Sitting in her office at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Lindsey Osborne looks as though she feels right at home, surrounded by sorority pictures and Greek letters, but she believes in stepping out of her comfort zone.
The 28-year-old still looks like a student herself, but she’s moved into the role of overseeing the sororities at her alma mater as assistant director of student life/Panhellenic and Independent Greek Council adviser.
Not only that, but she’s taken on the role of president of the Staff Senate.
“It’s one of those opportunities to challenge yourself and step outside your comfort zone,” she said.
Osborne grew up in Morrilton and decided to go to nearby UCA.
“My older brother was here, and he had a really good experience. The rebellious part of me was, ‘I just want to get away from Arkansas and Morrilton,’ but in my heart, I didn’t want to,” she said, laughing.
She has since moved to Conway and is engaged to a man she met in her on-campus apartment building.
Joining a sorority was a last-minute decision, she said, but a good one.
“I found a wonderful group of women I didn’t know beforehand. It completely changed my college experience — just that one decision,” she said.
Osborne is well aware of the stereotypes of Greeks, and yes, some of it is deserved, she said.
However, Osborne said, research shows that students in sororities and fraternities have higher grade-point averages and stay in college more than non-Greeks.
She said there has been a “huge shift” in the way Greeks recruit members.
“It’s values-based recruitment,” she said.
“It’s being real and normal and being a friend before you talk about your sorority, … talking about your values, making sure they align,” she said.
She said being a member of Alpha Sigma Alpha as a student helped her to get involved in a way she might not have otherwise.
“It was, ‘Hey, Lindsey, you can do this!’ Just always having the encouragement of people to push your boundaries made a difference academically and extracurricularly,” she said.
As far as her career, “I had no clue what I wanted to do,” she said.
She majored in psychology and medical sociology (which is no longer offered) and minored in anthropology.
Osborne had experience working for an orthopedic clinic in Little Rock in high school and off and on during college.
“I was pulling staples out and cutting casts off, so I got a lot of good experience,” she said.
Through her sociology courses, she studied abroad in Belize and Honduras, another life-changing experience.
“It completely changes your perspective,” she said, getting teary-eyed, “the definition of success and things that society teaches us about success inherently, … and how so many things just aren’t important.”
Her group stayed in a village that didn’t have electricity or running water, yet Osborne recalled a wonderful meal a woman prepared and the happiness of the people.
“They were filled with love, and they just wanted to show us love,” she said.
“The Peace Corps was something I threw around, but I never felt 100 percent clear on what I wanted to do,” she said.
A couple of months after she graduated cum laude from UCA, she heard about a job then called coordinator of sorority life.
What attracted her to the position was “the ability to make a difference and challenge students the way I was encouraged and challenged,” she said.
“Working with students is always exciting because they’re excited, … and they feel empowered.”
She said she feeds off that energy, too. Osborne also works with non-Greeks as co-adviser of the i.d.e.a.l. Leadership Team, freshmen who want to learn how to be better leaders.
“You may have been a big fish in a small pond, and now you’re a small fish in a big pond,” she said.
“To see them grow … is definitely rewarding.”
Asked what she does on a typical day, Osborne sighed and laughed.
“Oh, man. No day is ever the same.”
Sometimes she has to deal with immediate issues that come up — not always fun ones — and for months, UCA has explored building a Greek Village, which the board of trustees approved this month.
That keeps her busy — meetings, changes to the plan, conversations. She met herself coming and going this fall during recruitment, what was called “rush” in the old days.
She attends meetings of the Panhellenic Council, a group of representatives from UCA sororities.
“We’re the consistent person in all this; we can tell you the history, why decisions were made,” she said.
Osborne attends university
events sponsored by Greek Life, just in case “they venture into breaking UCA policyland,” as she puts it.
She was at UCA until 9 p.m. at a recent alumni event, and she is often out on a Saturday for her job, but she’s not complaining.
Wendy Holbrook, associate dean of student life, praised Osborne.
“The first thing that comes to mind is it’s really a joy to work with Lindsey; it really is,” Holbrook said. “She’s conscientious, passionate, and she is looking out for the best interests of our students.”
Holbrook also said the staff relies on Osborne to keep things organized.
“If somebody says, ‘What did we do last year?’ we say, ‘Go ask Lindsey; she has a file.’”
Serving as Staff Senate president isn’t part of Osborne’s job, but it’s another way to challenge herself and serves as a reality check.
“Our job is to advocate for staff, staff needs and concerns,” she said.
“It’s great, and one of those opportunities of meeting more people on campus.
“I love my office, my bosses, my supervisor. It’s interesting to hear other perspectives. It can be challenging, but it is rewarding, too.”
Osborne said one rewarding moment was when a sorority member called to tell her “she was so nervous about an interview for an internship.” The student later called Osborne to tell her she’d gotten the position.
“It made me feel really good that she wanted to share that with me, that she wanted me to be a part of her success, and that makes me feel like I’m doing something right.”
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.