. Alpha Phi! It's Greek to me at the University of Washington : Budget Travel Adventures

Alpha Phi! It’s all Greek to me at the University of Washington

Alpha Phi Delta sorority Tau Delta fraternity University of Washington street clean up

Alpha Phi sorority and Delta Tau Delta fraternity street clean up

The College Football Travel Tour welcomes college football fans and travelers of all ages on this journey to explore college towns, check out local cultures and attractions, enjoy some college football, and meet interesting people.

When I was in college, I didn’t know anything about the Greek system.  My only association with Greek was a Greek class I took my last semester of college as a pass/fail class.  Working, finishing my thesis, and not going to class?  I failed my Greek class.

During my freshman year at the University of South Carolina, my dorm was directly across the street from the fraternity houses.  I never joined a fraternity and didn’t go to many parties but I did experience how loud they can be.  At the time, most of the Greek housing for fraternities and sororities was on campus.  So for anyone interested in Greek life, it wasn’t hard to find.

Run down housing built for parties, hazing, and wild weekends – that was my impression of the Greek system.  Here I was now at the University of Washington as part of the College Football Travel Tour where  I had my own encounter with a sorority and fraternity.  Only this time, I was pleasantly surprised at what I discovered about Greek life.

Alpha Phi gives back at the University of Washington

Alpha Phi sorority University of Washington street clean up

Patty, Katherine, Megan, Claire, and Samantha of Alpha Phi

Despite the extra hour of sleep, the streets were still quiet Sunday morning after the big football game between Washington and Oregon.  I didn’t expect to see many people wandering around campus.  So as I wandered the peaceful streets dressed in their best Fall colors just a few blocks from campus, I didn’t expect to see any students.

Walking past 19th Avenue, I saw 5 girls dressed in their Washington Husky purple carrying large garbage bags as they picked up trash.  Intrigued by their presence on a Sunday morning, I had to find out what these girls were doing.

As I caught up with them, I noticed they weren’t alone – a number of guys had joined them as well.  As I got closer, I saw that there were quite a number of amateur street cleaners dressed in purple as girls and guys were out picking up trash.

I talked to Patty, Katherine, Megan, Claire, and Samantha to find out what inspired them to pick up trash on a Sunday morning.  These girls were part of the sorority Alpha Phi and this was part of their once a quarter clean up on the streets north of campus.

I spent a few minutes finding out a little more about these girls, their sorority, and their activities on campus.  The girls shared with me how they had partnered with the Delta Tau Delta fraternity to clean the streets as part of their service efforts in their sorority.

Many sororities and fraternities make service and community activities a part of their organization.  However, not many do it with same cheerful attitude these girls had.  While their efforts this morning were admirable, I discovered that these girls dress up to help others when they aren’t dressed down cleaning the streets.

Making a difference in the community is important to them – and something that comes from their hearts.  Each February, they host a silent auction called the Red Dress Gala to raise money for the University of Washington Cardiac Center which funds grants for student research.  The auction items include sports tickets, autographs, timeshares, vacation rentals, and more as each of these items is personally rounded up and donated by the girls.

In the last 5 years, this gala has raised $200,000 for University of Washington Cardiology as part of American Heart Month.   While the sorority receives a little of this money as part of their gala, I could how excited these girls were to be a part of this event every year.

While fraternities and sororities enjoy parties, activities, and social life on campus, these girls take great pride in what they do to help others – and that enthusiasm was evident Sunday morning.  Their efforts to make a difference in the Seattle community made me appreciate another aspect of Greek life.

Greek life and beautiful homes at the University of Washington

University of Washington fraternity house Greek lifeAs I spent time talking with these girls, I learned a little more about the Greek system at the University of Washington.  Like their house on 19th Ave, most of the Greek houses are located just a couple of blocks from campus between 17th Ave and 22th Ave creating a community of fraternities and sororities in their own neighborhood.

Walking the streets of this Greek community, I saw a number of fraternity and sorority houses and was amazed at how beautiful these were.  Some houses were built in a colonial style while others looked like mansions – quite a contrast to the Gothic architecture on campus.

After taking a campus tour and walking the streets on Saturday, I learned a little bit about the Greek system on campus.  However, I would have never discovered these rows of beautiful fraternity and sorority houses on these tree lined streets north of campus if I hadn’t met the girls from Alpha Phi.

I took a number of photos of these houses and wondered how stunning homes on beautiful streets like this became a part of the Greek system at the University of Washington.

