Meet FSU's Newest Panhellenic President Jenna Leval

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Jenna for two semesters now on Panhellenic’s magazine: Philia. After learning she was elected to become Panhellenic’s next president, I knew I had to share Jenna’s leadership story with more people, and I was so excited to get the chance to interview her and ask her about how she got here.

Her Campus (HC): Jenna, can you tell readers a little bit about yourself?

Jenna Leval (JL): Hi, my name is Jenna Leval, I’m a junior majoring in Media/Communication Studies. I am a member of Sigma Delta Tau sorority and on Tuesday, Nov. 19 I was installed as Panhellenic President.

HC: What other leadership positions have you held during your time in Panhellenic?

JL: The first position I went for was in my freshman year when I was a new member of Sigma Delta Tau. I was elected junior Panhellenic delegate for my member class under the Panhellenic delegate. My main role was serving as a liaison for my member class to the rest of the Panhellenic community. I also stood in for our delegate if she couldn’t attend other Panhellenic events, which is how I met Jessica Barloga, the Panhellenic President at the time. Jessica encouraged me to go out for my second position I was elected for my freshman year: Panhellenic Director of Creative Media, which was under the Vice President of Communications. In that position, I would create graphics and videos for marketing purposes and whatever else the VP of Communications needed me to do. She was a great mentor for me and sophomore year I applied for her position and was elected for it, although it’s now called the Vice President of Public Relations. That position just ended when I was installed as president. Sophomore year I was also chosen to be a recruitment counselor for Fall 2019 Panhellenic Recruitment. Currently, besides being president I am also a peer leader in the Emerging Leaders course run by the OFSL for first-year members in the Greek community.

HC: Wow, that’s so many things! Do you have a favorite?

JL: I actually have two favorites. Being Vice President of Public Relations for Panhellenic’s executive board allowed me to grow so much as a person. I loved working on Philia and I loved being able to give a voice to the people in our community and help control that narrative. I also loved being a recruitment counselor - it’s a life-changing experience. You have to take a class the semester before you’re a recruitment counselor and that class helped me learn who I am as a person and taught me so much about working with other people. During actual recruitment week, it was so amazing to be able to be a resource for my group of potential new members and getting to bond with the other recruitment counselors.

HC: What have you learned through the positions you’ve had?

JL: Being Vice President of Public Relations prepared me to be Panhellenic President. It was very helpful to already be on Panhellenic’s executive board and learn so much about the Panhellenic community. I also got to learn a lot about myself and how I work in different spaces with different people and how to effectively work with these different groups. It’s been very impactful being able to tell the Panhellenic story, which often gets told for us more than we can tell it ourselves, through platforms such as social media or the magazine or other projects we’ve done over the past year. The women in our community are incredible and make an impact on our campus every day and I think that’s not something we always talk about. Getting to share that with the internal and external communities has been so great and taught me so much.

HC: You started to answer my next question - do you think your past positions and the people you met while you were in them helped push you to want to be president?

JL: Definitely. When I was a PNM and went to PNM orientation, the Panhellenic President at the time, Caitlyn Simpson, spoke about how the Panhellenic community made her who she was and her experience and I had never heard Greek life talked about in that way. I went into college thinking Greek life was just something people did in college, and Caitlyn’s speech was the first time I head Greek life talked about as an impactful and meaningful experience, and it inspired me so much. She made me want to be that for someone else. Jessica Barloga, the Panhellenic President after her, was also a huge mentor for me and helped lead me along the path to becoming president. I’ve always taken steps and chosen to apply to positions that would allow me to be prepared for this. This community has done so much for me and having the opportunity to create impact and bring Panhellenic to the place I know it can be is so incredible.

HC: That’s so great. On the other side of the coin, do you think you would have wanted to be president if you hadn’t had the experience from your past leadership positions?

JL: I think I still would have wanted to be president. Although, my past experiences have allowed me to feel so much more prepared. Being a peer leader and being able to interact with the future leaders of our community, as well as new members and other people I would not have had the chance to meet otherwise, has given me so much perspective about the Greek community. The positions I’ve had have also given me the chance to form a lot of relationships with people that helped me get where I am and I wouldn’t have had the chance to do that otherwise.

