Skip to main content
COVID-19 Support Get Urgent Help

Search

Exploratory Research Studies 

There are numerous studies on the extent of the problems facing fraternities and sororities. However, there is little evidence regarding professional practice. How we move from identifying the problem to creating chapter, community, and cultural change is critical to the future of fraternity and sorority life. The Piazza Center is exploring interdisciplinary research projects on fraternity and sorority professional reform.  

Current Studies

Hazing and substance misuse, and sexual misconduct and violence prevention studies

The Early Warning Signs of Hazing project

A study of how sorority and fraternity campus professionals and inter/national headquarters staff recognize initial early indicators and identify different forms of hazing. Researchers asked a variety of professionals to identify patterns and warning signs of early hazing before it escalates into dangerous forms resulting in harm and tragedy.

  • Researchers: Pietro Sasso, Piazza Center Research Fellow; Emily Feuer, Piazza Center Scholar, University of Albany; and Dawn Maynen, Piazza Center
  • Status: Focus group phase complete. Creating a national survey and collecting Data fall 2022- spring 2023
Community of practice hazing/hazardous drinking: effectiveness of intervention and prevention strategies for substance misuse and hazing

The study is a three-year collaboration between Piazza Center, the Gordie Center at the University of Virginia and the With Us Center at Cal Poly. More than a dozen experts, six institutions, and a proven set of research guidelines promises to yield sound professional practices in the crucial areas of hazing and hazardous drinking prevention

  • Researchers:
    • Robert Turrisi, Professor of Biobehavioral Health and Prevention Research Center, Penn State University;
    • Patrick Biddix, Professor of Higher Education, University of Tennessee Knoxville;
    • Jason Kilmer Associate Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington;
    • Pietro Sasso, Assistant Professor, Educational Leadership at Stephen F. Austin University;
    • James Barber, Associate Professor and Senior Associate Dean for Academic Programs, College of William & Mary; and
    • Monica Lee Miranda, Consultant
  • Status: Collecting data fall 2022- spring 2023.
Exploring campus student organization and fraternity and sorority accountability and conduct models

Organization accountability practices, philosophies, and procedures are crucial to the health, safety, and success of students and chapters. Yet, there is a shocking lack of literature on what guides professionals in student organization and fraternity and sorority accountability. The Piazza Center aims to close that gap with a series of studies that will identify current models, assess their effectiveness, and improve professional practice for stronger chapters and safer campuses

  • Researchers: Pietro Sasso, Piazza Center; Dawn Maynen, Piazza Center; and Ann James, Miami University
  • Status: Focus group phase complete. Creating a national survey and collecting Data fall 2022- spring 2023

Helping fund: Ritual Fungibility in Modern Fraternities: Dr. Aldo Cimino, Kent State University, and Dr. Benjamin Thomas, University of Louisville

Future research: Efficacy of anti-hazing legislation: Max Crowley, Director of Evidence to Practice Center, Penn State 

Future research: Compassion and stress-fit primer to harm prevention curriculums: Meg Small, Director of Social Innovation Center, Penn State, and Blaine Colaianne, Penn State 

Leadership, community engagement, and learning

Proving Learning in Fraternities and Sororities: Articulation, Assessment, and Credentialing

There is an immense amount of learning occurring in fraternity and sorority life experience. It is time we measure and document it. The project is identifying, mapping, assessing, and codifying the learning that takes place within the fraternity and sorority experience. Beginning with the work of a high-level concept team the project is on track for a fall roll-out following a review period by organizational partners and experts this spring and summer.

  • Researchers/Concept Team:
    • Gianina Baker, Acting Director, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign;
    • James Barber, Associate Professor and Senior Associate Dean for Academic Programs, William & Mary;
    • Amber Garrison Duncan, Executive Vice President, Competency-Based Education Network;
    • Mike Simmons, Strategic Projects Manager, AACRAO Consulting;
    • Mary Howard Hamilton, Department Chair of Educational Leadership at Indiana State and recent chair of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. research committee;
    • Bob Orndorff, Senior Director of Career Services and Affiliate Associate Professor Counselor Education, Penn State University;
    • Amelia Parnell, Vice President for Research and Policy, National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA);
    • Rodney L. Parks, University Registrar and Assistant Vice President, Elon University; and
    • Matthew Pittinsky, CEO of Parchment
  • Status:  Conducting literature reviews and meeting with the concept team to design studies.
Fraternities and Sororities as Agents of Civil Society and Democratic Principles

Campus incivility is on the rise at the same time that empathy is diminishing. Fraternities and sororities leverage networks and experiences to improve civility, social apathy, and civic engagement. The Piazza Center has initiated a concept team to explore civic engagement in fraternal organizations. We seek to improve and enhance social connectivity among members and groups to focus on stronger and safer organizations and highlight the caring, humanity, altruism, and ethical leadership that is a significant part of the fraternity and sorority story.  

