Walk the Line: Pi Chis counsel potential new members

Kappa Delta sorority members greet potential new members, PNMs, with their Kappa Delta welcome cheer at the Kappa Delta House on Thursday, Aug.20, 2015. Abbey Tanner/HERALD

Nicole Ares

An influx of potential new members—PNMs—clatter up the hill in their newly purchased heels. They are in awe of the brightly decorated sorority homes, eruptions of cheers echoing from house to house and close-knit bonds each group of girls shares.

Each fall and spring hundreds of WKU women sign up for recruitment with high hopes of joining a sorority, an experience that will make them a part of a lifelong sisterhood. 

Pi Chis—a group of current sorority members—are carefully selected not only to counsel these PNMs through the week of events but also to help these women find their perfect chapter: a sorority they can call home.

To become a Pi Chi, there is a lengthy application and interview process that begins a year in advance. Applicants know by the time they leave for Christmas break if they are chosen.

Kathryn Thompson, director of the Pi Chis, said they look at candidates’ ability to show empathy, to relate to the PNMs and to be panhellenic-minded: supportive not only of their own sorority, but of the entire panhellenic organization.

“We look for someone who knows every chapter on our campus, has something different to offer and can provide women with genuine friendships and the opportunity to serve in their community,” Thompson said.

However, out of all the attributes a Pi Chi may possess, Thompson said a positive attitude is the best quality for her to have.

“You will have some women who visit all eight sororities on the first night, then on the second night only get invited back to two of them,” Thompson explained. “So it is important for the Pi Chi to be able to say, ‘do not be discouraged, you’re going back to two really great chapters today’ and to keep positive so that your potential new members will also stay positive and open minded.”

Overall, the major responsibilities for being a Pi Chi include disaffiliation, integrating into the panhellenic organization, making sure the recruitment events run smoothly and most importantly, helping counsel a group of 12 to 15 girls. 

Bowling Green native and junior Casey Rice, member of Alpha Omicron Pi, became a Pi Chi to be more genuine with the PNMs and to help them find their own home rather than pushing them to be a part of hers.

“I’m not saying it’s fake when you’re on the recruiting side,” Rice said. “But it’s a lot harder to be 100 percent yourself if you’re only having a five minute conversation with a girl.”

The Pi Chis start a soft disassociation process at the end of the spring semester. During that time there is an initiation ceremony where the women turn in a lettered jersey as a symbol that they are no longer representing their chapter and are becoming a part of the entire panhellenic organization.

Throughout the summer Pi Chis do not wear lettered t-shirts and do not post on social media about their specific sorority, but they can still communicate and live with their sisters until two weeks before recruitment.

The strict dissociation process begins 12 days before recruitment. During this time, Pi Chis must move out of their homes if they are shared with other sisters, stop speaking to any chapter member, deactivate all social media accounts and only hang out with other Pi Chis. 

Brentwood, Tennessee, native and junior Bailie Patterson, Pi Chi for fall 2015, wanted to become a recruitment counselor to see a different side of the process. While it’s difficult for Patterson to be away from her chapter, Alpha Delta Pi, she is enjoying the opportunity to meet girls from other sororities. 

“It is really awkward when your potential new members are around you and girls from my sorority walk by and I start to smile,” Patterson explained, “but then remember have to play it cool and pretend like I don’t even know who they are.”

One of Patterson’s main responsibilities is to provide advice to her group of the potential new members and to ensure that they remain positive during the process.

“The best advice I can give is to look at the older women within the sorority and see if they are women to look up to, to confide in, to seek advice from, and to be like at the end of your four years,” Patterson said.

The training to become a Pi Chi is an extensive process. Starting in the spring, Pi Chis must learn how the recruitment process works behind the scenes, how to pair over 550 girls to eight or nine chapters and their recruitment week responsibilities consist.They also practice potential recruitment scenarios and how to properly handle them. 

However, the most difficult responsibility, in Pi Chi Kasey Rice’s opinion, is telling a PNM that a sorority has dropped her from consideration.

“It is really difficult to explain to them because we and the chapters understand that they may be a better fit for another sorority,” Rice explained. “It is not necessarily because that chapter did not like them, but at the end of the day it is about where is going to be your home.”

PNM Taylor Nutgrass, from Louisville, decided to rush because she desires to be a part of a home away from home while she is away from her biological family. Nutgrass’ Pi Chi has helped support her in finding a chapter that she can call home.

“She tells us to follow our heart and wherever we feel the most at home at the end of the day is where we are meant to be,” Nutgrass said.

On Sunday, Aug. 23, the Bid Day Ceremony brings a close to the week of recruitment events. In a sea of vibrant lettered T-shirts and exhilarated smiles, potential new members are joyfully welcomed by their new sorority sisters, and Pi Chis finally reunite with their chapters. 

A previous version of this story had a subject identified as being in Alpha Omega Pi. It has since been corrected to Alpha Omicron Pi.