With the beginning of the new year, many are looking for impactful ways to make a positive change in their lives. One member of the Panhellenic community has taken this a step further, working to instill growth and acceptance in order to support others. I had the pleasure of interviewing Nicole van der Sommen and was able to learn more about these inspirational efforts.
Her Campus (HC): So, tell me a little bit about yourself.
Nicole van der Sommen (NvdS): I’m a senior studying Editing, Writing & Media. I’m originally from New York but in my freshman year of college, my family relocated to Sarasota, Florida. Growing up, my parents always told me to treat people how I wanted to be treated, and I’ve taken that and gone one step further to educate myself on a variety of topics and then educate those around me.
HC: Nicole’s successes in that pursuit are undeniable. In founding FSU Greek Pride, Nicole has been able to educate Instagram followers through adorable, yet informative infographics. What inspired you to follow these ambitions and organize FSU Greek Pride and apply to become the first-ever Director of Diversity and Inclusion of your sorority?
NvdS: My sophomore year I came out as queer and, even though my sorority was more than accepting, I talked to so many people about how they were envious of my acceptance. I originally got the idea from the University of Washington’s fraternity and sorority life and their version of the program. I created Greek Pride so that closeted FSL members had a place where they could be themselves, without the fear of being outed. As for DEI, I have always known that I wanted to go into cultural studies and this was my opportunity to educate members in my chapter about diversity and social issues.
HC: The @fsugreekpride Instagram account even did features on National Coming Out Day on October 11! They shared the perspectives of a couple of members of the community and their coming out experiences.
HC: What is your primary focus or goal for this semester as DEI?
NvdS: This semester I am really trying to introduce members of my chapter to on-campus organizations that promote diversity and help make our campus more inclusive. I’ve reached out to NPHC (National Pan-Hellenic Council) chapters and MGC (Multicultural Greek Council) chapters about coming to speak to us about their organization and how they promote change. I’ve also reached out to the identity unions on campus in hopes that they would also come to speak to our chapter and inform them about their organizations and what their plans are.
HC: Different chapters visiting one another and giving speeches about their philanthropies to invite them to their events has been very common within the Panhellenic and IFC (Interfraternity Council) communities in the past. Hopefully, Nicole will be able to foster this connection further between the four councils. As one of Nicole’s sorority sisters myself, I am looking forward to these events!
HC: What do you hope for the future of the position of the Director of Diversity and Inclusion in our chapter, and on a wider scale, the Panhellenic and other Greek communities?
NvdS: So, I’m graduating this semester and pretty much the only way I could be in this position is if I worked with someone who was going to take over after me. I have an amazing co-director who is down for anything I want to do and she supports me 1000 percent. I hope she sees my passion for change and she keeps up the energy with this position. I’ve spoken to other chapters and they have less freeway than we do and I hope that everyone who is in this position knows how honorable it is. My one hope for fraternities and sororities is that the stigma around talking about diversity, equality and inclusion is erased. It's 2021, it’s time to talk about injustices and inequality.
HC: How will the organization you started, FSU Greek Pride, help you in this mission?
NvdS: Oh my god, so many people have reached out to me and said that Greek Pride has helped them become more comfortable within their chapter and I know that this is only the start. I create posts that encourage uncomfortable conversations about tough topics. I know that this organization won’t end when I leave because the fight doesn’t start or stop with me. I just started the conversation in this community and I’m not done nor will I give up.
HC: What are the goals of FSU Greek Pride?
NvdS: My goal is to promote acceptance within the Greek community and, as I’ve said, promote uncomfortable conversations. I hope that this organization shows incoming freshmen that we will not step down from a social fight. We want them to continue having this conversation and keep up the fight.
HC: If you could give any message to inspire or call others to action, what would it be?
NvdS: What if someone used your skin color or sexuality as the first descriptor? Oh, he is a white, heterosexual cisgender man…Kind of weird, right? Then why do you think is okay to do it to another person? This isn’t just the people who were impacted’s fight, we have to stand by them and stand with them when they tell their stories. Listen to their pain and their emotions, then tell me it’s okay to only identify them as a color.
HC: What is one thing you are already proud of?
NvdS: It’s cheesy but I am going to say the followers of @fsugreekpride. They open their minds to the posts I’m sharing and a lot of them open their hearts to me and tell me about their life and their accomplishments. They inspire me to keep the account going and keep creating content to post. I’m really just so proud of the audience I have because they have been nothing but accepting.