Fondly recalling her experiences in Kappa Delta sorority a decade ago at MTSU, alumna Leslie Merritt is thrilled to now have the opportunity to play an integral role in shaping a positive experience for present and future fraternity and sorority members as well as the university's community as a whole.
Merritt was recently named the new director of Fraternity & Sorority Life within the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership located inside the Student Union Building.
"MTSU is where I truly became the best version of myself, and it is where I developed a passion for Student Affairs," she said. "For me, it wasn't a matter of being attracted to the (director) position once it had been posted; since my junior year here, it was a dream of mine to return to my alma mater and serve as the director of Fraternity and Sorority Life."
Merritt will work with Donald Abels, coordinator of Fraternity & Sorority Life, to provide oversight of leadership development and programming for the 22 fraternities and sororities associated with National Pan-Hellenic Council, Panhellenic Council and North American Interfraternity Conference.
After earning her bachelor's degree in political science in 2007, Merritt joined the CSIL staff that same year as the graduate assistant for leadership and service before going on to earn her master's in higher education administration at MTSU. She then spent six years at Kappa Delta National Headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee, serving in various roles culminating with appointment to director of chapter services.
Her top three priorities as the director of Fraternity & Sorority Life are to increase the number of affiliated students as well as the number of fraternities and sororities on campus; to reorganize the National Pan-Hellenic Council and provide them additional support; and to increase retention numbers by examining common risk management issues and refocusing programming on common fraternal values.
Merritt said that when she came to MTSU as a student in fall 2003, she knew she wanted to at least go through sorority recruitment. She joined numerous student groups including Kappa Delta during her time on campus, and that involvement shaped her in profound ways, she said.
"I had older friends who had joined sororities and were really enjoying it," she said. "I loved the recruitment experience and found 'my home away from home' with my sisters in Kappa Delta, which was exactly what I was looking for."
Merritt believes the fraternity and sorority experience "enhances a student's college experience both in and beyond the classroom." The support and relationships forged will not only help students thrive academically and socially while on campus, but also strengthen their ties back to the university as alumni, she said.
Merritt cited a 2014 Gallup poll of over 30,000 college graduates showing that members of fraternities and sororities are more likely to report being emotionally supported and having experiential and deep learning.
"I believe that no matter the group you join, that each has the opportunity to provide its members with lifelong friends, leadership and social skills, and so many more incredible opportunities and experiences that are beyond description in scale and impact on the individual," she said. "My sorority experience has made a return on my investment of time and dues, 10 times over, if not more -- it continues to impact me in my day-to-day life."
Merritt can be reached at 615-898-5812 or Leslie.Merritt@mtsu.edu. For more information about the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life, visit www.mtsu.edu/fsl.