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5 Questions with 2015 Greek Advisor of the Year: Lindsay Sell


Colorado State University Director of Fraternity & Sorority Life Lindsay Sell (Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority) shares insights on what the best student leaders all have in common.

What do you think the best student leaders have in common?

I believe the best student leaders are good critical thinkers. They are able to ask complex questions, think originally, and consider multiple perspectives to solve complex problems. College students have to learn how to think critically, and fraternities are a beautiful site to develop this important skill.

What about chapter advisors? What do excellent advisors have in common? How do they earn the trust of the chapter members?

From my experience both as a university administrator and a chapter advisor, I think excellent advisors work to build relationships on many fronts (with campus administrators, HQ professionals, beyond the officer they advise, etc.). Excellent advisors guide and mentor instead of demand and enforce. They listen, set aside their own collegiate experience, and seek to understand the realities facing those students on that campus. Finally, excellent advisors think beyond helping a chapter achieve administrative excellence and help individual students develop as humans as a result of the fraternity or sorority experience.

What do you think is the biggest challenge currently facing fraternity and sorority life?

As a movement, we need to continue our evolution. While fraternities and sororities have existed now for well over 100 years, our future at this critical moment in higher education depends on our ability to remain relevant and better understand the changing needs and demographics of today’s college students. There are many issues that we need to address as fraternities and sororities, but the imperative to evolve and adapt is most central to our continued survival.

How can fraternities and sororities build strong relationships with the university administration and ultimately support the school’s long-term goals?

Most fraternity and sorority students haven’t asked what the institution’s long-term goals are. To get on the same side of the table, assume positive intent as a starting point, and ask good questions to better understand what everyone’s goals are is a good first step. In my experience we all want fraternities and sororities to be excellent and contribute to the health and vitality of the college campus. We sometimes misunderstand each other’s viewpoints about how to achieve that goal. In such cases we could do a better job seeking to understand the many considerations and pressures that exist for each party.

What advice would you offer to a student leader who wants to transform his or her organization, but feels as if they’re all alone or facing an insurmountable obstacle?

I have found myself in this situation a couple of times, and the best advice others gave me was to take the long view. While immediate relationships absolutely matter, keeping the future of the organization at the forefront of my decision making was essential. Ultimately, the values of the organization that have persevered for longer than I’ve been alive are central to the work moving forward, even when that work is hard. Those values and that long view act as a compass to navigate what appear to be insurmountable obstacles. I also believe it’s important to think about what is in one’s sphere of influence. It can be easy for outstanding student leaders to shoulder a great burden of organizational change, but understanding what is actually within one’s power to change and building a coalition with others (wherever they can be found – sometimes it’s surprising!) can help address some of those issues that appear outside our ability to change.

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