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The Next Chapter

ONU welcomes its first new fraternity in more than 40 years.

If you have heard people talking about Fiji lately, it’s not because Ohio Northern University is opening a branch campus in the South Pacific. While that might be nice come winter, the Fiji people are talking about is of the Phi Gamma Delta variety, a new social fraternity at ONU this fall.

Phi Gamma Delta, or FIJI, has more than 140 active chapters at colleges and universities across the United States, with many in Indiana, Ohio and Michigan – or what it refers to as its “purple valley.” Its ONU chapter is the University’s sixth and first new social fraternity since Theta Chi joined in 1966.

According to Jennifer Lambdin, ONU’s director of student involvement, the decision to add a fraternity was initially made by the Interfraternity Council (IFC) in spring 2011. The council then sent out inquiries to national fraternities, eight of which showed high interest in starting a Northern chapter. Of the finalists, Phi Gamma Delta was unanimously selected by the IFC.

“We are very excited to have FIJIs here at ONU. I think their emphasis on academics is something that will benefit the IFC. They have a very high GPA for all of their groups, so I think they might entice some of our men who are very serious about their academics but have never considered Greek life before,” says Lambdin.

Academics and leadership are two of the areas on which FIJI prides itself. A recent scholarship program, which awards any member who maintains a 3.0 GPA or above, has helped raise the group’s national GPA from a 2.95 to a 3.06. Josh Moore, Phi Gamma Delta field secretary, sees this new chapter only helping in that regard.

“Ohio Northern was especially attractive to us because of the emphasis on scholarship and the fact that students here really focus on doing well academically. They take that very seriously, and that matches up with our emphasis as well,” he says.

The fraternity offers leadership training as well. Each member is given a copy of “The One-Minute Manager,” an international best-selling book written by FIJI member Ken Blanchard, and members are given opportunities to practice leadership by holding positions in the fraternity. Moore is quick to point out that the new chapter has immediate leadership opportunities, something not always found in established chapters.

The ONU chapter is helping FIJI achieve other goals as well. The fraternity hopes to have 170 chapters by its 170th anniversary in 2018. To that end, ONU is one of five chapters being introduced this fall.

In order to properly establish the new chapter, two Phi Gamma Delta field secretaries, Moore and Derek “Duke” Murphy, have been on campus for the past six weeks putting in place the foundation for a successful chapter. The inaugural class of 23 men has undergone new membership training during that time, and Moore and Murphy have been busy teaching the members how to elect officers, run meetings, plan chapter events and live up to the expectations of being a FIJI.

“We say, ‘scholarship, fraternity, self,’ in that order,” says Moore. “So, we feel ONU is a really good fit for us.”

Greek life is more popular than ever at ONU, and for good reason. Apart from the social aspects of being part of a fraternity or sorority, freshmen who participate in Greek life have a higher retention rate, (92 percent) than campus overall (88 percent). Greek week is a beloved annual tradition on campus, and Greek life philanthropy events, such as Fill the Fireplace, have provided support for area families.

"We look forward to the new opportunities and promise that expansion holds," says IFC President Brendan Hardin. "The founding fathers of FIJI are extraordinary men, who will undoubtedly serve as a great asset to the campus community."

FIJI will add to the philanthropy efforts on campus through its sponsorship of the Red Cross and the USO’s United Through Reading Campaign. As a way of welcoming FIJI to ONU, the fraternities and sororities of the IFC donated money to the United Through Reading Campaign, a heartwarming program that sends a children’s book to a parent serving overseas. The USO records the parent reading the book aloud, and then the book and the recording are sent home to the child so he or she can read the story with mom or dad. The funds donated by the IFC bought more than 100 books for the program.

“I was really impressed, and very thankful for that gesture by the IFC,” says Moore.

If this opening chapter of the FIJI story at ONU is any indication, they will certainly add to the rich history of the social fraternities on campus.

For more information about the Phi Gamma Delta chapter at ONU, please contact the Greek Life office.