Over the past semester, the number of girls walking around the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus sporting little pink ribbons with the bold black letters “ZTA” superimposed has increased dramatically. These ribbons, a symbol of breast cancer awareness, are worn by members of a new, officially registered student organization — Zeta Tau Alpha.
The new sorority sisters wear these ribbons to support their philanthropy, breast cancer education and the ZTA Foundation.
Bringing a new sorority chapter to a college is no easy task, UW-Madison ZTA president Rhyan Peed told the Daily Cardinal. She explained that there are a host of unexpected challenges that can arise during the complex process.
According to Peed, the first step in establishing a new fraternity or sorority begins with a vote on campus and the National Panhellenic Conference. From then on, national organizations—in this case, ZTA—may choose to apply to open new chapters on campus. The app allows aspiring fraternities and sororities to persuade their desired campus to welcome them into Greek life.
ZTA, being focused on their philanthropic efforts, has put this at the forefront of their application. They also chose to highlight their other services, programming, and efforts around diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Once applications are sealed and submitted, they are reviewed by campus extension committees and four chosen organizations are offered the opportunity to create in-person presentations. After this stage of the process, few of the chosen organizations are given an official place on campus.
While ZTA is now an official sorority in Wisconsin Greek Life, Peed admitted the business isn’t as simple and straightforward as many had hoped.
“The registration process can be tricky,” admitted Peed.
The application process did not stop there, as the sorority also had to apply to become an official, registered student organization. This process included drafting a constitution and bylaws, listing membership requirements, and selecting leaders who would serve as contacts for the organization.
Now that ZTA is officially registered and on campus, they no longer face the difficulties of complex applications, but rather the challenges of growing into a larger, more connected organization.
“There are upsides and downsides to growing as a new sorority on campus,” Peed pointed out. “More established organizations have larger networks, more connections, and an established reputation on campus.”
To recruit new members, ZTA decided to adopt a different strategy than most long-standing sororities. Peed doesn’t ignore the idea that “the new can be scary”, rather she shows potential new members the benefits of being part of a new organization.
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“We are definitely adapting our recruiting strategies and really emphasizing that being a Zeta is a unique and fulfilling experience,” Peed said. “One of the benefits of being new to campus is that we have had incredible support from the university and our National Council.”
While ZTA is new to the UW-Madison campus, the organization was founded on October 15, 1898 in Farmville, Virginia. Over the years, the sorority has grown up to have over 288,000 initiated members, as well as 174 active collegiate chapters, and has become the second largest National Panhellenic Conference group.
Sisterhood is based on nine key values that guide the actions, decisions, and mindset of the sisters. Values - “lifelong learning, leadership, responsibility, ‘being’ rather than ‘seeming’, service and philanthropy, seeking and understanding that we might acquire true wisdom, humility, loyalty, commitment and love” – all stem from the Creed of Zeta Tau Alpha, which is the foundation of the organization.
There are unique opportunities that ZTA has been able to provide new members that many other Greek Life organizations on campus cannot. One being the ability for underclasses to serve in advisory and leadership positions.
Often these places are reserved for the upper classes, but since the ZTA is new, many younger members have been able to take on the responsibility. Peed cited the mix of different ages as a key factor in the sorority’s ability to develop strong leaders early, as well as bring a sense of well-being and diverse thinking to the chapter.
“Freshmen have many opportunities on our programming council and we hope this inspires them to continue leading next year,” Peed said. “Having such a mix of freshmen, sophomores and juniors has definitely been beneficial to our growth because we have such a diverse range of skills, experiences and personalities.”
ZTA plans to play on their differences to achieve their goals of continuing to grow and prosper on the UW-Madison campus. ZTA women hope to connect and build working relationships with other organizations by showing support in all of their endeavors.
Along with these aspirations, Peed said ZTA hopes that soon they can have their own home. This will negate many of the location challenges they encountered throughout the recruiting process and even now, such as finding spaces for chapter meetings and application day.
Peed said ZTA’s biggest challenge will simply be navigating “the ‘new’ and the ‘firsts’ of everything,” but she believes the current group will pull it off.
“We are a group of ambitious women and we sincerely believe that we will achieve these goals,” said Peed.
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