Overcoming stereotypes

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Austin Gemmell finds his role in Greek Life.

When he first arrived at Northern Arizona University, Austin Gemmell never envisioned himself joining a fraternity. Today, he is the president of Delta Chi, and his work with the organization has helped him adjust to university life, while enabling him to contribute to the community and prepare for his future.  

Austin admits the idea of fraternities was unattractive when he first came to Flagstaff.

“I was completely opposed to fraternities leaving high school, just because that was the mentality then,” Gemmell says. “You see the stereotypes with parties and all that, and I didn’t want to be that guy. I was very close-minded.”

Gemmell, now a senior criminal justice major, was originally recruited by his friends to join the Delta Chi fraternity his freshman year. Though he would decline his first invitation to join the group, Gemmell began to change his mind when he witnessed the kinds of relationships that could be built within the fraternity.

“They just invited me to hang out, and I saw they’re a very unique chapter,” Gemmell says. “Everyone has a different reason for joining, and I think that’s what pulls them together. We all act like brothers, and it’s never changed. I really regretted not rushing my first semester.”

Years later, Gemmell finds himself in a role he never expected as president of the Delta Chi fraternity. While his work has gone on to benefit the chapter, Gemmell is grateful for the personal opportunities he’s had leading a group of young men in bettering their community. 

“We are here for a purpose,” Gemmell says. “We are giving back and offering these kids another chance to take on real world responsibilities.”

Making a name in service

In addition to street cleanups, volunteer work at food and animal shelters, and canned food drives, Gemmell says that Delta Chi is primarily known for its work with the V Foundation in the fight against cancer. Last year alone, Delta Chi raised $1,500 at its Halloween Bash, one of the organization’s premier events.

“When you tell people that they’re coming to donate for a good cause and have a good time, it really touches base,” Gemmell says. “It really hits close to home.”

Delta Chi is also involved with many other Greek organizations at the university. Each of the fraternity’s 60 members is encouraged to attend events that contribute to other philanthropic efforts around the campus.

Gemmell says Delta Chi’s overarching goal of providing service stems from its beliefs in education, justice, friendship, and character, and that its members benefit from building relationships with similar organizations throughout the community.

“We’re there for a reason; we’re there to give back as a whole,” Gemmell says. “We can throw our own events, but we need to be in full attendance at other Greek events to support them."

A commitment to academics

Delta Chi also supports its own members academically through a system that rewards students for their academics. Instead of punishing students who fall below a passing grade, Gemmell offers incentives for students who excel, including prizes and other perks.

Their hard work has paid off - Delta Chi now sits on top of a list ranking the cumulative GPA of fraternities at the university.

“We’re always trying to raise the bar in every single way,” Gemmell says. “Academics are huge for us. We’re all here for a reason, and that’s to get a prestigious degree and go out in the world and do something better. We hold each other accountable.”

As Gemmell prepares to apply for law school, he is grateful he tried something new in joining Delta Chi. In the process, he has found a support system that has always brought out the best in him, and has made connections that are set to last a lifetime.

“This is a lifelong commitment,” Gemmell says. “People don’t look at the opportunities they could be offered from our alumni. Our alumni are our base support; we always look up to them for their advice. Having these connections gives Delti Chi members a lot more confidence and a lot more leadership qualities no matter where life takes them.”