Linda Schwartzkopf is a former public schoolteacher and a law school dropout, so she said her path to becoming the director of fraternity and sorority life at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was nontraditional.
Before working for UNL, she worked at the National Bank of Commerce, which was located in the Nebraska Union.
Her diverse experiences helped her discover her passion for working with college students. She accepted a position at UNL’s pre-admissions activities office 35 years ago and then served as the director of student judicial affairs. In 1997, she became the official director of fraternity and sorority life.
Under her leadership, the UNL Greek community increased in size and students established the Multicultural Greek Council and the National Panhellenic Association, a council with representatives from historically African American Greek chapters.
Additionally, she helped centralize the judicial office so all Student Code of Conduct violations go through the judicial office and not the Office of Fraternity and Sorority life.
Schwartzkopf will retire at the end of the 2018-19 school year, and according to Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Jake Johnson, UNL is deciding between three potential new directors of fraternity and sorority life, but Schwartzkopf is a “hard act to follow.”
“It is a stressful job,” he said. “[For] somebody to serve in that role for 22 years — that’s somebody who has the ability to manage that level of stress, to work really collaboratively with a variety of stakeholders who, at times, have competing interests, so you have to be diplomatic, you have to be thoughtful … Linda is all of those things. She manages that job incredibly well.”
When she assumed the role of director, students told Schwartzkopf they wanted to increase the presence of multicultural Greek chapters on campus. She worked with them to accomplish this goal and helped Latino men establish Sigma Lambda Beta, UNL’s first multicultural fraternity, in 1998.
As the amount of multicultural Greek chapters increased, UNL decided to form the Multicultural Greek Council.
Students also established more historically African American chapters at UNL, which led to the creation of the National Panhellenic Association. Schwartzkopf also said diversity within the Interfraternity Council and the Panhellenic Council increased and the overall amount of students in Greek life increased, too.
In 1997, an average sorority held about 97 members; now it now holds 169 members, according to Schwartzkopf. She said the office worked to increase membership through events like Greek Preview, a day which promotes Greek life at UNL.
Schwartzkopf also helped centralize cases regarding violations against the Student Code of Conduct. The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life used to hear cases about Greek members’ potential misconduct, but the student conduct office handles the judgmental and disciplinary process for Greek and non-Greek students.
“It created a weird dynamic,” she said. “On the one hand, we serve as kind of the advocate for our Greek community and as a resource. So, one minute you may be talking to a student and working with them on something they’re doing for their chapter and the next minute you turn into the judge hearing the case.”
Schwartzkopf said Greek life has changed, but she’s seen the core values of Greek life, such a leadership and scholarship, remain.
“I’ve had an opportunity to work with outstanding student leaders,” she said. “I’ve just really been impressed with their passion for, not only their own chapters, but for the Greek community, and the ability of our leaders to just keep moving our Greek community forward.”
She said she is also thankful for the office’s other employees and the campus community.
“I can’t take credit for any of the accomplishments because to me; it’s a community effort,” she said. “We are a small office, and we are a small but mighty office. I have a great team. But we would not be successful if we did not have great campus partners who collaborate. If we didn’t have dedicated alumni and strong undergraduate leaders.”
Johnson said the new director will be hired before next school year. Students can attend public presentations from the candidates on Thursday, April 18, and Wednesday, April 24, at 1 p.m. in the Regency Suite of the Nebraska Union and on Friday, April 19 in Red Cloud in Willa Cather Dining Hall.
“There are good people in our search process. I’ll let the campus make the decision as they get to see them, but it will be hard [to replace Schwartzkopf],” he said.
While UNL is preparing to find her replacement, Schwartzkopf said she is attempting to organize. Her office is flooded with a variety of papers that date back to the 1990s. Once she is done cleaning and officially leaves UNL, she plans to devote time elsewhere — like tap lessons.
“I’m just going to do things that I’ve always wanted to do but haven’t necessarily had the time to do,” she said.