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Courtney Monroe Interview 1

I had the pleasure of interviewing Courtney Monroe who is the Advisor

to the National Pan-Hellenic Council and Multicultural Greek Council within

the Office of Greek Life at the University of Michigan (U of M). The National

Pan-Hellenic Council is the national umbrella organization for the historically

African-American fraternities and sororities. The Multicultural Greek Council,

consisting of both fraternities and sororities, was established at the

University of Michigan in 2002. With a focus on specific ethnicities and/or

cultures or multiculturalism in general, these organizations are united to

serve as a unique voice and advocate for their respective communities.

Upon finishing her undergraduate studies at the U of M she accepted the role

abovementioned and has been the advisor to those organizations for five

and a half years.

When she first started in that position it was a term limited part time

position and has evolved into a permanent full time job. During the interview

Courtney shared her thoughts about how her position becoming permanent

was not only a success for her but for the U of M. According to her, In a lot

of ways the position of the NPHC/MGC advisor not being a permanent

position, made those two communities seem like they were not a permanent

fixture in our community, in our holistic larger university community, and

Greek Life community. The position becoming a permanent one ensures

that these students have an advocate, a supporter, a champion, and a

challenger. That is a huge accomplishment for the community because that

means those two communities are viable and theyre not going anywhere
Courtney Monroe Interview 2

and campus needs to be ok with that because we have now put money to

permanent staffing it.

When I asked Courtney what were some of the biggest challenges

within the set of work she does, she indicated that the politics of campus can

be disturbing, small budgets with grand expectations for creativity proved to

be difficult at times and that working with a small staff forces her to have to

show up in support of students events and programs, resulting in an inability

to have work/life balance. Due to the lack of fiscal support around these two

organizations, she has been working with the Dean of Students (DOS) and a

cohort of people that operate out of the DOS Office to define a need for long

term goals and a budget to fill in the gaps for the communities that she

specifically works with, so that the resources are more equitable; she admits

that it has been a slow process.

Courtney shared with me that she has made a lot of mistakes that

have allowed her to grow both personally and professionally. From not

knowing when to shut her mouth and hang back to watch things play out

before she comments on something or before she asserts herself in a way

that is not necessary, to being too hands on with the students, and not

allowing them to have their own kind of voice, their own self governed way of

being, because she sees the bigger picture are things she is working on. She

struggles with wanting to shield her students from making the wrong

decisions and having to deal with the consequences, because there are

things she has experienced and prefers that the students she supports learn
Courtney Monroe Interview 3

from her mistakes. Letting go and wanting to protect them are current

struggles she is working on.

When we dug a little deeper into her successes she offered these

thoughts, Some of my more rewarding accomplishments are when I feel like

Ive really gotten through to a student, when I see some behavioral change

that went without me complaining and brining in their chapter advisor, and

having to schedule meetings. Watching these communities evolve from

2004 through to a more current time, increases in programming, increases in

management of critical incidences, increases in hard and really complicated

conversations; that is a big step for us and Id like to think that my students

had a lot to do with that and I feel very proud of them for that!

I ended the interview asking Courtney what she has learned about

herself and she shared that from the ages of 24-30 (the time span in which

she has held this position) those years of my life have been very formative

and a time to figure out who I really am. Things that I have learned about

myself during those years have been aided by being in this job. I wouldnt

have learned the things the way that I did had I not had this position and a

lot of those skills include me processing what I can and cant do, what I will

and wont stand for. What my bottom line is and where I draw it, and even

when I need to walk away from a situation. Ive learned how to control my

emotions around issues and things that really affect my students, and also

affect me personally that I cant always bring up in certain spaces. Ive


Courtney Monroe Interview 4

learned how to better control myself, but Ive also learned to challenge that

too.

I have had the pleasure of working with Courtney more directly over

the past few years and I have admired the work she has done within Greek

Life. This interview allowed for me to get to know Courtney deeper and has

even created an opportunity for us to foster a stronger relationship. This

assignment was an awesome way to get a different perspective of the work

that is done around supporting the students of the University of Michigan. I

look forward to what the future holds for Courtney and I to work together and

collaborate programmatically.

