New Wayland sorority making impact on members, community

October 7, 2010

PLAINVIEW – The newest Greek organization at Wayland Baptist University is attracting attention from several groups, not the least of which is its national chapter. Sigma Phi Lambda is in its first year as an official chapter, a Christian women’s sorority with Texas roots.

The group, which is growing already and planning a fall pledge event, first gained the respect of the national organization after setting a record for completing the required paperwork and steps necessary to charter a chapter. Instead of the typical nine-month process, founding members completed the rigorous application in the summer of 2009 – the fastest in the organization’s history.

“Phi Lambs” as they are called for short, began in 1988 at the University of Texas and now has 25 chapters across the country. Wayland’s group is the Alpha Epsilon Chapter, the 24th in the SPL family.

According to chapter sponsor Priscilla Edwards, a Wayland alumnus and research management analyst at WBU, the group really came about through the work of three students who later asked her to be their leader. Kady Pryde, a senior biology and religion double major from Abilene, said she had an interest in seeing more sorority groups on campus to provide options for coeds. She began checking into options and found Sigma Phi Lambda, getting into contact with the regional director for more information. 

At the same time, junior Morgan Switzenberg of Plainview, a music education major, was having the same idea and had several of her male friends in Kappa Upsilon Chi, a Christian men’s fraternity, suggest their sister organization Sigma Phi Lambda might be a good start. She did some online research and contacted someone for information. That’s when they discovered two folks from the same campus doing similar research and decided to join forces.

Switzenberg and Pryde brought along friend Rachel Steed, a junior theatre major who also had an interest in helping start a new organization on campus, and the three jumped headlong into the grueling application process mandated by the national office.

“The process was probably the hardest part for us. We had to go through a training process with them, and they came to our campus, then we went through this whole packet and had to write testimonies and all that. The process to get approved took longer than us deciding to do it,” said Switzenberg, who is the group’s first president. “The whole process was stressful but we knew it was what we were supposed to be doing.”

“It was something we felt like God really led us to do or there’s no way we would have gotten it done,” added Pryde, SPL’s vice president.

After their application was approved, the girls began gathering other interested students into the fold, eventually ending up with 11 charter members. The fall of 2009 was a trial semester for the group, then they were allowed to pledge in the spring of 2010 and become official members. This fall began their first official year with 15 members, and they plan a fall and spring pledge season to grow the membership.

So far, though, the group has already made an impact on the campus and community, even as early as that trial semester. They participated as a group in the university’s annual Degree of Difference Day service event in 2009, working at the Crisis Center of the Plains’ Broadway Treasures store and doing other projects for the agency later in the year. This year the group planned and led activities at a party thrown for participants of the local Big Brothers/Big Sisters agency, held at Wayland’s Laney Center. They plan to participate in the Shoebox Christmas project and to join forces with Kappa Chi and another WBU sorority, Alpha Delta Kappa, for an effort called Mission Thanksgiving, where they will collect food, clothing and other items for local agencies to help the needy. 

“We’ve gotten to work with Kappa Chi a lot, and we like getting out and helping the community and getting the school involved as well. We’re trying to recruit local places to help out, and we’re thinking of hosting a barn dance with admission being canned food or coats. We’re just trying to make a difference,” Pryde said.

Besides the service aspect, Phi Lamb has all the marks of a normal Christian sorority: fellowship, study and personal growth. In fact, that’s one part of the group that both sponsor and founders enjoy the most. The group meets weekly for business and prayer time, assigns “little sisters” to the older “big sisters” for mentoring purposes and approaches everything with openness and a spirit of Christian sisterhood and spiritual growth.

“Phi Lamb is supposed to be a safe environment, so they work through things together as a group and approach things from a Biblical standpoint to solve problems. We have small groups that give them the opportunity to share in smaller settings, and they are required to have a mentor outside the group that they can learn from,” said Edwards. “They are expected to attend church, too, and we make sure everyone is accountable to those standards. That’s what I like most about it.”

Switzenberg shares the sentiment.

“I grew up with a lot of sisters, but all my friends at Wayland are guys… I think the idea of the sorority was God’s way of telling me ‘you need some female fellowship,’” she laughed. “The meetings are the highlight of my week. It’s nice to hang out with girls and not worry about the pressures of the day and what people think. These are people who are going to love you no matter what. It’s like another family.”

Edwards said the Phi Lambs have really taken ownership of the group, leading the meetings and the service efforts themselves. Her role is as liaison between the university and the group and a “big sister” and confidant to the entire group, providing mature adult advice if situations warrant. She said she felt honored to be asked to serve as sponsor – Pryde is a student worker in her office and kept her up on the progress of the application last summer – and has benefited herself from the experience.

As a student here, I wanted to pledge Tri-Zeta but I didn’t. I thought it was just a part of the college experience. So as the sponsor, it’s a great chance to be in that sorority setting and help these women grow,” Edwards said. “It’s helped me to be around this group of women on so many different levels in their faith. I’ve just seen so many of them blossom, and it’s been a great opportunity for me as well.” 

Switzenberg, who admits she won the role of president on a coin toss with Pryde – “We just couldn’t decide who should do it.” – the group has been beneficial on several levels, not the least of which is helping her grow in confidence and leadership.

“To me, it’s been a blessing and an honor. I had never been in a leadership position before. It has grown me as a leader of the sorority and in everything I’ve done,” she said. “It’s helped me focus more on leadership and less on my individual needs. It’s really about teamwork. We all have a heart for the organization.”

The girls all agree that from the outside looking in, the Phi Lambs are an eclectic mix of backgrounds, majors, interests and life stories. But they also agree that it’s what makes the group so special and personal growth happening.

“It’s an unlikely group of women, but it works. Their focus is not on their differences but on Christ and that’s why it works,” Edwards notes. “We have brought a different group of women together than I would have expected. But I’ve seen a lot of growth and maturity.”

“There’s a unique bond that we all have,” adds Pryde. “There’s such a diverse group of people here. I didn’t know half these people before we started getting together.”

Even in this first official year, signs point to success for the group as they grow in numbers and in unity and make an impact on the Wayland campus.

“Our hope was that (SPL) would be a place for girls to come together for fellowship with God and one another. We wanted it to grow and be passed down after we’re gone,” she said. “I think it’s been successful.”

Phi Lamb Facts:

  • Club colors are red and white, representing the Blood of Christ and purity
  • Club symbol is a lamb, taken from Psalm 100:3: “we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.”
  • Club traditions include cable groups (small groups of three within the larger organization); the engagement circle (the group’s way of honoring ladies who become engaged); prayer nights and prayer groups.
  • Club Bible verse is Romans 15:5-6: “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you seek to follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and one mind you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
  • Chapter Bible verse is Proverbs 29:30: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all. Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”