HC: I know we’ve touched on this a little already but when you first became a member of Panhellenic, did you know you’d want to do this kind of leadership?

JL: From the day I walked in as PNM 1185!

HC: I love that. Changing gears, a little, can you tell me about the process of becoming Panhellenic President?

JL: It’s quite a long process. I applied back in September, then I had an interview with a board of around 20 people who all held different positions within Panhellenic, then I was slated to become president and had to give a speech at a Panhellenic meeting. A delegate from every chapter is at that meeting and they vote on behalf of their chapter and that’s how I got elected. I was just officially installed into the executive board this past Tuesday, Nov. 19.

HC: So, you just become official - what are you excited for as president?

JL: I’ve been lucky to have so many mentors who’ve pushed me to think of ideas to improve this community and think about the bigger picture and where the community can go. I’m really excited to be able to put those ideas into action and put everything I’ve learned over the last two and a half years into action. I want to continue to help grow the community and improve upon everything we’re doing. Panhellenic has a huge impact on the FSU campus and I’m excited to continue to create positive sustainable change. Hopefully, in a year I’ll leave it better than I found it.

HC: That’s a huge responsibility. Is there anything you’re nervous about?

JL: I do feel very prepared to take on this position and I’m very excited to, but as I learned as a recruitment counselor, you can prepare all you want and something is still going to happen that you’re not prepared for. So, I suppose it’s a little nerve-wracking wondering what that might be, especially since I’m a planner. However, I’m also pretty adaptable so I’m ready for the challenge.

HC: Is there anything you want to achieve or implement while you have this position?

JL: I want to be able to help every member of the Panhellenic community feel connected not just to their individual chapter but to Panhellenic as a whole. I hope I can help implement a feeling of responsibility for the greater community. We’re 17 incredible chapters and each chapter is full of empowering women who are creating change on our campus but at the end of the day the 17 chapters are one community and I hope by the end of my term I can help more people feel that sense of community.

HC: I hope so too. Changing the subject again a little bit, we’ve talked about how your positions have helped you feel prepared to be president but do you think any of them have helped you prepare for life after graduation?

JL: Well, when I first got to college, I wanted to go into journalism but FSU doesn’t have that major so I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. Being Vice President of Public Relations allowed me to explore so many different avenues in the communications field, which was so beneficial in helping me expand my skillset and interests for finding a job after graduation. Being on Panhellenic’s executive board in general, along with other conferences, trainings and leadership programs I’ve had the opportunity to attend have allowed me to learn so much as a leader, which has allowed me to feel prepared not just for my post-grad career but just feel prepared as a person for post-grad life.

HC: Do you have any advice for other women who maybe want to get into leadership positions within Panhellenic but are unsure they’re a good fit or don’t think they’ll get elected?

JL: It’s always scary applying for things since there’s a chance you won’t get it but if you never apply, you’ll never get it. Putting yourself out there, being present and being ready to learn goes a long way in helping to be prepared for and getting positions. Take every chance that’s presented to you, even if you’re not 100 percent sure because you never know what experiences or what people you meet will turn out to be life-changing for you.

HC: Okay closing question, asking for the Panhellenic President’s point of view, do you have any advice for women who may want to join the Panhellenic community but aren’t sure it’s for them?

JL: Sure! My advice is that before deciding you’re not right for it, find out as much as you can. It can be intimidating signing up for an orientation or formal recruitment but there are so many ways to find out more information about the chapters on campus. Spring recruitment, Summerfest, social media, Panhellenic’s website and Philia are all ways to learn about what each chapter has to offer. Our community is filled with authentic, empowering, incredible women who want to make an impact on this campus. It can’t hurt you to find out more about what that is before deciding it’s not for you.

I know Jenna is going to do a fantastic job as this year’s Panhellenic President and I can’t wait to see what she accomplishes.

All images courtesy of Jenna Leval.

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