Two students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln created a new event to honor Greek members by recognizing behind-the-scenes work.
Allie Carlini, a junior community health and wellness major, and Emily Martinez, a graduate studying student affairs and an advisor for the Panhellenic Council, came up with the idea for the Ignite Gala after Martinez attended an academic advising conference at UNL in February. She overheard someone speaking about an event they held at Nebraska Wesleyan University geared toward students’ career development.
“It got me thinking about what kind of events we could hold for students to help them think about things in a different way,” Martinez said. “Then I talked to [Carlini], and we realized there is not an event for students that are working so hard and being servant leaders."
“Servant leaders” is the term Martinez and Carlini use to describe students honored at the gala. They talked to multiple chapter presidents and officer councils and asked them who in their sorority or fraternity has worked toward bettering others while being humble in doing so.
Carlini and Martinez nominated 70 junior and seniors, and 45-50 said they’re coming to the event.
“We wanted to find people in houses that we didn’t know,” Carlini said. “People who may not be recognized or hold an officer position in their chapter but still live lives of high integrity on and off campus.”
Carlini, a member of the Catholic sorority Pi Alpha Chi, said she came into her sorority freshman year wanting to build her sisterhood and faith and was able to find that. Pi Alpha Chi is an associate chapter, which means it was founded at UNL, and there’s only one chapter. So, she said she wasn’t sure if she could get on the Panhellenic Council. She did, and said she has seen the richness of love, friendship and beauty of the Greek community.
“A lot of people come in with expectations of the party culture,” Carlini said. “A lot of the noise you hear about Greek life is negative. But then you look at all these brothers and sisters who are doing awesome things for their other members and who are just so humble about it.”
Martinez, who went through primary recruitment as a freshman eight years ago, had a different experience in the Greek community. She went in hoping for authentic relationships with her sisters, but found they were more interested in the partying culture. The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life interviewed Martinez to be on the Panhellenic Council, and she was finally able to find her place in Greek life.
“It’s kind of funny how everything came into full circle,” Martinez said. “I feel like I am living my sorority life like I didn’t before. We want Greek members to grow as humans, professionally and personally, and we want to honor those who show that in their own way.”
One of the honorees is Rebecca Brooks, a senior biochemistry major and a member of Gamma Phi Beta. She said she’s excited to be nominated and to also see Carlini, her good friend, put on a great event.
“I think it’s a really good way to celebrate the Greek community and take time to recognize leadership,” Brooks said. “A lot of my friends are honored too, and it’s so awesome to see that.”
Brooks was previously Gamma Phi Beta’s chapter enrichment chair, as well as the new member educator. She went through formal recruitment her freshman year in 2015, and believes the mentoring part of the Greek community is what inspired her to help other members.
“You get more opportunities to be mentored yourself, and then, as the years continue, you get mentoring positions,” Brooks said. “Helping young women through college and advising them to work through stress has been the best but also challenging.”
Brooks explained “challenging” to her means adjusting one’s lens from oneself to others, which can be difficult.
“It’s something you learn within the fours years of being a constant friend to people — knowing how to be of service and leave a chair at your table to welcome and make others feel valued,” she said.
The Ignite Gala will be held at the Van Brunt Visitors Welcoming Center on Saturday, April 27 from 7 to 9 p.m. Carlini said Chancellor Ronnie Green will be speaking about his time as a Greek member and how it helped him in his life. Carlini and Martinez will then present the juniors and seniors awarded with dialogues the opportunity to talk about how they have grown and what has been challenging.
Carlini and Martinez both agreed they are most excited to see what the honorees think of it, and hope that it will become an annual tradition. They want Greek members to strive toward being awarded at the Ignite Gala in the future.
“It’s really important to have great leaders, but it’s also important to have great followers,” Carlini said. “They fill in the cracks, and it’s important that what they are doing is recognized.”