Willamette University, Students at the Mill Stream

College of Liberal Arts News

Panhellenic Council works to improve sorority recruitment and campus life

Out of 138 applications from 48 colleges, the Willamette Panhellenic Council will be one of the 15 Panhellenic groups from across the country to receive a National Panhellenic Conference award.

Willamette’s Panhellenic Council comprises members of all campus sororities — Alpha Chi Omega, Delta Gamma and Pi Beta Phi. The councilwomen collaborate on recruitment, philanthropy, scholarship and community building, and they also serve as unbiased resources for both affiliated and non-affiliated women.

The National Panhellenic Conference will honor the council with an Annual Biennial Progress Award for its recent work to strengthen and refocus recruitment and to increase campus presence through philanthropic service.

Within the last two years, the women have also hosted a blood drive and introduced the Rummage Sale – a fundraising effort to offer a scholarship to Greek women to offset the cost of dues. The council is also responsible for the tradition of the “Serenades” dance concert, which raises funds for Marion-Polk Food Share.

Working toward an effective balance

Sarah Sonnenfeld ’12, Panhellenic vice president of recruitment, says that the council has been working to achieve parity among the three sororities’ recruitment processes and to focus on year-round recruitment, as opposed to the traditional idea of “rush.” The Panhellenic Council also voted to open sorority houses to women during the fall semester — a move that, according to Sonnenfeld, allows interested students to more accurately evaluate the values they share with the sororities and to establish relationships with active members.

“What’s great is that, while the award was based on the previous two years of recruitment, we’re still moving forward,” she says.

This spring, the council will implement its newest change; recruitment will move from the first to the second week of spring semester to allow both women who are interested in recruitment and affiliated women to participate in the annual MLK Celebration’s many activities and service opportunities. 

Leading with values

“We’re moving toward a more values-based recruitment, emphasizing the many impressive talents, varied activities and personal values that sorority women on our campus have,” says Sonnenfeld.

In October, Panhellenic president Jessica Meyers ’12 will travel to Austin, Texas, to receive the award on behalf of the council, taking the opportunity to attend related workshops and network with other Panhellenic leaders.

“This award is a significant achievement for Willamette’s Panhellenic community,” says Meyers. “It serves as affirmation that our Panhellenic is in fact strong, thriving and headed in the correct direction for our campus.”

For more information on these and other organizations, please visit the Willamette Greek Life website.


Assistant Professor of Physics Michaela KleinertAssistant Professor of Physics Michaela Kleinert

Michaela Kleinert awarded funding for quantum mechanics research

Assistant Professor of Physics, Michaela Kleinert, was recently awarded a $229,428 grant by the National Science Foundation’s Research at Undergraduate Institutions program. The funding will support her research in the field of quantum mechanics.

The RUI program recognizes professors’ “substantial contributions to research and education” and promotes the “excitement of scientific discovery” at undergraduate institutions.

Freezing atoms

Kleinert’s proposal focuses on the combination of ultracold rubidium and calcium gases. Using lasers and magnetic fields, Kleinert’s magneto-optical trap cools room-temperature atoms to just above absolute zero.

A beach ball and garden hoses provide an analogy for a molecule and lasers in a magneto-optical trap. If the beach ball were hit precisely from six directions – top, bottom, left, right, front and back – by the streams of six hoses, it would just hover in the center without moving in any direction. Similarly, atoms can be trapped by using six laser beams from six directions.

As trapped atoms accumulate and slow, they can be combined to form heteronuclear dimers, molecules consisting of one rubidium and one calcium atom. This research will inform future studies of quantum processing, fundamental symmetries and high-precision spectroscopy.

“Nobody has done this before,” says Kleinert. “Nobody knows the exact quantum mechanical structure of these molecules, which could allow us to begin constructing quantum computers. This is what makes this research so important.” 

Providing student opportunities

The funding will allow for a range of student involvement inside and out of the lab. Kleinert will offer paid research positions, invite speakers to campus and fund students’ travel to relevant conferences.

“I’m really excited about involving students,” she says. “They will be exposed to a wide variety of topics — everything from magnetic fields, to state of the art lasers, to vacuum physics, to electronics and basic lab mechanics. This is a great preparation for future work in industry or academia.”

Kleinert hopes to inspire students to continue this type of work in higher education. First year students have already delved into working on circuit boards. Several seniors assisted Kleinert in the initial phases of her calcium research or are working with a high-powered pulsed laser system.

“This is really an exciting venture for students studying physics and for Willamette overall,” she says.