Posted Tuesday, August 9, 2022 @ 10:00 AM
by Meghan Kalenborn
ORLANDO, FL – Dr. Viancca Williams is the former director of UCF’s Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life and has spent the past 16 years of her career supporting fraternities and sororities. Dr. Williams, an Alpha Chi Omega, has seen the value of fraternity and sorority membership at UCF and other universities. She spoke about her experience along with what her new role entails.
You have been in Fraternity and Sorority life for a long time. How have you seen the community progress into what it is now?
“Over my 16 years working with sororities and fraternities, I’ve seen a lot of positive change. In the two years I was at UCF, I was proud of the difficult conversations that took place between students and the awareness and accountability that was built around the issues of diversity, community and was ready and willing to change and make sure these issues were not things that were setting UCF’s fraternities and sororities back. Additionally, I was proud to see the five council officers come together to brainstorm collaborative opportunities across councils and start putting those words into action. Lastly, watching the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) garden go from being a concept to becoming a reality (as the project is close to meeting its fundraising goal) was one of my favorite things to experience!”
Why did you feel so drawn to pursue a career in FSL? What kind of impact has it had on you, going from being a sorority woman to being one guiding a new generation of sorority and fraternity students?
“Becoming a member of my sorority has been transformational for me. It helped me become a stronger, more authentic, and empowered individual. Aside from my personal experience, when I became a chapter advisor, I enjoyed the opportunity to help those undergraduate members create their own positive and empowering experiences more than I enjoyed going to my paid job every day – that’s the moment I knew I needed to make a career change and do this work full-time.
Having the opportunity to help guide a new generation of sorority and fraternity members has been a dream come true. It has been powerful to witness the courage of members as they hold their peers accountable, the support brothers and sisters have provided one another during difficult instances and times of crisis, and the triumph chapters and councils experience when they make their goals come to fruition; knowing that perhaps I provided education, support, empowerment, and/or inspiration during those times to individuals, chapters, or councils means the world to me and is what drives me to continue to advocate for the fraternity/sorority experience.
How do you believe we as a community has progressed into breaking the stereotypes of fraternity and sorority life and how do you feel we can continue to grow and build upon what has been done so far?
“Over the last two years, I’ve heard the community speak more in terms of values and wanting to be in line with the purpose of their organizations. I’ve also observed chapters and councils make a commitment to wanting to be seen as individuals and organizations who make a difference, are committed to service and philanthropy, and want to empower people. Action toward being more congruent with fraternity and sorority foundational values has been demonstrated too. To continue to grow and build upon what has been done, the focus of the sorority and fraternity community needs to be on how to live the foundational values of the organizations consistently and how to minimize the missteps that may take place.”
I think also realizing the actions one chapter makes affects the rest of the chapters in the community is important; unfortunately, a lot of people don’t understand what fraternity and sorority is and as a result, they lump all chapters together. When chapters and members realize they are part of something bigger than themselves, they also make better choices and work hard to stop activities that are risky and can bring a negative effect to themselves and the rest of the community. It is important that chapters get out of their own way when it comes to progress; the decisions made to not recruit based on values, to not hold members accountable to those values, to focus on activities that may hinder your status with the university and/or your (inter)national organization, or to not expect more from each other as chapters are the things that will hold the community back. Know that I believe in this community, and its ability to transform the lives of members positively, make powerful changes that assist those outside of chapters, have opportunities and meet their needs, and demonstrate what it means to be a true Knight.”
Could you explain a little bit about your new role? How would it continue to help advance the FSL community?
“I am serving as the Assistant Executive Director of the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors (AFA). AFA is the premier professional development association for people who work in fraternity and sorority life on college campuses, fraternity/sorority headquarters, or are high-level volunteers in fraternities and sororities. My role is to design the strategy for our Annual Meeting (which is the conference we put on annually), manage our member engagement opportunities, and oversee our volunteer management approach. I get the opportunity to put my dissertation results (which focused on the retention and attrition of people who work in fraternity and sorority life on college campuses) into action by providing professional development opportunities that assist individuals in elevating the way fraternity and sorority work takes place. AFA provides knowledge, skills, and research that can help those working with fraternities and sororities on a daily basis be better in their roles, which causes a ripple effect on the students and fraternity and sorority communities they are working with, and uplifts fraternity and sorority throughout the nation.”
What are some words of advice that you can give students within fraternity and sorority life? How about prospective students who have doubts about joining the community?
“For students within fraternity and sorority life: remember this experience is a privilege – treat it as such. Learn and live the values of your organization. Make choices that uplift your chapter and are in accordance with your values. Hold each other accountable to doing the right thing (including across chapters), even when that’s not the most popular choice to make, and empower each other to make a difference. Make hands-on service a priority – remember that making an impact in your surrounding community is part of the oath you took when you became a member and when those constituents can see you doing the work, their perspective on fraternities and sororities is enhanced. Don’t stay in the fraternity and sorority bubble and get involved in things outside of the community; remember there are a lot of students at UCF who need to better understand the value of the fraternity and sorority experience as well as the members within – if you don’t do outreach to those outside of the community, you’ll lose a chance to create a set of allies for the community (and potential members). Treat your fraternity and sorority experience as an opportunity to create deep and lifelong relationships, have fun responsibly, grow as a person, and increase your leadership skills and knowledge. Remember the reason you’re at UCF: to get a degree, to learn and grow, do well economically, and learn skills and knowledge that help you excel in the next steps in your life – your fraternity/sorority should enhance all of these things, not detract from it. And finally, come together as a community – there’s a lot of power that happens when all of you get on one accord and commit to making positive change happen, especially across councils.”
“For prospective students, I think it’s important for them to do their research and understand the purpose of the fraternities and sororities they are considering, what those organizations value and how they demonstrate what they value, and get to know members directly (how they act with you while you’re getting to know them will tell you a lot about their sister/brotherhood). Don’t get caught up in what your friends are doing or choosing as it relates to fraternities/sororities or the opinions of others; remember, this is a decision you are making and it’s important you consider what is best for you because this is a lifetime commitment. Know that this experience can be life-changing and transformational when it is done right (in other words, when it is based on empowerment, support, accountability, and love) – be open to something that can be the thing that could make your college experience the best it can be (and remember, your college experience is only the start – this experience continues to evolve and grow with you as you graduate and are a lifetime member.”
If you have an interesting story you would like to share with us please email Meghan Kalenborn at firstname.lastname@example.org