced around a number of majors and nothing seemed to fit. Then I met my mentor, Dr. Byron Hughes, who served as the director of fraternity and sorority life for a while and who is now the dean of students. I interned with his office and fell in love with helping students see the impact Greek life could have on our campus and local community. He was very intentional about presenting student affairs as an option for me and guided me through the graduate school application process. I ended up attending Indiana University and received a master’s of science in education in higher education and student affairs.
Q: What do you wish the public knew about Greek life that is not apparent in common stereotypes?
This is one of my favorite questions. Most people would expect me to blindly go to bat for the Greek system, but my views are more complex than that. When done right, Greek life teaches students how to be strong leaders who understand how their decisions impact themselves, their organizations and their communities. However, like any student—or human, for that matter—Greek students don’t always make the best decisions. I don’t think it is fair to assign blame to the Greek system for all campus or community issues, though. This is especially true in W&L’s case, since 75 percent of the student body is involved in Greek life.
Q: Part of your job is leading diversity and inclusion efforts in the W&L Greek community. What does that involve?
The Office of Greek Life at W&L is working closely with the Office of Inclusion and Engagement to develop a training program focused on diversity and inclusion for our Greek organizations. The program is intended for sophomores and will build upon the training first-year students receive during orientation. We’ve piloted this program with a few fraternities and have witnessed productive conversations. These efforts are not only important to educate our community members about privilege and oppression, but also because they serve as an opportunity for members to be vulnerable with one another. Research shows this can increase students’ sense of belonging within Greek organizations.
Q: There have been some highly publicized national cases in recent years of students who were injured, or worse, died, during Greek hazing rituals. Can you tell me about your efforts specifically around hazing- and alcohol-abuse prevention and awareness?
The Office of Greek Life has highlighted hazing prevention as a priority for the 2018-2019 academic year. We are currently exploring ways to partner with the Hazing Prevention Consortium, a research-to-practice initiative led by StopHazing. Membership in the consortium kicks off with a comprehensive assessment of campus culture and its hazing climate in order to develop and implement W&L-tailored hazing prevention strategies. We are administering a survey during Winter Term to all students that would gather data on hazing perceptions and statistics on our campus — the first step of the assessment.
Q: As an out and proud gay man, how do you see Greek organizations evolving (or not) when it comes to being inclusive of LGBTQ+ folks? What would you say to a parent who is nervous about their LGBTQ+ son or daughter pledging?
This is definitely an area that I’m passionate about. I was very lucky to have a welcoming experience as a gay man in my fraternity. However, that is not everybody’s experience. Unfortunately, I can’t promise a parent that the organization their student is interested in is going to be the most inclusive on campus and that everything will be fine. My advice is always to have students ask the hard questions during recruitment. Recruitment should be navigated similarly to the college search.
Greek organizations have the power to model what an inclusive community could look like. My hope is that diversity training will help Greek students understand how inclusivity greatly impacts both the greater organization and the individual student experience on campus.
Q: What do you love about W&L’s sorority and fraternity culture, and the university as a whole? What aspect are you most excited about in terms of your new role?
It’s always the students. Within the fraternity and sorority community, they’re always ready to challenge the status quo. They ask hard questions, and I feel that I grow as a professional because of them. I also love that I get to interact with both Greek and independent students on a regular basis. I think it’s just as important to build relationships with independent students in order to hear honest, objective feedback about what could be improved about the Greek community and how it plays a role in shaping the university as a whole.
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