10 Questions With PHC President-Elect Abby Renko
Last week, Abby Renko was named the 2015 President of Penn State’s Panhellenic Council. Although her term officially begins in a few weeks, the sister of Delta Zeta is excitedly preparing to lead the women of the Greek community. We sat down with Abby to ask her a few questions about Greek Life at Penn State, her past experiences, and her future plans for the upcoming year.
Onward State: Why did you decide to join a sorority at Penn State?
Abby Renko: I knew I wanted to join a sorority very early on. I was one of those girls who registers for recruitment early in the summer before freshman year and scrolls through the various Panhellenic chapter websites throughout the summer. I went to a very small high school and so, despite my outgoing personality, I never had the chance to form a large group of close girl friends. To me, joining a sorority meant gaining a strong support system of friends along with so many other amazing opportunities to become more involved on campus and develop as a well-rounded student.
OS: What goal of yours would you most like to see come to fruition?
AR: I really hope to work more closely and mutually with the IFC Executive Board. Though we do exist as two separate governing councils and often make decisions independent of one another, establishing a better relationship and line of communication with those members will benefit the Greek community at large by improving not just the way decisions are made but also how those decisions are relayed to the greater community and implemented within it. Even more important than helping to implement the new social policies, this relationship can be utilized to better combat larger issues in the community, such as sexual assault.
OS: What inspired you to run for the position?
AR: The idea of being able to serve the Panhellenic community as a whole really appealed to me. Though I have absolutely loved and cherished my time on the Executive Board of my sorority, I am so excited to work with officers from all sororities on campus to ensure the success of each of their chapters. I also knew I wanted to run for this position in particular because the role of President extends into almost every aspect of campus culture at Penn State. I knew that if elected, I would be participating in many important campus conversations and fostering relationships between Panhellenic and various outside agencies within the University and the State College community, a unique opportunity that not many other leadership positions can offer.
OS: What is your favorite aspect of Penn State Greek life?
AR: My favorite part of Penn State Greek life is that the system strives to enrich the lives of its members rather than define them. One of my favorite quotes explains this well. “My letters don’t make me better than you, they make me better than I used to be.” From leadership opportunities to programming events, to community outreach, to scholarship development – Greek life here really does a great job of providing endless opportunities for members to grow as a person and to enrich their college experiences in a positive way.
OS: Which one of your past experiences has best prepared you to take on the role of Panhellenic President?
AR: Being on the Executive Board of my sorority for the past two years has allowed me to gain such valuable experience not only in leadership, but also in conflict resolution, member motivation, and personal growth — all important parts in preparing me to assume presidency. My work as an Emergency Medical Technician has also played a valuable role in this preparation because I have a perspective on risk management issues unique to most, something I hope to use as an asset during my term.
OS: What is one piece of advice that you would give to a potential new member during sorority recruitment? To all of the new sorority presidents and executive boards?
AR: To a potential new member, I would say truly keep an open mind throughout the process. With one of the largest and fastest growing Greek systems in the nation, I am confident that there is a place in the Panhellenic community for every woman interested in being a part of it. Provided, of course, that she is willing to maintain high levels of morality, scholarship, and involvement throughout her college experience.
To a new president or executive board member, I would say to not be afraid of making unpopular decisions. It’s difficult to hold a leadership position in a sorority and have authority over your closest friends, but becoming comfortable making decisions that may be best for the group, but don’t always agree with popular opinion is essential to success as an officer. Also to remain calm in times of crisis, and to be open to feedback from your members throughout the semester because it’s important to ensure that you’re addressing their needs and concerns.
OS: How are you planning to help members get acclimated to the new social policies?
AR: I think one of the most important aspects in implementing these new changes is keeping lines of communication open and honest between me, the rest of the Panhellenic Executive Board, our advisors, and all chapter presidents. Though part of my job is to monitor and address issues as they occur, I am far more interested in working to ensure that these changes are making a positive impact moving forward.
OS: Which Greek event do you look forward to most each year?
AR: I look forward to Greek Sing each year! I think it’s an awesome opportunity that brings the Greek community together in a fun and competitive way, and highlights members who have performance talent. I had a blast dancing in it my freshman year and now I really enjoy watching to see “stars” emerge from each organization! So many people have talent that may otherwise go unnoticed. I also enjoy Panhellenic Pride Week each year because I think it is so important to acknowledge and celebrate that Panhellenic women are connected by such similar values.
OS: If you could go to dinner with anyone (dead or alive), anywhere, who would you go with and where would you take him/her?
AB: This is a tough one! I think I would have to pick Ben Carson as he is, in my opinion, one of the most incredible people in the world. He worked at Johns Hopkins for years as an internationally renowned pediatric neurosurgeon, was the first ever physician to separate twins conjoined at the head, and more recently has become involved in the nation’s political scene. I would want to take him to Cantler’s Riverside Inn, an amazing seafood restaurant back home in Maryland. Hopefully he likes seafood as much as I do!
OS: As per Onward State tradition, if you were a dinosaur, which would you be and why?
AR: I would probably want to be a pterodactyl solely to be able to fly. Just think of all the time I could save instead of walking to and from classes!