  • Researchers/Concept Team:
    • Matt Baggetta, Associate Professor School of Public & Environmental Affairs and the Observing Civic Engagement Project, Indiana University;
    • Cassie L. Barnhardt, Associate Professor & Director of Graduate Studies, Educational Policy & Leadership Studies, University Iowa;
    • Vivienne Felix, Director of the Center for Professional and Career Pathways, Washington and Jefferson and Piazza Center Scholar;
    • Spencer Long, Senior Director of Member Education and Development, Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity;
    • Andy Morgan, Dean of Students, Indiana State University;
    • Eric Norman, Consultant;
    • Lindsey Perry, Coordinator of Fraternity and Sorority Life, Austin Peay University; and
    • Jodi Radosh, Associate Professor of English & Communication and Associate Director Holleran Center for Community Engagement Co-chair, Alvernia University
  • Status:  Conducting literature reviews and meeting with the concept team to design studies.

Future research: Impact of ritual and values education and chapter outcomes: Ashley Tull, Texas Christian University

Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging studies

Understanding sorority cultural competency & diversity, equity, & inclusion within diverse chapters at predominantly white institutions; understanding sorority cultural competency and diversity, equity, & inclusion within chapters at diverse campuses

Partnership with the National Panhellenic Conference.

  • Researchers: Georgianna Martin, University of Georgia; Michael Goodman, the University of Texas at Austin; Kimberly Davis, Piazza Center.
  • Status: Writing up findings from the first study and launching the second study in fall 2022.
Jewish Identities and Experiences in Fraternities and Sororities and Reduction of Antisemitism 

In a partnership with seven other organizations, the Piazza Center will engage in a range of studies to better understand Jewish identities, the impact anti-Semitism in fraternity and sorority life, and the importance Jewish fraternities and sororities on member sense of belonging. This partnership seeks to enhance the student experience, students’ capacity to lead in diverse communities, and those support Jewish organizations and members through professional practice.

  • Researchers: Pietro Sasso, Piazza Center Research Fellow; Kimberly Davis, Piazza Center; and associated researchers.
  • Status:  Conducting literature reviews and meeting with the concept team to design studies.

Helping fund: Racial equity efforts in sorority and fraternity life communities: Crystal Garcia, University of Nebraska; Antonio Duran, Auburn University; and Michael Goodman, the University of Texas at Austin

Current Reports

COVID-19 and Readiness to Return Survey Project 

(Released 2020) A free, nationwide survey regarding demographics and living situation, opinions on COVID-19, studying and living in fall 2020, chapter experiences, and student well-being.  

University Fraternity and Sorority Staffing Practices: Effect on Student Success 

(Released February 2021) Research partnership with Association of Fraternity and Sorority Advisors and Dr. Patrick Biddix from the University of Tennessee Knoxville Postsecondary Education Research Center. 

Evaluating Hazing and Related Behaviors, Intervention, & Prevention Efforts: A Solutions-Based Approach

The Piazza Center engaged Dr. Pietro Sasso, Piazza Center Research Fellow, and Dr. Bryan Joyce, Piazza Center Scholar, in January of 2021 to develop an exhaustive review of hazing prevention literature.  In the fall of 2021, the Piazza Center partnered with Dr. Patrick Biddix, University of Tennessee, to expand this work as a result of the vision and support of the North American Interfraternity Conference. Dr. Emily Perlow, Worchester Polytechnic Institute was also added to the Piazza Center team. 

The result is an expanded view and understanding of hazing and hazing prevention from high school to college and college and associated student groups. An organizing principle of the monograph is based on the interplay of individuals’ engagement in hazing, intergroup dynamics, and group relationships in communities. Features to highlight in the monograph include a Hazing Prevention Matrix, rich practical Case Studies, and a comprehensive explanatory Model of Horizontal Campus Hazing (the Piazza Center Model). 

Biddix, J. P., Sasso, P. A., Perlow, E., Joyce, B. & Veldkamp, S. (2022). Evaluating hazing and related behaviors, intervention, & prevention efforts: A solutions-based approach. The University of Tennessee Knoxville, Penn State University Piazza Center, and North American Interfraternity Conference (NIC).

Future Research 

If you are interested in current projects or have an idea for future research, please contact Stevan Veldkamp, Executive Director at PiazzaCenter@psu.edu

Note:  Topics were selected and vetted by the Piazza Center Research Advisory Committee in conjunction with three focus groups representing research faculty, campus director of fraternity and sorority life, and headquarter executives.

Research grants for the Piazza Center are awarded on a rolling basis.  Our approved rate for indirect costs is 20 percent of all project costs (Personnel, other research project costs).

Explore in this Section
Exploratory Research
Penn State Student Affairs
Piazza Center
Location

University Park, PA 16802
PiazzaCenter@psu.edu