The inaugural 132-member pledge class of Kappa Kappa Gamma was named this past Sunday after sisters from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) and California State University, Northridge (CSUN) aided in the recruitment process.
“Kappa Kappa Gamma brings strength to the greek community, and that will strengthen the Cal Poly community,” Panhellenic Adviser Renoda Campbell said of Cal Poly’s newest sorority.
But before the organization could open its arms to recruiting this founding class of women, Cal Poly’s Panhellenic Board had to jump through a year of hoops to bring Kappa Kappa Gamma to campus.
That hoop jumping began in 2011, shortly after fall recruitment for the eight existing Panhellenic sororities on campus.
After a record-breaking number of women participating in Panhellenic recruitment in Fall 2011, Campbell and other members of the greek community realized there weren’t enough classrooms on campus that could accommodate an entire chapter during its weekly meetings, she said.
“The business silo was the only place that fit all the women in one room,” she said. “So we needed to lower numbers. Bringing a new sorority on campus was the best way to do that.”
Campbell said currently some sororities have close to 200 members — Chi Omega is the largest with 196 members. The maximum capacity of the business silo (Business, room 213) is 230, but it is one of only two classrooms on campus that can hold more than 100 people. Alex and Faye Spanos Theatre is the other.
So Campbell and the Panhellenic board wrote to the National Panhellenic Council explaining their situation, and six organizations applied to create a chapter on campus. This past year, it was narrowed down to two — Delta Gamma and Kappa Kappa Gamma. Campbell, as well as the Panhellenic board, met with representatives from each organization and selected Kappa Kappa Gamma as Cal Poly’s newest sisterhood.
“It’s an organization with a rich history,” Campbell said. “It’s one of the oldest sororities.”
Kappa Kappa Gamma was founded in 1870. Kappa Alpha Theta was the first female fraternity, founded in the same year, six months prior.
The women of Kappa Kappa Gamma greatly value breaking down stereotypes of the “typical” sorority,” Campbell said. While their sisterhood holds dear the time spent in college, they instill the value in sisterhood after college, too, she said.
“Kappa enforces that it’s not just the four, two, however many years you’re in the house or on campus, but also the sisterhood that comes from (being) alumni,” Campbell said.
In addition to sisterhood, factors such as philanthropy and leadership development helped get women excited about Kappa Kappa Gamma, she said. UCSB and CSUN sisters highlighted “being a Kappa on a national level,” Campbell said.
But what really piqued the interest of these women, Campbell said, were the leadership opportunities presented to them.
“They’re the founding chapter,” she said. “They’re the first. It’s a legacy. People will look up to these women for a long time.”
Chapter Consultant Sarah Ford, who will serve as adviser to the new chapter for the next two years, agreed.
“These women got an inside look as to who we are as an organization,” she said. Their presentations and information sessions highlighted their philanthropic work, leadership opportunities and showcased how much Kappa values the individual.
Kappa Kappa Gamma’s national website states: “We’re a women’s organization. It starts with that. But where we go from there is up to the woman.” While sisterhood is important, Ford stressed that Kappa Kappa Gamma instills and appreciates the individuality and diversity of its members.
Kappa’s philanthropy, Reading is Fundamental, works to extend access to books to children in underserved areas. Additionally, the sorority established the Kappa Kappa Gamma Foundation, which helps sisters in times of need. The national website states the foundation funds can be used to help a sister with an “emergency grant in time of crisis.”
“(The sorority) really values a culture of philanthropy,” Campbell said. “They have a great reputation for giving.”
Before diving into their philanthropy work, though, these women have to create the sorority’s “spinal cord.” As the charter pledge class, they have a few more responsibilities than members of an already structured sorority.
“Other established sororities have structure,” Campbell said. “Kappa has an outline.”
New members will have to create the groundwork for the future of the sorority, elect an executive board and learn the traditions and bylaws of the sorority all at the same time. But, Campbell and Ford both promised an “incredibly rewarding experience.”
Child development junior Jenna Strack chose Kappa Kappa Gamma for that very reason.
“I’ve always liked the idea of greek life,” she said. “But I had never found a house that I thought I fit into.”
But Kappa Kappa Gamma made her feel at home instantly, she said. And since her involvement is strictly campus-oriented, Strack said she liked the idea of being involved in an organization that reaches beyond the perimeter of campus.
“I want to be part of something bigger,” she said.
Strack isn’t the only member of the pledge class who waited until her junior year to join greek life. While it’s less common at Cal Poly than other universities across the nation, approximately 30 percent of women wait until their junior or senior years to go through recruitment, according to Campbell.
“I joined greek life during my junior year,” Campbell said. “But during your junior year, the draw to joining greek life is a little different.”
Freshman year, women tend to go greek because they’re looking for their niche on campus, she said. In the midst of their “soul searching” they find a house in hopes of being accepted into a new community. With juniors and seniors, though, it’s a little different. They’re looking for a way to make a lasting impact on the campus.
“They’re looking to be part of the legacy,” Campbell said.
And that legacy is always looking impressive. Strack and her new sisters are excited to see where Kappa Kappa Gamma will take them, and how they will be able to shape the organization.
“I think it’s really exciting to be a founding member. My name will be on the charter,” Strack said.
Kappa Kappa Gamma has momentum, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. The founding chapter is currently house hunting, will soon be creating its executive board, and it looks like this organization is here to stay.
Campbell, whose excitement for the organization is apparent as she sits in her office, said simply, “Only good things will come from Kappa.”