Students Establish Sorority at William Smith


At the end of the 2017 fall semester, 41 William Smith students were inducted into the Colleges’ first sorority, Theta Phi Alpha.

Founded in 1912 at the University of Michigan, Theta Phi Alpha works to empower women to achieve academic excellence and professional success, while demonstrating a commitment to social service. The chapter joins Hobart’s eight recognized Greek organizations, some of which have been part of campus life since as early as 1857.

“Initiatives like William Smith @ Work, the Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN), Women’s Collective, our honors societies, Girl Up and many other organizations all speak to a growing momentum on campus around women and leadership. The sorority is an extension of that energy,” says William Smith Dean Lisa Kaenzig P’22. “Theta Phi Alpha joins in that community of women supporting each other while fostering the diversity of voices on campus and reflecting the values of William Smith College.”

Theta Phi Alpha welcomes all individuals who identify as women and embraces members who transition to new gender identities. Nationally, the sorority supports services for the homeless and low-income populations in rural Appalachia and a summer camp for under-serviced youth. During the spring semester, the William Smith chapter hosted a clothing drive to support the Geneva Center for Concern and held a bowling fundraiser to support the children of local veterans.

“The women involved with this organization are exemplary leaders; they are scholars, athletes, trustees, club presidents, volunteers, and so much more. I think it’s amazing that one organization can bring so many diverse and talented women together,” says Student Trustee and Theta Phi Alpha sister Caitlin Lasher ’19.

While William Smith students have discussed the possibility of a sorority for decades, the new addition to campus reflects the changing landscape of Title IX legislation that has evolved to recognize Greek life as an educational opportunity, a distinction that mandates accessibility for all students.

“It was not only critical that we honor the wishes of our students and comply with Title IX federal law, but also continue to foster an environment that meets a variety of student needs,” says Vice President of Campus Life Robb Flowers. “With solid mentorship and strong goals, Theta Phi Alpha will become an excellent example of Greek life and contribute positively to an inclusive campus community.”

The William Smith chapter will compete nationally for strongest philanthropic efforts and the highest GPA. In addition to valuing philanthropy and academic success, members like Chapter President Rachel Irizarry ’19 are determined to create a model for sorority life that embraces diversity and inclusivity.

“When I took the time to learn about what Theta Phi Alpha has to offer, I discovered that it was an amazing opportunity to create a network that will support you in every aspect of your life,” says Irizarry, who is also an outreach officer for the Asian Student Union. “After talking with any one of us, anyone with concerns will know right off the bat that we are anything but exclusive.”

“William Smith women have historically navigated change by celebrating their differences as much as their similarities. In a community built upon respect, this is a new moment for mutual understanding and growth,” says Associate Vice President for Advancement and Alumnae Relations Kathy Killius Regan ’82, P’13. “William Smith women have never defined themselves in limited terms, and a new generation of Herons has embraced that in their own way.”


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