By Ashanti “Accel” Henderson, Staff Writer
On the eve of this year, President Barack Obama released a presidential proclamation officially recognizing January 2015 as National Mentoring Month (NMM) and calling upon Americans to become mentors.
The NMM initiative, established in 2002 by the Harvard School of Public Health and MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, aims to raise awareness of mentoring and the need for quality mentors for the nation’s youth. Although this campaign focuses on primary and secondary schoolers, mentoring goes beyond K-12 tutoring or guidance counseling.
Mentorship is about building meaningful relationships and helping to build up another person and support them in the accomplishment of their goals. This type of guidance is valuable at all ages and at all levels of development, even in Greek Life.
Numerous studies prove that people, children and adults alike, who have mentors, whether in an academic, professional or social setting, have statistically higher rates of achievement than those without mentors and other sources of support.
A study conducted by Professor Larry D. Long of the University of Michigan shows that members of fraternities and sororities substantially benefit from Greek Life membership in the areas of scholarship, leadership, service and friendship.
At the university level, Greek organizations greatly contribute to local community service efforts, such as youth mentoring, but also facilitate peer mentorship among members through big sister/little sister (or big brother/little brother) pairings. In many ways, the role of a sorority big sister is that of a mentor, someone there as a resource and pillar of support for her little sister throughout her college career and in the years to come.
Samantha Cooper, a fellow sorority woman and contributing writer to Levo League, an online community for professional women, details how being a sorority big sister is applicable to her professional life in her article “How Being a Sorority Big Sister Taught Me to Be a Mentor.” In this piece, Cooper addresses the value of peer mentorship and support.
Although involvement in Greek Life has been proven to contribute to improved social aptitude and networking skills, she says that something as simple as sharing study tips and showing encouragement for accomplishments can have a lasting impact on a woman’s success in college.
According to a report in the Harvard Business Review, females who were mentored by someone they connected with through a structured mentorship program received more promotions at work on average than females who found mentors independently. In many ways, sorority membership provides this structure needed for successful mentoring in and beyond college by being a common link between undergraduate members and alumnae in the workforce.
Membership in cultural and professional Greek organizations often fills the lack of female role models/mentors for women of color because in a sisterhood, all members have the potential of becoming mentors to each other based on similar cultural experiences/backgrounds, academic/professional goals or social/emotional situations, in a space where all of the members are expected to empower each other.
The positive effect peer mentorship among Greek Life members has on personal development is as undeniable as the role of a sorority big sister is irreplaceable. Sisterhood supports a culture of mentorship by providing the most important aspects of peer mentoring: validation and support.
According to educator Marla Delgado-Guerrero, this is especially important for the personal development of women of color attending predominantly white institutions. Her findings are summarized in a blog post by an Australian-based psychology clinic, describing sorority as “a mechanism of empowerment to promote the development of women and communities of color.” Her research also highlights how “sorority affiliation met their cultural and individual needs to persist academically,” according to the blog post.
This post emphasizes the need for cultural-specific sororities like Delta Phi Lambda to create a culture of understanding and support in order for women of color to succeed in communities where they are often made to feel foreign.