By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – With more than 600 members across 12 chapters, the University of Nebraska at Kearney has a thriving fraternity and sorority community.
These students are the lifeblood of campus, according to Kelly Bartling, vice chancellor for enrollment management and marketing.
“Consistently, UNK fraternity and sorority members have higher GPAs, greater engagement and greater success. They’re our campus leaders and philanthropists,” Bartling said Wednesday afternoon during an event marking the beginning of a new chapter for Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL) at UNK.
About 200 people, including many of those students, gathered inside Martin Hall to celebrate the first phase of a $32.65 million project that replaces and upgrades the on-campus housing for fraternity and sorority members. The ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony gave attendees a chance to check out the new and improved Martin Hall, which reopened last month following a major renovation that transformed the nearly 70-year-old residence hall into a modern living space for UNK fraternity members.
Located just east of the Nebraskan Student Union, the 42,500-square-foot building has 80 total beds, with dedicated housing pods for individual fraternities and flexible housing units designed to meet the chapters’ future needs. Each fraternity has its own chapter room and lounge, and there are shared study areas throughout the building. A “great room” on the main floor serves as an event space for the entire FSL community.
“When you tour, you’ll find chapter rooms that carry on the legacy and ideals of the individual fraternities, each with its own space. But you’ll also see areas, such as this great hall, where fraternities and individual members can collaborate and participate in activities together,” Bartling said during the event. “The intentional design of the interior – with your input – lends itself to building a more powerful fraternity community. That’s important to UNK and we know it’s important to you.”
Martin Hall houses the Delta Tau Delta, Phi Delta Theta, Pi Kappa Alpha, Sigma Phi Epsilon and Sigma Tau Gamma fraternities. Previously, those chapters were located on the west side of campus in University Residence North (URN) and University Residence South (URS). Those residence halls were built in 1991 and 1992 as a temporary and quick solution to housing needs for the fraternity and sorority community, which was moved onto campus to provide a safe, education-centered environment for members.
The wood-frame buildings were only designed to last 20 years. Three decades later, they have the highest annual maintenance and operating costs among UNK’s residence halls and continue to experience mechanical infrastructure issues. It would cost an estimated $37 million to make the repairs and improvements needed to keep them in use.
“When those facilities were constructed, the ‘pods’ for chapter segregation enabled a Greek culture of separation and sometimes competition. The new vision for collaboration – while respecting individual chapter cultures – is evident in this building,” Bartling said of Martin Hall.
Collaboration and community are key values for UNK’s fraternities and sororities, according to Karlee Nuttelman, assistant director of Fraternity and Sorority Life.
“Bringing everyone physically together will help us live out those values,” she said. “New buildings not only look great, but they’re also going to draw interest from prospective students and help us continue to grow the fraternity and sorority community.”
UNK’s four Panhellenic sororities – Alpha Omicron Pi, Alpha Phi, Alpha Xi Delta and Gamma Phi Beta – are also moving across campus. They’ll be housed in a 41,200-square-foot, 165-bed residence hall under construction directly north of Martin Hall. That building will feature a similar layout with chapter rooms, chapter lounges, study areas, assigned housing pods and flexible housing units, along with meeting and lounge space for UNK’s three multicultural chapters – the Lambda Theta Nu and Sigma Lambda Gamma sororities and Sigma Lambda Beta fraternity.
Emily Saadi, UNK student body president and student regent, called the new fraternity and sorority housing complex “a symbol of progress and innovation.”
“The Greek community adds tremendous value to our campus as a whole. Greek students are incredible representatives of what it means to be a Loper, through their enthusiastic and lively presence on campus to their outstanding academic and service achievements. They are the heart of our thriving community,” she said.
“I look forward to seeing the opportunities this facility brings to students for years to come.”
The four sororities housed in URN and URS will remain there until the new residence hall is complete. Those buildings are also being used to temporarily house employees who were relocated because of other campus construction projects at Calvin T. Ryan Library and Warner Hall.
URN and URS will be razed after the new housing complex is complete.
PHOTOS BY ERIKA PRITCHARD/VIDEO BY STEPH GALLAWAY, UNK COMMUNICATIONS