The Influence of Fraternity or Sorority Membership on the Leadership Identity Development of College Student Leaders
Cory, Anita J.
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Active participation in campus organizations is an integral component of the undergraduate student experience, with meaningful involvement serving as the catalyst for persistence, relationships with peers, and the development of leadership. The need for this study is twofold. First, although there is extant empirical work that examines the effects of the fraternity and sorority experience, very little descriptive or theoretical focus on this subset of students exists in the literature. Second, leadership development is an important aspiration shared by institutions of higher education and fraternities and sororities, but little scholarly work exists that considers the process by which one develops an identity as a leader. Framed by an understanding of organizational culture, college student development, and emerging explanations of the process of leadership identity development, this qualitative study examines the influence of fraternity and sorority membership on the leadership identity development of college students. The findings derived from semi-structured interviews with fraternity and sorority leaders illustrate the contexts and cultures in which the participants develop an identity as a leader. In addition, the study describes the processes and experiences that facilitate or hinder this development. Nominated by fraternity and sorority life professionals, twenty-one undergraduate members of fraternities and sororities at three research institutions in the western United States participated in the study. Campuses included in this study possess similar characteristics regarding the fraternity and sorority community and all are major, state supported institutions. The findings suggest organizational factors and meaningful relationships cultivate the development of an identity as a leader for fraternity and sorority members . Further, this study provides support for advancing practical applications of the theoretical construct of leadership identity development. The study concludes with recommendations for program development, practice, and further research.