Panhell will begin "Big Sister" mentorship program

by Hannah Hye Min Chung | 4/19/15 7:48pm

Panhellenic Council is launching a “Big Sister” program, its pilot mentorship initiative that will match first-year female students with affiliated upperclasswomen. The program aims to give freshmen women more personal opportunities to learn about the Greek experience and recruitment process, as well as generate inter-class connections and relationships.

Panhell vice president of public relations Allison Chou ’17 said that through this program, a first-year female student will be paired up with an affiliated woman before pre-rush events begin this spring, and the match up will last until this fall.

“Our hope is that the Big Sister program will serve to demystify the recruitment process and sorority experience as a whole,” she said.

Mentorship applications were due yesterday, though the date is subject to change depending on the number of applications received.

Panhell vice president of community and outreach Jessica Zischke ’16 said that the council understands that as pre-rush events and recruitment approach, first-year female students begin to form questions about the sorority system in general.

“Our main motivation behind this is to create a venue for freshmen to ask the questions they want to on a more personal basis,” she said.

To ensure that each house is equally represented through the program, Panhell has set a number for how many women can become mentors from each house, Chou said. The council intends to make it “extremely clear” to potential mentors that bid guarantees or any behavior that could pressure a first-year woman to join any particular house is not acceptable, she said.

Zischke said the program aims to provide general information on campus sororities, rather than insight on a specific house.

“It’s not so much about thinking about the house that the mentor is affiliated with from the mentee’s perspective, but more just talking about the sorority experience as a whole,” she said.

The Big Sister program will pair one mentor with either one or two mentees as a group, depending on what the mentees prefer, Chou said. The pairs will be created on a random basis, but if there are specific characteristics that a mentee is looking for in her mentor, Panhell will take the request into consideration in creating the match-up, as long as the mentee does not request a mentor from a specific house.

Zischke said that considering this is a pilot program, mentors and mentees’ requests for organized meetings or activities will be taken into consideration as the program continues, if next year’s Panhell executive board decides to continue the program.

Rebecca Rodriguez ’17, who applied to become a mentor for the program, said that she was excited by the idea behind the program because she thinks current pre-rush events do not adequately inform first-year students about the sorority experience.

“I thought it would be a great idea to sit down with someone who might be anxious about the process and tell them a little about it,” she said.

Cynthia Shin ’18 said that she thinks the program can be helpful in diversifying the connections that first-year students have on campus. At the moment, she said that first-year female students interact only with the upperclasswomen they already know, and this limits first-year students’ exposure to only a handful of houses.

“I’m constantly surprised how prejudiced I was about the system because of the way sororities are portrayed in different media and news stories — they are very different from reality,” she said. “I think there are myths to be debunked.”

Lisa Seo ’18 said she believes that she may benefit from the program. She said she is considering participating in the rush process but feels like her understanding of the sorority system is very minimal.

“Having a private mentor who is already a part of a sorority who can give me information or advice that cannot be obtained from anyone else who is not affiliated will be great,” she said.

Zischke is a member of The Dartmouth senior staff, and Chou is a member of The Dartmouth photo staff.