It’s one against 70, and the recruiter is losing. Rather than file out, the students swarm him, ply him with resumes and cover letters, jostle his arm in hopes of a handshake. Out of the 70, Rami Saker (C&W ’17) stands alone. He watches. Once the crowd clears out, Rami approaches the recruiter and suggests they get coffee. Surprised, the recruiter agrees.
Over coffee, the recruiter told Rami he didn’t remember anyone else from the recruiting session. “So it’s not like walking up to someone with this entitled expectation and saying, 'Okay, you’re here, we have this connection, now help me out,'” Rami says. “It’s more like, ‘Listen. Here’s what I’ve done so far. I know you have something, and I want to know how to get to where you are.’ It’s like him helping you. That’s what attracted me to [Delta Sigma Pi] in the first place.”
Delta Sigma Pi, or DSP, is one of Penn’s three professional business fraternities, along with Alpha Kappa Psi (AKPsi) and Phi Gamma Nu (PGN). All three fraternities have 50 to 60 brothers and a roughly even gender ratio (men and women are both referred to as “brothers” in co–ed fraternities). While it might seem like there could be nothing more stereotypically “Penn” than a business fraternity, they are, by no means, solely a Quaker entity. The AKPsi website shows that the fraternity has had a whopping 357 unique chapters in its history, while DSP currently lists 226 active chapters on their website and PGN lists 13.
Jahanvi Sardana (W ’18) feels that her membership in DSP is primarily a social experience. “It’s a brotherhood. You get a family here. For most people, it’s like their core friend group, their first friend group at Penn. We go to spring break together.” While she admits that solid career advice could be found in a social fraternity or any other club, it’s easier to find it in DSP because she trusts the information from every member.
“Because it’s a professional fraternity, everyone has great jobs,” she explains. “You could literally reach out for help for any company. I just feel like it’s the best plan. You don’t have to look out for the smart people, everyone’s so smart.”
She pauses, corrects herself. “I don’t mean smart…I mean more like, professional.”
PGN President Sophie Phillips (C&W '17)
The word “fraternity” in our society rarely comes with a positive connotation. Sure, there are always tales of large–scale philanthropy events or fraternity brothers raising money for cancer research, but it seems like for every one of those we hear ten stories of racist chants, hazing deaths and drunken stupidity. Given this image, the concept of a “business fraternity” is somewhat difficult to understand. Can you imagine Bluto from Animal House asking his brothers to prep him for his Deloitte super day? Or a more recent example—can you picture Seth Rogen’s character in Neighbors filing a noise complaint for an especially rowdy resume workshop? And of course, their existence begs the question—just how much do they differ from social fraternities on a day–to–day basis?
Rami joined DSP the spring of his freshman year. Unsurprisingly, he is able to name brothers from his chapter at nearly every high–profile company—Boston Consulting Group, Bain Capital, Credit Suisse and even ones who worked at Facebook and the White House. While these connections are without a doubt valuable, they don’t entirely define Rami’s DSP experience. “I can throw you brands everywhere,” he tells me. “But you can’t really tell. They’re just cool, genuine people who do what they want to do.”
Rami says that in DSP, social interactions come before professional aspirations. “I would feel weird if I reached out to one of them and asked for a job,” he admitted. “I would reach out to see how they were doing.” But that doesn’t mean that job talk is off the table, or that competition doesn’t exist. After Rami listed all of the impressive places his pledge class got internships at for the upcoming summer while he was abroad, he admitted, “I have to live up to that now.”
“It’s hard to sell Greek life to your parents back home.”
Sanjula Weerawardhena, a sophomore in Wharton from Sri Lanka, joined AKPsi for professional reasons—but the idea of a business fraternity is typically an easier sell to parents, especially those from foreign countries where Greek life isn’t present in popular culture. Dues for business frats are also roughly a third less than those of social fraternities.
PGN has a “decent amount” of international students, according to Ray; Jahanvi is one of six international students in her pledge class of nine.
The co–ed nature of DSP also stands out to Jahanvi. “For a sorority, I feel like there’s too much estrogen for me,” she says. “We’re all like bros. We just hang out.”