Interview Questions for Courtney Monroe and Free Form Answers

1. What is your official title w/the UM


a. Advisor to National Panhellenic Council and Multicultural Greek
Council with the Office of Greek Life

2. How long have you been in this position


a. 5 years

3. In the 5 years at UM have you always worked for Greek Life


a. She has only worked as the NPHC/MGC Advisor

4. Where are you from?


a. Born and raised in Detroit
b. Product of Detroit Public Schools
i. Attended DSA (Detroit School of the Arts)

5. Attended UM for Undergrad


a. 5 years, needed extra time
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b. needed to space it out


c. worked her way through school

6. What about this position spoke to you


a. As a freshman herself she didnt like the UM
b. Very unhappy
c. Only person who came from DSA that year
d. A lot of students came from Renaissance and Cass
e. Felt like a fish out of water
f. Wasnt accepted into the Bridge Program, which many students
of color do
i. Which meant she missed out on connecting with a lot of
the students of color who were able to connect with each
other through that program during the summer of her
entering year
g. Lived in Markley, one of the biggest dorms on campus, roomed
blind with someone, spent a lot of time by herself
h. Her journey to figuring out how to get involved started with the
Black Student Union during welcome week events
i. As a mass member and e-board
ii. Through BSU that was her introduction into Greek Life
1. That was something she was interested in prior to as
a result of childhood experiences (i.e. mentors)
i. Through Greek Life she has received a lot of personal and
professional development opportunities. Network of people she
has met, talked with and engaged in social activities with.
Received jobs through those networks all while in undergrad. Felt
so connected to campus through this smaller community that
was wrapped within another small community (the black
community) and then the Greek Life community within the black
community.
i. Felt so privileged to be a part of that community
ii. Wanted to help out with areas of improvement and where
she saw gaps
1. When she graduated she was able to
participate/join/attend the association for Fraternal
Leadership and Values paired with the National Black
Greek Leadership Conference
2. Her current supervisor was the supervisory staff that
took the students to the conference (whom she met
the junior year of college)
a. When she graduated her supervisor informed
her of the position she is in now, which at the
time was a 20-hour a week position. Those who
often worked in that role were graduate
students because it was a temporary position
Courtney Monroe Interview 6

b. The position has evolved: hours, duties and the


station itself resulting in it becoming a
permanent position over the past year that the
university has acknowledged and its now a 30
hour a week position which through HR is
considered full time and allows for benefits
c. When she leaves this position her replacement
will have to have a masters, which she does
not have and someone who has worked within
Greek Life specifically with culturally based
fraternities and sororities prior to.
d. This position has changed so much, from a
rinky dink temp position
i. Has allowed her to grow and to learn,
knew that remaining at UM would
contribute to her personal development,
but also found it to be a really great way
to be able to give back and to be able to
help the community that helped her so
much and she hopes to sustain them in a
way that they never were when she was
an undergrad.
ii. Courtney mentioned that although she
doesnt have her masters she has taken
advantage of all the professional
development opportunities that are
offered through the UM and national
conferencing so that she is at the same
level of competency as her
peers/colleagues are. Personally, this is a
big area of growth for her that she takes
advantage of so that she can be a
sufficient advisor.
iii. 75% of the job is connecting to people,
knowing how to talk to people,
understanding what the students are
going through and figuring out how to do
programs.

7. Biggest challenges
a. There are several challenges: navigating the political spaces
within the university. Reminding me that she transitioned from an
undergraduate student, feeling like the students, took a year and
a half off and came back as a professional staff which was a big
shift for her which she is constantly challenged by.
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b. Another challenge is operating without a big budget, as is the


reality of most Student Life units.
c. Another challenge is working with students who have such great
need and come from such disadvantaged backgrounds, not
having the funds to assist them to make them better, their goals
and their dreams come true.
i. that is a big challenge for her that she often gets frustrated
with.
ii. What she has done over the past couple of years is doing
some behind the scenes work on budgeting with her
supervisors supervisor (Dean of Students) and with a
cohort of people that operate out of the DOS office to try
and long term get a budget to fill in the gaps for the
communities specifically that she works with, so that it can
be more equitable, but that is a slow slow transition.
d. Another challenge is small staff and the expectation that she
always be there, always with the students at multiple events.
There are some nights that she has gone to a big council event, a
probate by a fraternity and then a small chapter event, doing the
rounds. Work/Life balance is not very balanced at this time. Im
not the only person who experiences that; there are a lot of
people across SL who have similar challenges.

8. Biggest mistakes/Something you have had to learn from/grow from


a. She admits to having made lots of mistakes
i. From not knowing when to shut her mouth and hang back
to watch things play out before she comments on
something or before she asserts herself in a way that is not
necessary
ii. Being too hands on with the students, not allowing them to
have their own kind of voice, their own self governed way
of being because she sees the bigger picture and in the
moment they might not see the bigger picture based on
where they are in development and she wants to shield
them from making the wrong decisions and having to deal
with the consequences because there are things she has
experienced and things she experienced when she was
younger, she has trouble allowing them to make those
mistakes and learn from those mistakes because she feels
very protective of them. Letting go is a big thing
iii. She recalls a big event from two years ago where she had
to let go and allow the students to do it although she saw it
going in a direction where it would blow up in their faces,
but they needed to learn a lesson and it was also a lesson
she needed to learn herself. When it blew up in the
students faces, it also blew up in hers. So trying to figure
Courtney Monroe Interview 8

out when to be, what the level of hands on-ness, how much
is too much and how much is too little.

