Theresa Henneman stood among a long line of grey-sweater clad women waiting on the steps of Paley Library earlier this month.
A short time later, Henneman was one of more than 200 women to rush through the arch of the Bell Tower, unzip their drab jackets unveiling neon T-shirts printed with Greek letters and rush into the awaiting arms of their new sorority members screaming from the plaza below.
“In short, pretty awesome,” the sophomore therapeutic recreation major and transfer student said of receiving a bid to Delta Phi Epsilon on Oct. 4, one of Temple’s four general interest sororities.
“Temple is a large university. Coming in as a transfer student is a little hard and I figured [joining a sorority] would make everything easier with meeting people and getting involved with school,” said Henneman, now a member of the largest sorority class in Temple history.
More female students than ever have participated in sorority recruitment at Temple this fall, with more than a 100 percent increase from last year, Interim Director of Student Activities Chris Carey said.
While the rates of women joining sororities have been steadily increasing throughout the last five years, Carey said that Fall 2011’s 190 women registered seemed to represent a flat-lining in growth. This fall, however, the interest in recruitment exploded, Carey said.
Starting at the beginning of October, 446 female students registered for recruitment within the Temple University Panhellenic Association, which represents the four general interest sororities: Alpha Epsilon Phi, Delta Zeta, Phi Sigma Sigma and Delta Phi Epsilon. The 11 other sororities at Temple are within the National Multicultural Greek Council and the Temple University National Pan-Hellenic Council also known as the “Divine Nine” historically African-American fraternities and sororities.
Sororities within the Multicultural Greek Council and Pan-Hellenic Council go through a separate recruitment process outside of campus recruitment, Carey said.
During her last week at Temple, former Student Activities Director Gina D’Annunzio worked with the Panhellenic sororities to hold events inside the Student Center where recruits met in large meeting rooms and made connections with the sisters in their prospective sororities.
Of the women who registered, 261 officially received bids from one of the four sororities during a Bid Night event held at the Bell Tower. The girls in the four sororities dressed up in brightly colored clothing, cheering as they welcomed new members.
“I’m just looking for that family experience, that sisterhood bond for life, and I really want to give back to the community,” Abby Zeppenfelt, a sophomore media studies and production major, who received a bid from Phi Sigma Sigma, said.
With a total of 139 women receiving bids during last years’ recruitment process, the average new member size of 35 women per chapter grew to 63 in 2012, Carey said.
Carey took over the role of interim Student Activities director on Oct. 6, and said he will begin the next step in the process by working with new member educators to develop strategies to work with the larger new member classes.
Within Temple’s fraternities, new member sizes have largely stayed the same, with approximately 115 new members rushing this fall into 10 Interfraternity Council chapters at Temple, Carey said.
Carey also attributed the lower numbers to fraternities hosting spring rush classes, whereas, sororities only recruit in the fall semesters.
The rise in Greek life has come as more students – now close to 7,000, according to university estimates – move to the area surrounding Main Campus. Additionally, Temple is constructing Morgan Hall, which will provide more than 1,200 beds to students living on campus.
“It is a changing demographic of students, there’s a lot of students who are looking for this type of community experience and this social connection,” Carey said.
Carey also said that the rise of Greek institutions’ presence on campus, particularly sororities, through events such as fund raising and service projects has helped to build an increase in interest amongst students.
“It’s a good combination,” Carey said.
“By increasing the number, we were allowed to offer more bids and overall, all four sororities were able to get more young women involved in Greek life. I believe I can speak for everyone in Greek life when I say that we are more than excited to see Greek life expanding,” Sophie Rumbelow, a senior psychology major and president of Alpha Epsilon Phi, said in an email.
In response to the rise in sorority recruitment, Temple is currently researching adding at least one more Panhellenic sorority to Main Campus, Carey said.
“We have to look at the final numbers and have some discussions, this is another formalized process that [the Panhellenic Association] has laid out for how expansion takes place,” Carey said, adding that while no plans are in place, the university is also looking at expansion in terms of the entire Greek system.
John Moritz can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @JCMoritzTU.