Fraternities and sororities will always be a part of college life.  However, there aren’t many that get to live in locations and homes like this.  Meeting a few girls picking up trash gave me an opportunity to connect with people, learn more about the students and service opportunities on campus, and see a part of this north Seattle neighborhood I never knew existed.

Thanks to Katherine, Patty, Megan, Claire, and Samantha for sharing their story.  Thanks to Alpha Phi and Delta Tau Delta for cleaning up the streets.  And thanks to travel and the College Football Travel Tour for giving me the opportunity to enjoy the past part of the University of Washington – its people.

Even if Greek life isn’t for you, the streets north of campus have beautiful homes in neighborhoods that make you feel right at home.  Try taking a walk on Sunday to explore this area – Friday and Saturday nights may be a little too lively for a quiet stroll through this neighborhood.

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Filed Under: College Football Travel TourFeaturedUniversity of Washington


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  1. Great write-up. I too was under the impression that the Greek system was all about partying. However, I know there are some fraternities and sororities that do a lot of good things too…. they deserve a few keg parties for their good deeds :-)

    • Thanks Stephanie! Without a doubt, fraternities and sororities do their share of partying. However, it’s interesting to get to know people, understand why they join, and see what other things they do as part of their organizations.

      Surely, you’ve experienced a few of these parties right? :)

  2. Sherry says:

    Ah, so glad to see that you explored Seattle outside of Husky stadium. I was actually a sorority girl in college for ΓΧΣ. Admittedly, I joined initially so that I can attend the exclusive parties. But all that partying gets really old, fast! I ended up staying because I found that the greek system was more than just that, community service was a big part of it, too (among other things). And you’re right – those houses in Montlake are gorgeous!

    • Without a doubt! I would say 80% of my time at the University of Washington was spent outside of the stadium area. I was only there for the game and spent most of my time on campus, north of campus, or on the Ave. One thing I want do as part of this College Football Travel Tour is focus on a LOT more than just the football game. This series is really about the school, the town, and the community with the football game as an excuse to go.

      As for the Greek system, I was really surprised to see the houses and the streets. Very beautiful! I am sure the partying did get old and those houses are in a great location for partying. However, it was good to see that there is so much more to fraternities and sororities than that.

      I saw a lot of the Greek houses when I was there. I had no idea the area was called Montlake so thanks for sharing that bit of information! What street was ΓΧΣ located?

      • Sherry says:

        I really like that you know its called, the “Ave.” You’re almost a local with that knowledge. Just to clarify, I didn’t actually go to the University of Washington, at least not for my bachelors. So my sorority would not have had a house on any street on Greek Row up in Montlake. Those homes up there are actually quite similar to most of the other homes in the older parts of Seattle like Queen Anne, Madison Park, and Capitol Hill. Though the ones on Greek Row are often bigger.

        I have to say your college football tour is thinking outside the box kind of idea. It allows you to visit the schools, tour the cities, and watch the games. Football as an excuse for travel is truly a cunning concept 😉 Ah, the lengths men go through for the love of the game.

        • I learned all about the Ave. I need to take some time and put together my video highlighting the Ave. After spending time on campus, doing my research, and going on a campus tour, I quickly learned that University Way is known as the Ave. It also used to be 14th Ave before the name was changed! :)

          I also like the idea of the College Football Travel Tour. It combines my passions as a kid with my passion of traveling now (and I still love college football). Honestly, the football is an excuse to explore college towns and campuses. 75% of time is spent on campus, the town, and school while 25% is on the game.

          So where did you go to school?

  3. As a former Alpha Phi (Alpha chapter, Syracuse ’88-’90), it’s nice to see a positive view of the Greek system. Being part of a sorority made a huge school seem smaller and gave me a sense of the importance of community-based volunteer work…even if it *did* sometimes feel like my parents were paying for me to have friends. (Ahem.)

    Sororities and fraternities are generally centered in beautiful historic homes, so if you’re into architecture, take a walking wander through just about any Greek Row on an American campus.

    Lucky for you, Jeremy, you’ll get to do just that. :)

    • Thanks Melanie! It’s great to learn so much about people through this series. I had never heard of Alpha Phi before and now two women have told me they were a part of it. I had no idea you went to Syracuse either! I didn’t realize you had spent considerable time on the east coast. Are you from that area?

      As for fraternities and sororities, I didn’t have the best impression of them in college. However, I realize that they can really be a source of comfort and community for kids moving away from home and meeting so many new people. I am glad that many really do enjoy the community service aspect and glad I got the opportunity to highlight the Greek system at UW. I didn’t know about the nice homes and architecture so I will have to pay more attention to that as I visit these campuses.

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