Many business fraternity brothers consider their chapters to be a satisfactory social hub for their Penn experience. However, being in a professional fraternity at Penn does not preclude you from joining a social fraternity or sorority. Angela Pan (SAS ’16), a member of both Chi Omega and AKPsi, joined Chi O during her freshman spring semester and ended up joining AKPsi in the fall of her sophomore year. Having already found her “family” at Penn, she sought an opportunity to strengthen her professional skills. “At that time, I was thinking that I already had a great group of friends,” she explains, “but at the same time, I was thinking I wanted to develop my professional skills, and that’s the benefit of being in a business frat. Because they really do help you give yourself direction, and I had no idea what I wanted to do.”
Not everyone in a business frat wants to spend life after college strolling down Wall Street. For Tucker Reynolds, a sophomore in the College and rush chair for AKPsi, joining his fraternity meant furthering his career in the entertainment industry.
He cites the fraternity’s Media & Entertainment Week, founded by an alumnus who worked at Lion’s Gate Entertainment, as the main professional reason he pledged. “Once you cross…you have a community of people who are already working in the jobs you aspire to work in,” he explains. “I found out about [the Media & Entertainment Week] through rush so that’s another reason why I was like, ‘Ooh, I like AKPsi a lot!’”
For some, joining a business frat means discovering new career. Ray Liu (SEAS ’16), who is on track to graduate this semester and submatriculate into a Masters’ program in bioengineering, has already accepted a job offer from Putnam Associates, a healthcare consulting firm in Boston. But before joining PGN during the fall of his sophomore year, he knew almost nothing about consulting. “I figured I wanted exposure to other fields to see what they’re like,” he recalls. “Being in [the School of Engineering], I never got introduced to any business–type fields. Even in high school, I was pretty science–focused and I came in [to Penn] pre–med as well, so being in PGN has definitely been the number one reason why I’m going into consulting in the future.”
When Ray realized he needed more interview experience, his brothers were there to help him prep. When he wanted more experience applying for consulting jobs, they were there to practice casing.
“They actually care about you,” he says. “When you ask for professional advice, they're actually interested in your success.”
AKPsi Rush Event
Sophie Phillips (C&W ’17) has been waking up this semester every day to a few buzzing Facebook message threads from her PGN brothers. As president, she has to rifle through them—one is with the social committee planning their once–a–semester retreat to a ski lodge in upstate New York and another is with her executive board making sure everything is staying afloat during a hectic rush season. This all may sound par for the course for any Greek organization on campus, but Sophie’s rushes aren’t lined up in the freezing cold in high heels or clamoring for free Chick–Fil–A in a beer–stained living room. Instead, her rushes might be proofreading their resumes and endorsing each other on LinkedIn.
Jahanvi participated in Panhellenic rush during the spring semester of her freshman year, but dropped after her second night. “[Rush] was really weird,” she says. “We’re in lines and dressed up for no reason, and it’s freezing. And all the guys are getting food.” The DSP rush process, by contrast, involved submitting a resume, completing an application, and going on a coffee chat. “And then you have a formal interview,” she says. “Which was a little more intense.”
On paper, these organizations seem to be a meeting point between social fraternities and business–oriented clubs such as the Wharton Undergraduate Consulting Club (WUCC). Perhaps what sets business fraternities apart from clubs like WUCC is the shared experience of brotherhood, obtained after what all three fraternities refer to as “crossing,” or completing the membership education process.
Rami was not shy to admit that most of his favorite DSP memories were somehow connected to the initiation process, which he also credits for a large part of his personal and professional development. “It’s not meant to break you down. It’s meant to say, ‘I know you think you can’t do this. But here’s how I can show you that you can.’ You do new things that you never thought you could do before, and once it’s over you say to yourself, ‘Wow, I actually did that!’ You find out that literally the only limits you’re giving yourself are your excuses.”
Being in a business frat means knowing to ask the recruiter to coffee instead of just handing out a resume or asking a silly question for the sake of talking. But it also means developing meaningful friendships that, as Angela describes, are “all joined together to something.” For every resume workshop or guest speaker, there are social events or even smaller things like Spirit, a part of every DSP chapter meeting which member and former Spirit Chair Nick Mion (W ‘17) explains as “pictures of the week in a funny slideshow with a bunch of jokes.”
“It’s like chilling in Huntsman,” says Rami. But, he adds, “If you look back and you look at that room, you realize you’re with ridiculously smart fucking people.”