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Session attendees will be able to:
Understand current literature on fraternity/sorority life and intercultural competence
Reflect on research findings exploring the impact of fraternity/sorority affiliation on college students’ development of intercultural competence
Identify practical applications of these research findings to their (a) work with fraternity/sorority members and (b) efforts to create culturally competent college students
What comes to mind when you hear the words “fraternities/sororities” and “intercultural competence” together? In what ways, if any, have you observed fraternity/sorority members engaging in interculturally competent behavior?
The majority of research on membership in fraternities/sororities covers topics such as alcohol use, sexual assault education, & hazing, while very little focused on learning outcomes associated with a college education (Molasso, 2005)
More specifically, limited research exists on the influence of membership on the educational outcome of intercultural competence Membership in a fraternity/sorority associated with negative scores on students’ openness to diversity during the first year of college (Pascarella, Edison, Nora, Hagedorn, & Terenzini,1996)
Another study found that fraternity/sorority membership did not significantly advantage or disadvantage students’ growth on intercultural competence in the first year of college (Martin, Hevel, Asel, & Pascarella, 2011) Incongruent findings demonstrate the need to further study the unique effects of fraternity/sorority membership on intercultural competence
To explore the impact of fraternity/sorority membership on students’ development of intercultural competence over four years of college
1,263 undergraduate students from 11 four-year institutions participating in the WNS between 2006 and 2010
57.1% (n=721) identified as female 42.9% (n=542) identified as male 24.8% (n=313) identified as students of color 75.2% (n=950) identified as white 24.1% (n=304) reported membership in a fraternity (n=135) or sorority (n=168) Of those students reporting membership in a fraternity/sorority, 20.4% identified as students of color (n=62) and 79.6% identified as white students (n=242)
Wabash National Study – Longitudinal, pretest-posttest design
Data on students’ college
Student pre-college measure of
intercultural competence using: (1) Miville-Guzman Universality Diversity Scale (MGUDS) (2) Openness to Diversity & Challenge Scale (ODC)
experiences using the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) and the WNS Student Experiences Survey development of intercultural competence using the MGUDS & ODC
Post-test data on students’
Intercultural competence operationalized through two measures:
Membership in a fraternity or sorority Item asked: Are you a member of a social fraternity or sorority? Coded: 1=Yes, 0=No
Miville-Guzman Universality-Diversity Scale (M-GUDS) Openness to Diversity/Challenge (ODC) Scale
Race/Ethnicity Parental Education ACT (or equivalent) High School Involvement Precollege Academic
Participation in College
Motivation High School Binge Drinking Precollege Political Views Institutional Type
Athletics Living on Campus # of Hours Worked on and off Campus College Binge Drinking MGUDS or ODC pretests
Ordinary least squares regression (OLS) Estimated the total effect of fraternity or sorority affiliation on both measures of intercultural competence Estimated the direct effect of fraternity or sorority affiliation on intercultural competence Additional analyses to explore the conditional effects of fraternity/sorority membership
Intercultural Competence MGUDS a (n=1,263) Independent Variables Fraternity or Sorority Member Live on Campus (vs. Lives Off Campus) Total Effects b -.010 Direct Effects b .000 .140
Intercultural Competence ODC a (n=1,263) Total Effects b -.040 Direct Effects b -.058 -.031
Hours Worked On Campus a
Hours Worked Off Campus a
Athlete (vs. Not an Athlete)
College Binge Drinking c R2
a Indicates variable has been standardized. b Model includes the following control variables: male (vs. female),
.439 .443 .330
students of color (vs. white), average parental education, ACT score, precollege academic motivation, high school involvement, pre-college political views, high school binge drinking, pretest, and institutional type (liberal arts college vs. other institutions) c Reference group is students who reported they did not binge drink.
Fraternity/sorority affiliation does not appear to have any significant unique impact on either measure of intercultural competence over four years of college No significant total effects on either measure (MGUDS b= .010 , ODC b=-.040) No significant direct effects were found on either measure (MGUDS b=.000 , ODC b=-.058)
No significant conditional effects by sex, race, or institutional type
Membership does not appear to have a significant impact on students’ development of intercultural competence during college Findings suggest that regardless of a fraternity/sorority member’s sex, race, or type of institution attended, any differences in growth on intercultural competence were likely due to chance not membership in a fraternity/sorority Can intercultural competence be measured accurately without an understanding of the “other’s” perceptions?
No significant difference may be a better result than a negative impact. However, fraternities/sororities are organizations whose rhetoric purports to hold its members to high standards. Should we expect more than a neutral finding?
Continued research and attention on the contribution of fraternities/sororities to the educational mission of our institutions is imperative.
As educators, what might these findings mean for our work with fraternity/sorority members? To what standards should we be holding fraternity/sorority members in regards to intercultural competence? Given these findings and the limitations of this research, how might educators obtain a more accurate measure of fraternity/sorority members’ intercultural competence?
This research was supported by a generous grant from the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts at Wabash College to the Center for Research on Undergraduate Education at The University of Iowa
Martin, G. L., Hevel, M. S., Asel, A. M., & Pascarella, E. T. (2011). New evidence on the effects of fraternity and sorority affiliation during the first year of college. Journal of College Student Development, 52(5), 543-559. Molasso, W. R. (2005). A content analysis of a decade of fraternity/sorority scholarship in student affairs research journals. Oracle: The Research Journal of the Association of Fraternity and Sorority Advisors, 1(1), 1-9. Retrieved from http://home.gwu.edu/~billym/Docs/Research/Pubs/Oracle_vol1_iss1_Molasso.pdf Pascarella, E. T., Edison, M., Nora, A., Hagedorn, L., & Terenzini, P. (1996). Influences on students’ openness to diversity and challenge in the first year of college. Journal of Higher Education, 67(2), 174-195.