The Daily Pennsylvanian spoke with Kenneth Jones, the new program coordinator for the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life, about his plans for his time at Penn.
The Phi Beta Sigma brother will succeed the late and beloved Larry Moses.
Jones is a Jackson State University graduate and received his Master in Science from Drexel University. He is currently a doctoral candidate in higher education at Morgan State University in Baltimore.
Daily Pennsylvanian: First off, welcome to Penn. What attracted you here?
Kenneth Jones: I just finished some coursework for my Ph.D. at Morgan State University and I was looking for a position within the field, specifically within student affairs. I was attracted to institutions that valued diversity.
DP: You were featured in a 2007 issue of Ebony magazine as one the nation’s top leaders under 30. What were you doing that caught the attention of this publication?
KJ: Before Penn, I was heavily involved in nonprofit work. I had spent my time with North Philadelphia youth and started a nonprofit that catered to teens and helped them get to college. I also exposed them to different poverty levels around the world. I took four teens to Soweto, South Africa, to better appreciate what they have in the world. I was working on my second master’s at 25 and I guess that’s what caught the attention of my professor from Mississippi who nominated me.
DP: What plans do you have as the new coordinator of OFSL?
KJ: I want to provide opportunities for students to be proud of their organizations and showcase their organizations in a great light. This includes programmatic opportunities for students to meet the Greeks. It also includes citywide initiatives because the Greek life at Penn sets the stage for Greek life in the city. I want to expose our students to leadership developments, community service and get them to be recognized by the city in a different way. I plan to do this by holding symposiums, continuing traditions such as the Penn Relays step show and rethinking recruitment strategies.
My immediate goals are to make sure that students are exposed to what they can offer to the city. Penn students have the opportunity to go out and change the city and the world. I really want to also make sure that the Greek community is seen in the best light on campus. They are full of leaders and future world changers in my opinion and I intend on ensuring that everyone sees that.
DP: How do you plan to meet the scholastic needs of students involved in Greek life?
KJ: Penn is full of academically focused students. However, I hope to gain more understanding of where Penn students balance academic and social life … In the past, I have created an academic enrichment program where I pair Greek students with other students on campus to help each other academically. If there isn’t something like this in place already, I would like to start it to make sure that Greek students are also academic leaders at Penn.
DP: Can you talk about your work and collegiate expertise with the LGBTQ community?
KJ: I’m writing my dissertation on experiences of homosexual men in black Greek letter organizations and exploring the origins of homophobia in these communities. As an openly gay man, I think that my experience is something that really informs a lot of my academic work and helps me understand what students may be going through.
At Penn, I want to make sure that students know that I am a safe space, an ally and someone who understands — as an openly gay man in a fraternity. This may mean many uncomfortable conversations with some and good conversation with others. I’m not sure how I can utilize that at Penn just yet. I honestly think it’s a part of me, but it’s not the focal point of what I do.
DP: What should we be looking out for in the near future?
KJ: A major event will be taking place on Sept. 26. The MGC will host Meet the Greeks, which is an opportunity for recruitment. It will be a great time, and there will be a DJ. Some groups will stroll, step, salute and present their organization. It’s also a great opportunity for people who want to know the organizations. It will be in [Houston Hall’s] Hall of Flags from 7-10 p.m.