Nearly a century after its first fraternity was founded, the University of Central Arkansas will break ground this spring on the Greek Village.
The first phase will include five new two-story sorority houses on the north side of campus, according to Dean of Students Dr. Gary Roberts.
The Greek Village will be the newest addition to the university’s living/learning communities, which – like the Jefferson D. Farris Jr. Honors Hall for the Norbert O. Schedler Honors College – connect residence life with academic programs, extracurricular activities, and programs for character and leadership development.
Each 10,400-sq.-ft. residence in the Greek Village will house approximately 32 students in 13 double rooms and six single rooms, Roberts said. When the first phase is complete in fall 2015, the new sorority residences should house more than 160 students.
This spring, the Board of Trustees approved a $13.8 million bond issue to finance the project.
Plans for the initial phase also include a portion of a proposed Greek community center that will provide public space for all Greek organizations, as well as four meeting rooms for UCA’s National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) sororities.
The Greek Village is an idea that has been 10 years in the making, Roberts said. During that time, students and staff visited Arkansas State University, Bowling Green State University, Middle Tennessee State University, the University of Toledo, and West Georgia University to study Greek communities on those campuses, and the university hired national Greek consultants to review its needs and options.
The project was initially planned for the south corner of campus, but that site lacked adequate utility infrastructure and building up the flood-prone area wasn’t feasible, Roberts said.
With red brick Colonial Georgian architecture consistent with the rest of campus, the new location will create an attractive gateway to the northeast corner of campus.
“It will literally change the face of this institution,” said Roberts, adding that the Greek Village will complement the university’s proposed Donaghey Corridor mixed-use development project that was announced in November.
The time to build the Greek Village is now, Roberts said.
Existing facilities are outdated and can’t accommodate growth in Greek organizations. Less than a dozen Greek groups have chapter meeting rooms in residence halls, while others lease or own houses near campus. The Greek Village will free up critical space in campus residence halls and provide much-needed modern living and meeting space for students active in more than 20 Greek student organizations at an equitable cost to all groups.
Jordan Frederking, who serves as president of the UCA Panhellenic Council, agrees.
“The biggest impact of building the Greek Village will really be shown through the building of sorority houses. Previously, we have all held our chapter meetings in chapter suites in Carmichael Hall. With the growth of women deciding to go Greek, we are being displaced to anywhere on campus that will fit the growing chapter sizes,” said Frederking, a junior public administration and pre-law student from Bentonville, Ark. “Having sorority houses and new fraternity houses will increase the amount of students wanting to go Greek on our campus.”
The centralized Greek community will further increase inter-organization communication and cooperation, said UCA Associate Dean of Students and Director of Student Life Wendy Holbrook.
“We have a very strong sense of community in terms of interaction and synergy and fierce alumni loyalty. We are UCA Greeks,” said Holbrook.
By designating a physical space for Greek organizations, “communication and relationships will improve,” said Rebekah Fincher, advisor and chapter collegiate director for the Delta Zeta sorority.
The level of interest in the Greek Village and Greek life is “through the roof,” Holbrook said, adding that registration for a new Pan Hellenic Preview Day event this spring for admitted students was filled almost immediately and the university has been contacted by other national Greek organizations that want to come to UCA.
The Greek Village will continue to attract prospective students to UCA and Greek life, Fincher said.
“Serving as a recruitment tool for UCA and the Greek organizations, the Greek Village will provide modern, up-to date-facilities that will help to enhance the University’s image as a major Division 1 institution,” said Fincher.
The Greek Village will be another way for alumni who were active in Greek organizations to stay connected to their alma mater, according to Matt Pace, chapter advisor for the Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity.
“Everyone reserves a place in their heart for their alma mater … [but] Greeks are generally more active in campus activities as undergraduates and that generally translates into more activity after graduation,” he said.
With a physical place on the campus they can be proud to call their own, Pace thinks that Greek alumni are likely to be more eager to stay connected and serve as mentors to current students, offering another benefit for students in the Greek Village.
“Wise undergraduate members will anticipate, welcome, and discern how to capitalize on this new connection,” Pace said.
The inclusion of space for smaller, mostly African-American, NPHC groups also makes the Greek Village unique among Greek developments at other universities, Holbrook said.
“The focus of the UCA Greek Village is diversity,” she said. “Our language is inclusive. When we say Greek life, we mean every organization.”
The second phase of the Greek Village will include construction of fraternity houses for larger groups, as well as chapter meeting rooms for smaller fraternities with the completion of the Greek community center. No timeline for the second phase has been set, but it could begin a year or two after the first phase is completed.
Enhancing Greek life is an investment in the entire university, Roberts said.
“The more we grow our Greek community, it’s going to positively impact enrollment, retention, and graduation rates,” he said.
Greek students have a higher cumulative grade point average than non-Greek students and graduate at twice the rate as non-Greek students. Last year, UCA Greeks participated in more than 13,000 hours of community service and raised $30,000 for charity.
“The bottom line is there would be a huge void in student life at UCA without Greeks.”