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Beta Upsilon - American University

An American Success Story

5 things to love about Phi Sigma Sigma’s dynamic Beta Upsilon Chapter

April 3, 2010

THESE DAYS, IT SEEMS PHI SIGMA SIGMA IS THE SORORITY TO JOIN on American University’s campus – high-profile, fun and definitely going places.

“This is our year,” says Archon Chelsea Spiehs, who can hardly contain her enthusiasm about her sisters in the Beta Upsilon Chapter.

Nearly 100 women strong, Phi Sig is currently the largest sorority on campus. Practically everyone on campus knows a Phi Sig: Fully 40% of our sisters are leaders of other student organizations at American. (Wow.) What’s more, the chapter enjoys an incredible 80-90% retention rate at preference parties – a testament to our sisters’ popularity and effective recruitment practices.

“We don’t just say ‘we want to be the best,’ ” Chelsea explains. “We believe wholeheartedly in being the best. We’re proud of our chapter, and people can tell. That creates a lot of excitement for Phi Sig.”

Hard work pays off

Beta Upsilon’s women have worked very hard to achieve this level of success, notes Chapter Key Advisor Megan Menesale (Epsilon Delta, Chapman University), who couldn’t be prouder of their achievements. “It took a special effort,” she adds. “It wasn’t all roses and butterflies.”

Just five short years ago, the chapter seemed to be operating more like a local social organization and not so much as a chapter connected to an international women’s fraternity. “We had to work together to understand the bigger picture: how Beta Upsilon promotes what Phi Sigma Sigma is truly about, such as strong women leaders, opportunities to grow and learn, our core values, and more,” Megan adds.

The chapter credits their supportive advisors and sisters’ willingness to change with making the difference. “We’re better at almost everything we do,” Chelsea says. “”The name of ‘Phi Sigma Sigma’ on this campus means something.”

Top 5 reasons American is... well, tops!

What makes Beta Upsilon so successful? Here are just a few reasons:

You might think in a large chapter like this, it would be hard to get to know everyone. At American, the women have developed certain techniques to ensure sisters become not just “acquainted,” but friends who truly enjoy spending time together.

“These women really, really like each other,” Megan says. “They purposefully seek each other out in dining facilities or class.”

Adds Chelsea, “Even for philanthropic events, sisters don’t think, ‘Oh, I have to go.’ Instead, they’re like, ‘Oh, it’s going to be so much fun being together – I can’t wait to go.”
Success tip: “We assign ‘Rose Sisters’ – matching new members with more senior members, and they go for lunch or coffee together,” says Chelsea. Unlike other chapters, though, Beta Upsilon encourages the continuation of its Rose Sister program long after the new members are initiated. “With a large chapter like this, it’s how our sisters get to know each other one-on-one,” she adds.

How is it that the chapter maintains such a high retention rate for pref parties? The secret, Chelsea says, is no secret to anyone who’s familiar with Beta Upsilon.

“We are extremely proud of our chapter. It’s evident to anyone who knows us,” she explains.

“We love our philanthropy projects – like Kickball for Kidneys and working with Special Olympics (see more, next section). We love being Phi Sigs.”

The chapter also worked with advisors to upgrade their recruitment strategies. Notably, the women really let their personalities shine through, Megan says.
Success tip: “I cannot stress enough the importance of having a diverse group of women,” Megan adds. “Beta Upsilon’s chapter is so amazing in this way: We have women in ROTC, sports, dancing, choral ensemble…. If you can think of a group on campus, we somehow represent it.”

One of the most exciting developments in recent years has been the chapter’s long-term commitment to support two major projects benefiting the National Kidney Foundation and Special Olympics.

The first, implemented just last fall, is called Kickball for Kidneys. The women organize a fun event where, for a fee of $50, teams can participate and compete for bragging rights and a gift basket full of goodies. “It’s such a great time,” Chelsea says, adding that Phi Sig hopes to open the event to non-Greek groups next year for even wider campus participation.

The second, which began in 2006, is a huge Special Olympics Bocce Ball Fest which Phi Sigs coordinate annually with Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity and the Washington D.C. Special Olympics. (In fact, it was just held April 17.) More than 100 people participated in the day-long, high-profile event held on the quad – featuring bocce tournaments, the awarding of bronze, silver and gold medals, and even DJ music and dancing.
Success tip: “We worked with the Greek Life advisor to make sure it would be OK to hold the event on the same day as Freshman Preview (when next year’s students walk through campus),” Chelsea says. “It’s great, because they see us and all the fun we’re having. They’re sure to remember that next year.”

This year, for the first time, one of Beta Upsilon’s women will be eligible for a chapter-specific scholarship of $1,000 established through the Phi Sigma Sigma Foundation.

When the chapter realized that, through even better financial management, it ended last year with a surplus of more than $10,000, they turned to our Foundation for options – and decided to set up a Chapter Educational Fund that would specifically benefit one Beta Upsilon sister each year. (Megan credits the implementation of Billhighway – a high-tech, online bill-paying and financial-management system utilized by all Phi Sig chapters in recent years – with helping the chapter manage and save its funds even better.)

“We’ll soon find out who the winner is,” Chelsea says. “We can’t wait.” Plus, being able to offer a guaranteed scholarship to one sister annually is yet another competitive advantage for Phi Sigs on campus. “It’s unique to our chapter,” she explains.
Success tip: Chapter Educational Funds (CEFs) can be set up by any chapter (collegians, families and alumnae can contribute toward it), and scholarships are distributed once a total of $10,000 is reached. Click here to read more about CEFs, and contact our Foundation for more details and assistance.

One of the many ways Beta Upsilon stands out as a stellar Phi Sig chapter is its willingness to try new ideas that benefit sisters – customizing their practices to keep sisters engaged throughout college and, hopefully, remain active as alumnae members, too.

For example, they’ve carefully planned and implemented a graduated system for paying dues so that the longer a member is involved in the chapter, the fewer dues she has to pay.

Additionally, seniors are honored with special events that help encourage them to stay actively involved in the chapter throughout their last year on campus, and they are only required to participate in 55% of chapter events, compared to the previous 65% threshold (on a points system).
Success tip: Not every chapter may be able to implement these specific ideas – but they work for the women at American University. It’s always best to consult with your advisor and membership manager to brainstorm unique strategies for your campus and your sisters.

“The key to great chapters is having women who love being sisters,” Chelsea says. “Here at Beta Upsilon, we can’t say enough how wonderful it is to be part of today’s Phi Sigma Sigma.”  


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