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St. Paul’s Greek life roots itself in agriculture

Of the five fraternities and sororities on UMN’s St. Paul campus, many of them have ties to agriculture.
Image by CJ Bonk
FarmHouse, captured on April 22, is one of the few greek life houses located on the St. Paul campus. FarmHouse is one of the few Greek life houses located on the St. Paul campus.

The University of Minnesota’s East Bank campus in Minneapolis is home to a multitude of fraternity and sorority houses along University Avenue and in Dinkytown, but the same can be said for the St. Paul campus. 

Greek life on the St. Paul campus consists of three fraternities: Delta Theta Sigma, FarmHouse and Alpha Gamma Rho, along with two sororities: Beta of Clovia and Lambda Delta Phi. 

For many members of these organizations, the smaller St. Paul community was what they needed in their Greek life experience. 

FarmHouse president Noah Erickson said growing up in rural Minnesota helped him connect with his fraternity brothers because many of them have had the same life experiences and morals. 

“I don’t even know if I would have finished my schooling at the U of M if it weren’t for my experiences in FarmHouse,” Erickson said. “Just because of the sense of community that it provided, especially for somebody who is from a town of a population of like 5,000 people.”

Erickson added that it is easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of the Twin Cities campus, but being on the St. Paul campus feels like a small town with a tighter community. 

After seeing both her sisters join sororities on the St. Paul campus, Lambda Delta Phi Second Vice President and Recruitment Chair Elle Penzenstadler said she felt she could see herself thriving in her sorority. Moving into a leadership role helped her give back to her sorority before she graduated, she said. 

“You put yourself out there as a recruitment chair and just do all you can to try and get new members,” Penzenstadler said. “It’s been a lot of communication and just putting yourself out there and being vulnerable to meeting new people.”

According to Penzenstadler, Lambda Delta Phi was founded on the ideal of creating a home for women of all backgrounds. Although many in the sorority are College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) majors, there is a lot of diversity from other programs. 

“We’ll celebrate agriculture events as they come up and participate in them across campus,” Penzenstadler said, “But we don’t necessarily tie agriculture into our mission.” 

According to Natalie Beckendorf, many of the Greek houses in St. Paul, while open to everyone, attract a high number of CFANS majors. Beta of Clovia was founded on values derived from 4-H, a club serves youth in a wide variety of contexts and project areas, including but certainly not limited to clubs and agriculture.

Beckendorf, president of Beta of Clovia, said although the sorority is not 100% associated with 4-H anymore, their tie to agriculture and the clover logo builds off 4-H’s foundations. As a transfer student, Beckendorf said she never saw herself in a sorority until becoming involved in Beta of Clovia. 

“I don’t think I could ever have an experience where I can live in our house with a lot of different personalities, a lot of diverse backgrounds and interests and being able to learn from one another,” Beckendorf said. “It’s just an incredible opportunity and I do believe that it sets you up for success.” 

Similar to other experiences, Benjamin Styer, president of Alpha Gamma Rho, said he wanted to join his fraternity in hopes he would find people who shared his beliefs and values. As president, he added he has seen growth in himself and his brothers.

“It’s hard to comprehend sometimes how much growth we experienced in college until you start to reflect and think what your high school senior self was like,” Styer said. “Having a lot of autonomy here creates a lot of growth and a lot of strong relationships we’ve been able to build with each other.” 

As part of a smaller fraternity, Delta Theta Sigma, Samuel Verbrugge said he joined because he was having trouble connecting with people during his freshman year. As the current vice president, Verbrugge said he has become a figurehead for the house, meaning he feels the need to stay on top of academics and be outgoing. 

According to Verbrugge, recent lower enrollment rates for CFANS have made being a part of the St. Paul campus community important to him. 

“I found a bunch of down-to-earth guys that were kind of just trying to find their way in the world, and they were genuinely kind people,” Verbrugge said. “I realized that I wanted to be around them, so I joined the fraternity.”

This article has been updated.

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