Think you know everything there is to know about sororities? Well, think again! Sororities are so much more than those stereotypical traits that you might see in the media. That’s why at College Candy, we’re out to showcase some of the amazing work that sororities around the country are doing.
Recently, we got to chat with the President of Alpha Sigma Tau’s chapter at NYU, Kylie Billings. Alpha Sigma Tau, or AST, is not only impacting their school’s community in a positive way but is also impacting the NYC community at large. AST’s main philanthropic causes are Habitat for Humanity and the Women’s Wellness Initiative. They’ve created and engaged in many events highlighting these worthy services from dance marathons to bake sales. The sisters at AST are doing all of this while balancing all of the other responsibilities that college students have. We have to say, these sisters are awesome!
Read on to find out what Billings has to say about AST, philanthropy and college life in general.
What is your favorite thing about your sorority?
So, my most favorite thing… My first experience was in Tisch film, which is a male-dominated major and I was looking for more girlfriends within NYU and especially my first year because it was my first move. I lived in San Diego my whole life, 18 years, until I moved to college. I kind of had, at first, heard about sororities through just the media or watching movies or TV shows. They characterized them as blonde, preppy, just very ditzy. And that’s not what I experienced at all at NYU. It’s different from most of the stereotypes that are out there. I had a really positive experience at recruitment. When I entered the room at AST, I just felt extremely comfortable. All the girls were super welcoming. I felt the vibe with them. They just asked me questions that were more… it’s not like any basic questions [that they] were asking what my major was or anything. It was more, “Why are you interested in joining a sorority? What kind of service have you done in the past?” And that was something that I was more interested in. So, just their genuineness and the availability I had to find a sense of community in college. Also, just a really specific situation – the Big, Little process, I think anyone can agree, that’s a really awesome process through sorority life. ‘Cause I had a really close connection with my Big – she graduated, she still lives in the city and we hang out a lot together. I’m actually rooming with my Little now on campus. So, it’s a really great way to find a sense of community in a larger university.
How do you think AST really affects the NYU campus with the events that you put on?
We represent two philanthropies and one is Habitat for Humanity and the other is Women’s Wellness Initiative. We really possess a positive image at the university because of our ties with certain service organizations. We also input a positive impact on the city alone. We’ve gone to actual housing projects, constructed houses with Habitat all around the city, Lower East Side, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. We’re really hands-on with Habitat. And we also put on events for the entire school to support Habitat for Humanity. Or also the Women’s Wellness Initiative; we’ve been doing a lot with them recently. Just benefitting women in all areas, worked with an organization that collects business clothes for people who aren’t able to afford them so they could be dressed nicely at their job interviews. We had a Sexual Assault Awareness Week last semester. We’ve paired with a lot of the other sororities and done events with them. We had bake sales that were [raising] money for homeless shelters. [We] had panels and events that talk and explain campus culture and explaining how we can avoid any issues with sexual assault. I think we have a pretty positive image on campus and actually within the city as well.
Yeah, that’s really important. And you guys are taking a lot on, which is great.
Yeah, we’re really dedicated to doing community service. It’s a really basic value within sorority life. But, just being able to be so dedicated and passionate about it is a lot of what our sorority represents.
What advice would you give to incoming freshmen looking to get involved in Greek life? Is there anything that you would want them to know that maybe you wished you had known when you were rushing?
I would definitely advise them to drop any rumors or stereotypes or anything they’ve heard about any of the organizations before getting to actually know who they actually are and what they represent. I feel like there are a lot of websites and social media that can influence incoming freshmen negatively towards Greek life… A lot of people like to eschew [notions] for each and every sorority across the board. They’re false for each of them. They’re just really bothersome and ridiculous. And all of the Panhellenic community has agreed that’s something that we just need to ignore and not let it get to us. I think it’s really important to let people establish their own opinions about us after meeting us and getting to know us and what we do, as opposed to hearing it secondhand or through media or false rumors.
Exactly, yeah. I completely agree with you. I think that’s one of the reasons why we wanted to create this series on our website because there are those preconceived notions and people need to get the bigger picture. So, what are some ways that you think readers could potentially support the causes that you focus on at your sorority from afar? I know that they have other Habitat for Humanity sites that you could get involved with?
They are so, especially Habitat for Humanity, they are so established. You could either go to your high school or university and establish not even a sorority, but a club. I know a ton of high schools have clubs for Habitat for Humanity. A lot of our sisters were involved with them in high school. As for Women’s Wellness Initiative, that’s more of an overarching theme of different organizations or charities or entities that really support women’s wellness across the board. Whether it’s actual health and awareness or helping people who are homeless or unable to achieve certain opportunities on their own, it’s just something that benefits all women. At least in NYC, there are so many of those opportunities through homeless shelters or churches or just organizations. These organizations aren’t exclusive to our sorority. You can get involved even if you don’t want to be involved in Greek life. That’s important to understand. You can still be involved in community service in any way. And I know those organizations are both great and are both willing to take as many people as they can.
And then just for you specifically, how do you find that you balance school life, social life, your sorority duties? And then I know that at NYU especially we have a lot of pressure on ourselves to be doing a million different things at once. I know it’s kind of hard to deal with all of those pressures. How do you handle it?
That’s a really great and relevant question right now. I’m currently the President of Alpha Sigma Tau. Also, I’m taking 18 credits this semester along with producing my short and working at an internship. So, I can completely understand. Especially at the beginning of the semester, I was just like, “How am I supposed to manage my time and not turn into some crazy person?” It’s really been with the help and support of a lot of my sisters. And that’s one of the benefits of being part of a sorority, especially because I lived with a couple [of sisters] myself, we live close to each other and share information together because we trust each other and see each other as really close friends. So, we’re there to support each other no matter what. We’re all super busy and taking classes and working. We’re really all there together to support and help in any possible way. I really respect them for that.
For your sorority, is it for people who are mainly involved in Tisch or is it university-wide?
Oh, yeah! It’s university-wide. AST is open for anyone who identifies as female around campus. We represent almost every school actually. There are women who are in all different majors and especially every single school that’s on NYU’s Washington Square campus.
One last thing. What is one thing that you would want readers who aren’t familiar with Greek life to know? You’ve touched on this a little bit but maybe one small piece of advice or something that you could tell to readers in general? Maybe for readers who aren’t even involved in sororities at all.
I think the most important thing to understand is that to be a well-rounded sorority member, it’s not just about sisterhood or just about socials that we have or just about our service. It’s all of those combined into one. You have to show your support for your other sisters while signing up for some of the events that they set up for us or whether it’s a park day in the spring or working or a service project with Habitat or setting up an event for Women’s Wellness Initiative. In order to be well-rounded, that’s really the key to taking your sorority experience to an advantage.