By Jacob Factor, Features Editor (Courtesy Photo/Jaden Jennings)
Students come to OBU for an experience they won’t get at a state school.
For most, that means a more “Christian” experience. That is also the reason people join OBU social clubs: a brotherhood or sisterhood designed to help each other grow as Christians.
Pi Sigma Phi member Kadrian Shelton, a senior marketing major, said she didn’t rush her freshman year because she thought the social clubs were like the stereotypical state school sororities.
“You think of sorority girls as high-maintenance girls who judge each other based on looks and social media. Once I gave it a shot and realized clubs like this thrive off beauty within, it allowed me to realize this wasn’t the typical group,” Shelton said. “They really are here to help each other and lift each other up.”
Jaden Jennings, a sophomore news and information major, said she wanted to find people she could connect with outside of her pom team. The girls on her pom team have dance as a connection, but she wanted to find people she could connect with differently. She found that in Pi Sigma Phi.
Jillian Murphy, a sophomore nursing major, said as a nursing major she was around other nursing majors all the time, she wanted to branch out to people of other majors.’
“[In Pi Phi] You’ve got anywhere from nursing majors, to history majors, to news and information majors, to everywhere in between.”
Shelton said social clubs are a way for people to gain new experiences.
“In the same way we attend a liberal arts school, to cultivate in different areas, that applies for girls who want to go in a social club,” she said. “They want to learn a new dance, or they want to meet new people or they want to go to an event and learn.”
The first Jaden said she noticed about being a part of a social club was how involved on OBU’s campus they were.
“It’s a pathway that opens up a lot of more doors,” she said.
Shelton said the many events they do let other OBU students join the Pi Phis.
Murphy said Barn Dance is one of Pi Phi’s events where the whole OBU community can be involved.
One of the biggest things the social clubs do together is prayer retreats, and Jennings said this helped her get more connected to the rest of the Pi Phi girls.
“Taking that weekend to spend the night with the girls, get away from campus and bond with them in a different setting, it was an instant connection because we all traveled to Tulsa and bonded; we talked about our feelings and played games,” she said.
Shelton acknowledged the “camp high” that could come from the prayer retreats, and said they work on keeping the closeness throughout the rest of the school year.
“When we get back we have weekly meetings where we can keep each other accountable outside of [prayer retreats],” she said.
Another thing the social clubs do is have “bigs” and “littles”: older students who pair with younger students to provide even closer bonds than other sisters.
“I did not want to take a ‘little,’” Shelton said.“But going through that process and pushing myself to do it was one of the biggest rewards because I got Jaden and Mel. Both have offered so many routes to encouragement.”
Jennings said having Kadrian as a “big” was a life-changing experience.
“It was amazing. It still is,” she said. “She gave me someone I could always rely on in my life.”
A friend, or sister, for life is important to OBU’s social clubs, a fact Murphy said was instrumental in her decision to come back to OBU in January after leaving fall semester of her sophomore year to go to TCU.
“They didn’t even know if I wanted to be in Pi Phi again, they just said, ‘Hey, you were a sister at one point, so you’re always a sister. We want to help you,’” Murphy said.
She said she didn’t know how she would’ve been able to come back without Pi Phi.
“It would’ve been like starting over.”
Some people on OBU’s campus have said social clubs are just full of people who “buy friends.”
Shelton, Murphy and Jennings say this isn’t the case.
Jennings said the dues are for accessories and shirts.
“It’s not like your paying to live together or for the company,” Jennings said. “When you go to a store, you have to pay for a shirt. We just buy multiple shirts, so we prepay [with the dues].”
Shelton said it’s a choice to be friends with the Pi Phi girls.
“I’m choosing to be in the group just as much as I am paying dues,” Shelton said. “I would definitely be friends with these girls outside of the club. They’re people I would’ve invested in outside of the club.”
Lifting up Sisters
“You truly have people that are there for you,” Murphy said.
That statement is what makes the experiences of Murphy, Jennings and Shelton all the more meaningful.
When Murphy was a child, she said she was sexually assaulted.
“I didn’t want to feel pretty for the longest time,” she said.
However, she said she had people, including her Pi Phi sisters, pour into her life.
“It’s okay to feel like your worthy. It’s okay to know that you’re beautiful. It’s okay to know you’re the daughter of the most high king. You’re a princess.”
Murphy said her Pi Phi sisters taught her, teaches everyone, the importance of beauty and self-worth from a biblical perspective.
Jaden said she also has had problems feeling beautiful, but her Pi Phi sisters help her through it.
“A lot of girls have said they think the world of me. People saying that is a constant encouragement,” she said. “It’s different than passing your friends and going, ‘how are you?’ It’s a club of encouragement.”
Shelton said last semester her brother was diagnosed with cancer. It was really hard on her and her family, but Pi Phi stepped in to be with her.
“I got a lot of letters just encouraging me,” Shelton said.“That was really sweet.”
Outside of the social club, Pi Phi members also work to lift up other girls.
They volunteer at First Baptist Church of Tecumseh’s prom dress closet.
“The girls in the area can’t afford to go to prom or have prom dresses, shoes or jewelry, so we collect those things. We have sizes from 0 to 22, so it’s literally for any girl. It’s cool to see them have their princess moment,” Murphy said. “This year we’re doing a conference style one where we’ll have speakers, and the girls will bring their dresses and shoes and we’ll do hair and makeup.”
Working with the outside community is something Murphy said is important to Pi Phi.
“We all like getting dressed up. We all like caring about hair. But we all like serving our community and our nation.”
Jennings said the sense of community is important to her, as is the connection she has with her Pi Phi sisters.
“We are called sisters,” Jennings said. “The whole purpose of a sorority is to gain sisters, not just friends, but people you can rely on. Family is who you rely on, and that’s what we do.