9. Greatest successes
a. In a lot of ways the position of the NPHC/MGC advisor not being a
permanent position, also made those two communities seem like
not a permanent fixture in our community, in our holistic larger
university community, Greek Life community. Taking herself out
of the equation, the position becoming a permanent one so that
the students always have an advocate, a supporter, a champion,
a challenger that is a huge accomplishment for the community
because that means those two communities are viable and
theyre not going anywhere and campus needs to be ok with that
because we have now put money to permanent staffing it.
b. Some of my more rewarding accomplishments are when I feel
like Ive really gotten through to a student, when I see some
behavioral change that went without me complaining and brining
in their chapter advisor and having to schedule meetings. When I
see a light bulb go off in council meetings around an event or
idea that she sees them really developing and hoping that the
collective efforts of all the people around campus who helped to
support and challenge them obviously myself included has
helped to make that moment in time happen those are really
amazing things.
c. Watching this community evolve from 2004 til now, increase in
programming, increase in management of critical incidences,
increase in hard and really complicated conversations that is a
big step for us and Id like to think that my students had a lot to
do with that and I feel very proud of them for that

10. What makes you proud


a. The students
i. She hates the politics and that they dont have any money,
sometimes I hate people around the university, but the fact
that on any given day I can go to my office and students
are there waiting on me to tell me about the captain
America movie they just saw, or to complain to me
because their girlfriend broke up with them or to ask me a
question about how to navigate a very challenging chapter
member that you cant kick out of the chapter but you
have to figure out how to deal with that is everything! I
would spend all my days doing that! I would do it for free
just to sit down and talk with these kids on a regular basis
and have these interactions with them because its
everything! Sometimes when I think, oh I would love a
promotion or that I would love to the move up the ladder
Courtney Monroe Interview 9

and make more money or maybe I should get a masters to


do more stuff like that then I think about some of the
people here who are so disconnected from the student
experience because of that, I dont want that!
ii. There are so many qualitative accomplishments and wins
in this work, but money talks; so the quantitative is really
all that people focus on especially at a big research
institution
iii. Biologically the head and heart work in tandem

11. What are some of the things you have learned about yourself in
this position and things you hope to learn?
a. From 24-30 (the time span in which she has held that position)
those years of my life have been very formative and a time to
figure out who a person really is. Things that I have learned
about myself during those years have been aided by being in this
job. I wouldnt have learned the things the way that I did had I
not had this position and a lot of them look like what I can and
cant do, what I will and wont stand. What my bottom line is and
where I draw it. When I need to walk away from a situation. Ive
learned how to control my emotions around issues, around things
that really affect my students and also affect me personally that I
cant always bring up in a space. Ive learned better control of
myself, but Ive also learned to challenge that too. I think that
the 21-25 years for me were very self conscious, control
this/control that, youre too angry, youre too loud. You speak too
much and then pretty much around 26-27 it started to shift like
ok I can pick and choose because Im going to say something
regardless, so youre going to hear it regardless and so you
might as well hear it now. Ive had to figure out when that time
is, timing has been important for me. Its really been more about,
as much as I hope that Ive given to this job and to this
institution its also given me a lot and not without a lot of scars
and bumps and bruises; but it has given me a lot in terms of my
own self discovery. I feel at 30 much more confident than I did at
24 walking into this job. I feel less concerned about the fact that I
dont have a masters degree because Ive been equipped with
resources and trainings and people older with so many
experiences that have taken me under their wing and been like
Courtney come here and let me show you how to do this and let
me show you how to do that and I feel very priviledged to have
those opportunities because there has been particularly with
staff of people of color who have created mentorships that have
grown between myself and other people that I look forward to
and that I have clearly benefitted from and that have given me in
times of need some big power plays. Navigating the system has
Courtney Monroe Interview 10

also been a thing that has been a strength that Ive gained but
that as you know time changes and people change so Im
continually having to evolve with and continually learning from.
In the past year shes been interested in how resources are
distributed specifically around diversity efforts and sometimes I
think of diversity efforts in terms of campus based programming,
safe spaces and all these other things that we have but then I
think about the student populations that I again as a 18 year old
freshmen benefitted from that I know need more resources as
well and sometimes that looks like the Trotter Multicultural
Center, sometimes that looks like making sure the kids have
$100 in their account so that they can maintain student
organization recognition and status, sometimes it looks like being
able to make sure they have a few extra dollars so that they can
order some pizza so that people will come to their event. Its a
variety of different things that I feel are basic things, but Ive
really been more interested this past year in where the money
goes, who controls the money, who do I need to talk to about
having more money and where can it be distributed and what are
the non-financial resources that we can access to make sure that
collectively were a better holistic community, multiple cultural
communities. I dont want to be an administrative talking head,
but I do want to be able to understand how the money works.