The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Panhellenic Council expands recruitment to include Next Steps students

One Next Steps student is already a member of a Panhellenic sorority after undergoing a pilot recruitment process last spring run in collaboration with the Office of Greek Life and the Next Steps Program.
Alex Venero
Vanderbilt Greek Row, as captured on Aug. 28, 2020. (Hustler Multimedia/Alex Venero)

CORRECTION: The name of the Next Steps student who participated in the pilot program was corrected to Ali Augustyn. 

Next Steps female students will be able to participate in Panhellenic recruitment beginning in Spring 2023. These students were also eligible to participate in recruitment in Spring 2022 as part of a pilot program involving Vanderbilt’s chapters of Delta Delta Delta, Alpha Delta Pi, Alpha Chi Omega and Pi Beta Phi sororities. 

The Next Steps program seeks to provide post-secondary education for neurodiverse students. 

Sophomore Ali Augustyn was the only Next Steps student interested in joining a Panhellenic chapter in Spring 2022 and ultimately became a member of Tri Delta. Augustyn declined to comment. 

Director of Greek Life Kristin Torrey stated that Next Steps students are not currently able to join chapters of Vanderbilt’s other two Greek Life councils, the Interfraternity Council and the National Pan-Hellenic Council.

“The collaboration efforts have focused on the necessary training and systems between these two programs to ensure a positive experience,” Torrey said in an email to The Hustler.

IFC President Benjamin Powdermaker, a senior, said several IFC chapters had mixers with Next Steps students during the Fall 2022 semester. 

“If a Next Steps student is interested in an organization within NPHC, I would encourage them to reach out to the president of the Greek organization they are interested in for specific information on how to join,” NPHC President Jaren Pierre, also a senior, said. 

Preparing for recruitment 

In Fall 2021, Next Steps named junior Emily Gothelf as the point person between the Panhellenic Council and Next Steps. Gothelf is also responsible for collaborating with the Student Center for Social Justice and Identity and active Panhellenic members to aid in the recruitment process for Next Steps students. She is a member of Vanderbilt’s Epsilon Nu chapter of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority and is the Greek Life Liaison of Next Steps. 

According to Gothelf, each Panhellenic chapter has appointed a member to serve as their Next Steps liaison to work with Gothelf. 

If students or parents of students in Next Steps have questions about the sorority, I’m the point of contact, and if any sorority member has a question or concern, they come to me as well,” Gothelf said in an email to The Hustler.

“The Office of Greek Life works closely with each Panhellenic chapter to provide trainings and understand the expectations of the recruitment and welcoming of Next Steps students into Greek Life,” a university representative said in an email to The Hustler. 

Next Steps students interested in Panhellenic recruitment were able to attend a variety of Panhellenic recruitment events in Fall 2022, including mixers and pop-ins for interested students to meet active members as well as Panhellenic Preview Day on Nov. 13. 

Formal recruitment process 

Gothelf and Destiny Savage, assistant director of OGL, said Next Steps students will largely have the same recruitment experience as other students looking to join Panhellenic chapters. Savage explained that OGL is working with each Panhellenic chapter to establish specific plans for inclusion throughout recruitment.

“We want the Next Steps students to get the most genuine rush experience possible, so we are keeping the process the same. We’re offering specific accommodations, for example, a quieter area of the house to talk to active members in and Ambassa’Dore support at all of the Panhellenic [pre-recruitment] events,” Gohelf said in a message to The Hustler. 

Savage added that all students participating in Panhellenic Recruitment will be a part of the mutual-selection process, meaning that 

“Next Steps students will submit their preferences for each round, just as all of the sororities will submit their invitations for each round.” Savage said in an email to The Hustler.

Savage explained that OGL and the Office of Student Affairs formed an agreement with Next Steps and Panhellenic leadership regarding Next Steps participation in Panhellenic recruitment to ensure compliance with Next Steps policies.  

“The agreement states Next Steps students will sign a document to reiterate their commitment to the policies of the Next Steps program, including refraining from using or being at events where alcohol is present, should they join a Panhellenic organization,” Savage said in a message to The Hustler. 

Junior Samantha Baker, Vanderbilt’s Lambda Iota chapter of Zeta Tau Alpha fraternity’s Next Steps Liaison, said this policy is in place due to the Next Steps program being federally funded and the added liability associated with that classification. In October 2017, Next Steps at Vanderbilt officially became a federally approved four-year Comprehensive Transition Program. Baker said Next Steps students will be required to report any agreement violations they see and will be held accountable accordingly. 

“If a Next Steps student sees another member of sorority with alcohol, they need to report it to a sober sister and have said sober sister take them home. Then, they will need to have a meeting with Next Steps executives about their breach of contract in which they will go back through the contract,” Baker said.

Spring 2023 recruitment begins on Jan. 6 with Potential New Member Orientation and ends with Bid Day on Jan. 15. 

Gothelf said the inclusion of Next Steps students in the Panhellenic Council will be beneficial for everyone involved.  

Current members of Greek Life, along with the incoming Next Steps students, would gain strong, meaningful friendships and a greater understanding of people with different abilities,” Gothelf said about the inclusion of Next Steps students in the Panhellenic Council.  

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About the Contributors
Ilana Drake
Ilana Drake, Former Staff Writer
Ilana Drake ('25) is majoring in public policy studies and English with a minor in human and organizational development. Outside of The Hustler, you can find her advocating for social justice issues, swimming and finding the best cold brew coffee. She can be reached at [email protected]
Kevin Yang, Former Staff Writer
Kevin Yang ('26) is majoring in economics and political science with minors in business and data science. He can be reached at [email protected]
Alex Venero
Alex Venero, Former Multimedia Director
Alex Venero (‘23) is from Rumson, NJ. She is majoring in Communication Studies with a minor in World Politics. When not shooting for The Hustler, she can be found at almost any Vanderbilt Athletics event or exploring the food and coffee of Nashville. She can be reached at [email protected].    
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