New IFC President Talks Greek Community Goals

Mark Nelson, the new Interfraternity Council President, talked about the ways in which the Greek community provides a real sense of home on campus and his goal of increasing chapter’s connections to each other and the rest of the NU community at the Officer Installation Ceremony on Feb. 5.

Nelson talked about the night he found out he was accepted to Northwestern by Early Decision as he checked his emails as usual before bed:

“I listened to Kevin Rudolph’s “I Made It,” did a horrifically awkward dance, and then went downstairs to watch a movie with my parents. I didn’t post anything on Facebook, nor did I tell my parents.”

The next day, an excited Nelson drove the hour and a half from his hometown in Indiana to the Norris Bookstore, bought sweatshirts that said “Northwestern Mom” and “Northwestern Dad,” and wrapped the sweatshirts in Christmas paper when he got home:

“When I got home my parents were running late for a holiday concert. So, when I gave them the gifts, they seemed pretty annoyed with the timing. ‘Can it wait?’ Now, my best friend had also gotten into Purdue the day before and was planning a celebration party for us, so I wasn’t very excited about sticking around until the concert was over. So, my dad grudgingly opened up the gift, but opened it to the backside of the sweatshirt, so there weren’t any letters visible. And, in the most insincere tone, said ‘Oh, a purple sweatshirt…thank you…’ And, in my mind I was thinking, ‘Listen, I literally had to write multiple essays to get that gift, and apparently Northwestern’s bookstore gets four dollar signs on Yelp, so you better appreciate that purple sweatshirt.’ That’s when he turned the gift around and looked up at me with an expression that I’ll never forget. And I spent the rest of that night with my friends and family.”

Nelson said that night was one of the best of his life because, as he celebrated with friends and family, he was surrounded by “love”, and “sincere caring and community” are things he feels are “often lacking” on Northwestern’s tense, competitive campus:

“I myself am guilty of sulking so much in my room that I forget that my best friends are right outside my door willing to talk and laugh with me.”

According to Nelson, Greek leaders often offer up tangible facts like “our hundreds of hours of community service per quarter, our tens of thousands of philanthropic dollars every year” as reasons why Greek life holds significance, but it is more than that:

“What we can’t ever fully convey is the feeling a person gets when the entire IFC community collects pop tabs to support cancer research after his mother is diagnosed with the disease. We can’t explain the happiness that comes from being surrounded by numerous people who understand your aspirations and fears, who have seen you at your highs and your lows...from knowing that you always have a family and home here on campus, no matter how alone you feel. Within Greek houses on our campus, people are connected in ways that many others don’t understand. The goal of the IFC this year is to make our passion understandable.”

Nelson said future methods to “build bonds between our IFC chapters” include increasing casual, entertaining programming, inter-council programming, and “more frequent meetings between” leaders. In order to “strengthen and expand our community”, Nelson said there will be an emphasis on “education of our new members about other councils’ roles and histories” to allow chapters to “be proactive in taking on differences between our communities, rather than reactive”, creating a more accountable, safe, and understanding Greek community.

Nelson closed by saying:

“I am a Northwestern student. We all represent Northwestern in some way or form: Sigma Nu or Sigma Chi, IFC or MGC, Greek or non-Greek. We are all Northwestern Wildcats. And the sooner we stop paying attention to the differences of the letters or colors we wear on our chest and start paying attention to the fact that we all hail the purple and white, the sooner we start working together, and the sooner we will be able to truly create One Northwestern. Thank you.”