The rules of the college experience are changing – today, the major that a student chooses no longer fully reflects the extent of their interest and abilities, and this is particularly true of Wolverines. On the snowy expanse of our Diag, one might come across an Art student with a minor in biology, a Pre-med student who pours their extracurricular time into managing Dance Marathon, or an Engineer who religiously contributes to campus literary magazines. Labels do not define us – we transcend the confines of distribution requirements and resume-building strategies. For students interested in going into business, prospects have traditionally been limited to applying to the notoriously selective Ross School of Business, and hoping that one of the exclusive business fraternities will be merciful on applicants that year. However, as the causal link between academic concentration and career opportunities continues to dissolve, some extracurricular clubs are beginning to change their tune when it comes to the application process.
Phi Gamma Nu (PGN) is a co-ed business fraternity whose U of M chapter was newly minted in February of last year. Founded in 1924 at Northwestern University, the fraternity has long been a leader in cultivating young professionals for the business world. Guided by the three pillars of organizational goals – professional, social and philanthropy – PGN seeks to provide its members with the skills to successfully enter into the skilled workforce. In the midst of the plethora of other U of M business fraternities whose goal is the same, what sets PGN apart is their cosmopolitan approach to selecting members.
SHEI sat down with PGN founding members Sean Saint, Eli Sugerman, and marketing team member Aima Dong to further discuss PGN’s mission, and the changing world of business.
Saint and Sugerman are two of the ten founding members that provided the driving force for a PGN chapter at the University of Michigan at the beginning of winter term 2014. Dong was a member of their founding class of twenty-two students. Now, the total head count of PGN affiliates lies at about sixty, a surprisingly high number for such a young organization.
“We realized that there are so many students here who are business inclined who want a group inclusive enough to be able to do homework with, but big enough to make the campus feel smaller”, said Saint, “So that’s where we found our niche, and that’s how we were able to market it so well, I think.” Saint is the Internal Vice President in charge of regulating the social events, the rushing process, marketing and philanthropy. He is a junior in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts (LSA) who feels that his business inclinations came both from classes he has taken as well as from the process of starting PGN itself.
Similarly, Sugerman, Vice President of Membership, is also an LSA student in his junior year. Although he feels he has always been interested in business, applying to the Ross School of Business did not attract him. “I always thought of that as the Wall Street alternative – something I didn’t want to do. So I guess PGN helped me realize my business interests too, which I guess is a little backwards, but it gave me a wider definition in sense of what business means.”
Although Dong entered college with a clear business inclination, learning about other business fraternities rush processes from her friends deterred her from applying. “From what they told me, it was almost a suffocating experience for them”, she said, “I didn’t want to join a community like that on campus, but I wanted to be somewhere that I could expand my business skills.”
PGN has provided that opportunity for her, and for fifty-nine other students for whom the traditional business organizations on campus were not alluring. This semester, the proportion of PGN members who are also students in Ross is merely fifty percent. The other half is made up of majors like Computer Science, Engineering and Pre-law.
“We are drawing from all areas of academia”, said Sugerman, “and not just looking for one type of student. By pulling people together who are all business inclined, but have different experiences and backgrounds we’re building a more diverse group of people tied together by business, but with different variations. That’s what distinguishes us.”
Remarking on PGN’s rush process, Dong noted that it is “definitely not stressful”. As opposed to the rigorous rush structure of other business fraternities, she felt like she was showcasing herself and her abilities rather than her resume. “That’s what we’re aiming for – to be welcoming to anyone,” she said.
As a result of this embracing disposition, PGN has fostered a tight-knit community of like-minded peers who get together for both business and pleasure. Saint goes on to add that several PGN members who are taking the same class this semester recently got together to make a study guide for an exam. “That’s just one example of how community plays into professionalism, and that’s kind of our goal", he said, "[We’re looking for] smart, fun, kids who have the general goal of enjoying college, but also getting something out of it.”
Photos by Melissa Freeland
For more information about PGN and how to join, check out their Facebook page.