A New Life for Radford Greek Life
(Article from November 2011)
Written by: Kate Houser
Sitting at the front of his desk is an old name plate reading “Robert Marias: Greek Life and…”. The words that come after the “and” are covered in a piece of tan tape. With a bit of focusing and squinting, one would be able to read enough through the tape to reveal the bold letters: “Community Service”. This is because Robert’s job description was once “Greek Life and Community Service” at his previous institution of work at Kettering University in Michigan. He now holds the title of Assistant of Student Activities and Greek Life. Although he is strictly in charge of Greek life at RU and not the responsibilities of community service as well, he makes it clear that the work load is equally the same, if not even more.
Marias is new to Radford University Greek life, but in no way is he new to the Greek community. He began his college days at Villanova University in Pennsylvania where he was involved in many extracurricular activities such as the karate club, yearbook photographer, and student government. His interest in being involved in Greek life was originally very minimal. “I only went to a recruitment event because my roommate dragged me,” he said. It wasn’t until he met the brothers of the Sigma Nu fraternity that he realized he might be interested than he thought. Marias spoke about how the values he saw in those men where the same values he represented. He decided to embark on the journey of pledging and was initiated as a brother of Sigma Nu.
Years later, Marias is still just as dedicated to his decision to go Greek and says the benefits of being in a fraternity are never ending. He’s been to at least eight weddings of brothers and is called Uncle by the children of brothers. His experience in a fraternity not only gained him friends, but family as well. Marias said being in a fraternity gave him lifelong friendships as well as excellent connections. He was able to use his title of a Sigma Nu brother to gain valuable networking. “They looked at me with a deeper sense of respect,” he said. With the exception to his current position and one other in the past, Marias can connect back all of his jobs to a Sigma Nu alumni from all parts of the country.
Using his years of experience working with fraternities and sororities, Marias has huge goals set for the Greek community at Radford. He feels as though the morale of within Greek life is down and the reputation has been negatively portrayed in both local and university media. Set out to get students involved and provide an opportunity for them to express their opinions, Marias created the “Greek 101” seminar. “This is not a presentation, it’s a dialogue,” he said. It’s a time to break down barriers between organizations and really communicate on similar issues within chapters. These seminars are unscripted and completely open for students to relate to one another about their Greek experience. One of his main goals is just that, to unify the Greek community.
Another one of his main goals for RU is to recruit the best of the best for chapters in the future. He wants to find the students that are involved in many other groups and organizations and get them interested in Greek life. This will create diversity within chapters, as opposed to all members being generally the same.
The Interfraternity Council (IFC) President, and brother of the Theta Chi fraternity, James Cho, has been able to work side by side with Marias. “It has been quite an experience working with Robert. I feel that we made a lot of progress together even with our contrasting views on topics here and there. I think that because we contrast at times, but we always end up with the best solutions or compromises to benefit the Greek Community,” he said. Marias is a strong voice within Greek life but is still willing to work with the members of the organizations to better themselves and allow their opinions and ideas to be recognized.
Marias wants to spend his time at RU focusing on the chapters that are doing their best to better themselves. He wants to put his attention mainly on building up the strongest chapters, as opposed to spending time focusing on the chapters that are not in the best standing. “I made a choice when I came to here, and maybe it’s because it’s a fresh start, but in the past we tend to spend a lot of time trying to pull the weakest members up to a standard. I made a choice that I was going to focus my time and energy focusing on only the best.”
He has a goal to spread the positive messages about being a part of a fraternity or sorority at RU. “I want students to promote the good they’re doing. No one’s going to tell our story unless we do. Greek life makes up 11% of Radford’s student population, and yet the good we do for the community is never recognized,” he said. Marias stressed the fact that he wants students not involved in Greek life to see the community service and philanthropy events that students involved do. “So many groups on campus provide the same things we can: leadership roles, new friendships, etc. But they don’t provide values or a sense of direction; that’s what Greek life provides.”
Robert stresses the fact that he’s determined to get chapters to remember and revive the qualities that their founders set decades ago. This is something that the President of the Panhellinic Council for sororities, Brandi Steele, commented on. “I think Robert’s main goals are to strengthen and unify our Greek Community by helping us get back to the basics of our founding values and ideals, and find new ways of doing things to make our presence more powerful and respected on campus.”
When speaking about the values that Greek life provides, Marias’s words showed true devotion and care to his duties with Radford’s Greek community. His nights in the Greek life office last sometimes until 10 p.m. but he’s more than willing to do what it takes to improve the Greek community. He even has a goal to expand the community by bringing two new fraternities: Sigma Phi Epsilon and Sigma Nu to Radford. He also has sights on creating two new sororities within the next few years as well.
James Cho summarizes the motivation and dedication that Marias has when he says, “Robert sees the true potential of the Greek Community here at Radford. He sees that we all want to be that prestigious Greek Community where we all thrive. He’s helping us do so by inspiring members to do and strive for more, but still allowing the Greek Community to choose their own path.”