Tri Sigma returns to FHSU
By ELIZABETH GOLDEN
Sigma Sigma Sigma Sorority, or Tri Sigma, will recolonize at Fort Hays State University in spring 2015, after closing 10 years prior.
"Greek life has been growing over the past couple years," said Jacob Ternes, coordinator of student involvement and Greek life. "There's more of a demand for the university, so we thought this would be a good year to grow."
Tri Sigma closed in 2005 due to low membership, but the organization hoped to return when the community was able to support a chapter.
"Those in the chapter weren't having a good experience," said Brittany Parrott, extension coordinator in the national office. "It's hard to maintain a chapter with a small number of women because there are quite a number of positions. Greek life is a wonderful addition to any campus, but the members main priority are being students. Lower membership numbers could make it difficult to balance the chapter functions in addition to academics."
Ternes said the 1990s and early 2000s were difficult on all aspects of Greek life.
"It was a really rough time for all of our organizations," he said. "The university is more committed to fraternities and sororities now. Our groups are more successful than they were, and alumni are more engaged. There's a real return to values and being what we say we're about instead of falling into that party culture and those negative stereotypes."
The Greek community at FHSU began discussing the possibility of expansion in the fall. The university sent out invitations to all 26 existing national organizations and invited them to apply for the open spot. Tri Sigma and Alpha Sigma Alpha applied.
Those sororities were invited to interview on campus. Tri Sigma was offered the spot, and Alpha Sigma Alpha might have the opportunity to return to campus in 2017, depending on demand, Ternes said.
"In the past few years, there has been a sizable amount of women who aren't being placed with either of the existing sororities," Ternes said. "We want to be able to provide that sorority experience to as many women as possible, so adding that third group adds another option for more students to join."
Tri Sigma was chosen due to the national commitment to local chapters and alumnae support.
"Our chapter at FHSU has produced really dedicated alumnae who are successful and impact the community," Parrott said. "We jumped at the opportunity to be a part of the community again, not only because FHSU is a really amazing place to be with amazing students, but because of our alumnae presence and how excited they are, and how much of who they are today is a result of their experiences at FHSU."
The university looked for a dedicated alumnae foundation in order to increase the potential of success on campus.
"All sororities are founded on similar principles," Ternes said. "But, each organization develops their own personality and niche. It's not that Tri Sigma is going to bring something completely revolutionary, but it will be another option. It's going to be another little family within our community."
Life-long friends, philanthropic efforts, service and academics are among the principles.
"Our sororities typically dedicate time to raising funds for a charity," Ternes said. "Tri Sigma doesn't have one national charity. They come in and see what local organizations they can tie to. They're flexible in whatever they decide to dedicate their time to."
Laurie Lo Nigro, class of 1984 and '88, knew she wanted to rush Tri Sigma from her first day visiting campus.
"It was love at first sight," she said. "I'm so happy about the return, as are all of the girls. We are so pleased because we want other women to experience what we did at FHSU. Sigma was part of FHSU for a long time, and it's great to be back."
After the closing, returning to campus was difficult for alumnae.
"It was sad of course," Lo Nigro said. "It was difficult going back and not seeing our house when other houses were still there, and they would have open houses during homecoming. Our house was still standing, but without our letters on it."
Twilla Wanker, class of '57, has been working on recolonizing the sorority for the past two years.
"I want other girls to experience the experience we had as members," she said. "We were encouraged to be involved with campus organizations."
Ternes said women and men in Greek organizations typically are involved in multiple aspects of campus life.
"They get involved with their organization and then go out and join things like student government," he said. "They join other clubs and become very service-focused. Providing this opportunity to more women will lead to more-engaged students."
The return of Tri Sigma wont cause the university an additional expense since upkeep and marketing will be paid by membership dues and allocations from Student Government Association.
Tri Sigma will not be returning to its previous house and will begin researching rental properties, or join the new Greek housing initiative for 2016.
"It's going to bring new life," Ternes said. "We're going to see our numbers increase big time because of the excitement and energy. It's going to challenge our existing groups to do better and raise the caliber of our community as a whole. It's going to build a lot of momentum that will help us continue to improve in the future."