Over the course of the last semester, the number of girls strolling around the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus sporting little pink ribbons with the black, bold letters “ZTA” layered on top has grown dramatically. These ribbons, the symbol of breast cancer awareness, are worn by members of a new, officially registered student organization — Zeta Tau Alpha.
The sisters of the newly established sorority don these ribbons in support of their philanthropy, breast cancer education and the ZTA Foundation.
Bringing a new sorority chapter to a university is no easy feat, UW-Madison ZTA President Rhyan Peed told The Daily Cardinal. She explained that there are a multitude of unexpected challenges that can arise during the complex process.
According to Peed, the first step in establishing a new fraternity or sorority begins with a campus vote and the National Panhellenic Conference. From this point, national organizations — in this case, ZTA — can choose to apply to open new campus chapters. The application allows aspiring fraternities and sororities to persuade the desired campus to welcome them into Greek Life.
ZTA, being focused on their philanthropic endeavors, brought this to the forefront of their application. They also chose to highlight their other services, programming and diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.
Once applications are sealed and submitted, they are reviewed by campus Extension committees, and four chosen organizations are offered the chance to create in-person presentations. After this point in the process, few chosen organizations are given an official spot-on campus.
While ZTA is now an official sorority in Wisconsin Greek Life, Peed did admit that the undertaking was not as simple and straightforward as many would hope.
“The registration process can be tricky,” Peed admitted.
The application process did not end here, as the sorority also needed to register to become an official, registered student organization. This process included drafting a constitution and bylaws, listing membership requirements and selecting officers to serve as contacts for the organization.
Now that ZTA is officially registered and on campus, they no longer face the struggles of complex applications, but rather, the challenges of growing to become a larger, more connected organization.
“There are advantages and difficulties growing as a new sorority on campus,” Peed emphasized. “The more established organizations have larger networks, more connections and an established reputation on campus.”
To recruit new members, ZTA decided to take on a different strategy from most long-standing sororities. Peed does not ignore the idea that “new can be scary,” instead she shows possible new members the advantages that come with being part of a new organization.
“We are definitely tailoring our recruitment strategies and really emphasizing that being a Zeta is a unique and fulfilling experience,” Peed said. “One advantage of being new to campus is that we have had amazing support from the university and our National Council.”
While ZTA is new to the UW-Madison campus, the organization was founded on Oct. 15, 1898, in Farmville, Va. As years have gone by, the sorority has grown to have over 288,000 initiated members, as well as 174 active collegiate chapters, and has become the second largest group of the National Panhellenic Conference.
The sorority is built upon nine key values that drive the actions, decisions and mindset of the sisters. The values — “lifelong learning, leadership, responsibility, ‘being’ rather than ‘seeming’, service and philanthropy, seeking and understanding that we might gain true wisdom, humility, loyalty and commitment and love” — all stem from the Creed of Zeta Tau Alpha, which is the base of the organization.
There are unique opportunities that ZTA has been able to offer new members that many other Greek Life organizations on campus cannot. One being the chance for underclassmen to serve in council and leadership positions.
Oftentimes, these spots are reserved for upperclassmen, but with ZTA being new, many younger members have been able to take on the responsibility. Peed mentioned the mix of different ages as being a key factor in the sorority’s ability to train strong leaders early, as well as bring a sense of well-roundedness and diverse thinking to the chapter.
“Freshmen are getting a lot of opportunities on our programming council and we are hoping this will inspire them to continue in leadership next year,” Peed said. “Having such a mix of freshmen, sophomores and juniors have definitely been beneficial to our growth because we have such a diverse range of skills, experiences and personalities.”
ZTA plans to play on their differences to achieve their goals of continuing to grow and thrive on the UW-Madison campus. The women in ZTA hope to connect and build working relationships with the other organizations by showing support in all of their ventures.
Along with these aspirations, Peed expressed that ZTA hopes that in a matter of time they will be able to have a house of their own. This will negate many of the location difficulties they encountered throughout the recruiting process and even now, such as finding spaces for chapter meetings and bid day.
Peed stated that ZTA’s biggest challenge will just be navigating “the ‘new’ and ‘firsts’ of everything,” but she believes the current group will succeed.
“We are an ambitious group of women and we truly believe that we will reach these goals,” said Peed.