Research Paper

Delta Delta Delta at UC Davis

Samantha Stratman

University of California, Davis

Word Count: 1516

Tri Delta at UC Davis

Often times when people think of sororities they only think of negative things. Shallow. Cliquey. Partiers. What they don’t know is that a sorority is a type of discourse community, a group of people that share the same values, assumptions and ways of communicating shared goals.  Sorority members have a really strong bond and multiple ways of communicating and supporting each other. In total, a sorority is much more than people give credit, and this can be largely attributed to their larger purpose and their shared goals.

Tri Delta’s History

The very first sororities created were an established bond for collegiate women, something that was relatively new at the time. Delta Delta Delta (Tri Delta) was established on November 28, 1888 at Boston University by students, Sarah Ida Shaw and Eleanor Dorcus Pond. Although there were already three other established sororities at Boston University at the time, Tri Delta was founded upon the principle of more importance/emphasis on a girl’s inner character rather than her appearance. Now, more than 126 years later, Tri Delta has grown to be one of the largest sororities internationally with more than a hundred chapters spanning across the United States and Canada.

Our Goal: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

One of the biggest things Tri Delta is known for is their shared goal: raising money for our philanthropy, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. John Swales, Professor of Linguistics at the University of Michigan asserts, “A discourse community has a broadly agreed set of common public goals.” (Swales, 1990). Since the early 1970s, it has been Tri Delta’s goal to raise money for children’s cancer charities. In 1999, Tri Delta partnered with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and has been raising money for them ever since.

Due to Tri Delta’s commitment to raising money for St. Jude, we were granted with the honor of our own place at the hospital, Tri Delta Place. The facility offers sixty -four hotel style rooms and thirty-six suites that are meant to house patients and their families who need housing for seven days or less. (Bailey, 2016).

When asked to describe Tri Delta’s shared love and commitment to their philanthropy, Elizabeth Stenton (treasurer of Beta Pi chapter) said, “Oh my god that’s what I love about them! Our philanthropy is very hyped and so many sisters are passionate about raising money for St. Jude.” (E. Stenton, Personal Communication, March 2, 2017).

Since its partnership with St. Jude, Tri Delta has collectively raised more than $45 million and in 2014, pledged to raise $60 million in ten years – the single largest fundraising goal in St. Jude’s history.(Rothman, 2017).

Philanthropy Events

Each year Tri Delta hosts three philanthropy events in order to raise money for St. Jude – one for each quarter. In fall quarter we host Delta Desserts (right before the holidays), in winter quarter we host DHOP (Delta House of Pancakes), and in Spring Quarter we host Delta Dodgeball which is an inter-Greek dodgeball competition in which all other fraternities and sororities are encouraged to compete.

With DHOP coming up, it is imperative that all members know what their respective roles are and what to do. The philanthropy chair often communicates with the members of Tri Delta by posting on the Facebook group (DDD Fun Time), informing them on what needs to be done to ensure a successful event. Swales states, “A discourse community has mechanisms of intercommunication among its members.” (Swales, 1990). Our communication via Facebook pages serve as an example of this.

As seen in Figure 1 below, a fellow sister encourages the rest (via DDD Fun Time) to change their profile pictures on Facebook in order to promote DHOP.


Figure 1 displays a post from a fellow sister encouraging sisters to promote our next philanthropy event, DHOP

Figure 2 shows a Facebook post from the DDD Fun Time page as well, this time encouraging sisters to sell tickets on campus.

paper 3 pic 2

Figure 2 displays a post from a sister encouraging others to sell tickets and promote the philanthropy event.

Maintaining a Good Balance

In addition to having a shared goal and communicating among our members, Tri Delta also maintains a great balance between ‘novices’ and ‘experts’. Swales states, “A discourse community has a threshold level of members with a suitable degree of relevant content and discoursal expertise.” Swales further elaborates by stating, “Discourse communities have changing memberships; individuals enter as apprentices and leave by death or in other less involuntary ways. However, survival of the community depends on a reasonable ratio between novices and experts.” (Swales, 1990).

Every year Tri Delta goes through formal recruitment and accepts a pledge class of about fifty new members. Each new member then goes through a series of new member meetings, where they learn about the history of Tri Delta and its rituals. Elizabeth Stenton, former New Member Educator, states “The purpose of new member meetings is for the new members to learn more about our chapter, so like the basic stuff – our colors, our purpose, our founders, our symbols (what they mean). New Member meetings are so different from Active Meetings because Active meetings are more about stuff that’s going on in the lives of your sisters, whereas New Member meetings just focus on the history and the foundation you need to know about Tri Delta.” (E. Stenton, Personal Communication, March 2, 2017).

New members are also assigned a sponsor soon after receiving a bid. Stenton explains, “Sponsors deal with the ritual aspect of the sorority and in our bylaws it says that each new member needs to have a sponsor within fourteen days after bid day.” I asked her why it was so soon and she responded, “They want each new member to have a connection with an older girl and a reason for them to stay in the chapter.” In addition to getting a sponsor, new members also get a ‘Big’ or big sister. Stenton explains the purpose of Bigs, “Bigs are supposed to ‘show you the ropes’, kind of be ‘that person’ that you can go to, lean on, or ask any questions you may have. They are supposed to be your support system in the sorority.” (E. Stenton, Personal Communication, March 2, 2017).

In addition to teaching new members about Tri Delta, collegiate members also stay in contact with alumni. When asked about alumni events, Stenton responded, “We have an officer that is the alumni correspondent who basically is in contact with the alumni group (in Sacramento). So we had Founder’s Day in November, where collegiate members and alumni got together for a luncheon in celebration of the day the sorority was founded.  In addition, [sister] put up the Google Doc where collegiate members could connect with Alumni based on their majors – basically networking.” (E. Stenton, Personal Communication, March 2, 2017).


After researching and interviewing an actual member of Delta Delta Delta at UC Davis, it can be concluded that the Beta Pi chapter, and sororities in general, qualify as discourse communities. A sorority is much more than people think. Every sorority has a common goal, not only providing support for each other but raising money for their respective philanthropies. They also have multiple ways of communicating with each other via Facebook groups and weekly meetings. And lastly, they have a good balance between novices and experts, whether that just be between collegiate members or alumni as well. As a member of the Tri Delta sorority myself, I can personally say that I feel special being a member of such a large community – not only at UC Davis, but all over the nation.


Bailey, T. (2016, November 15) St. Jude to Renovate Tri Delta Place. Retrieved from

Chapter Philanthropy (2017)  Retrieved from

DDD Fun Time (2017) Retrieved from

Our History. (2017) Retrieved from

Philanthropy.(2017) Retrieved from

Rothman, Z. (2017, February 10) Delta House of Pancakes gives proceeds to St. Jude Children’s   Research Hospital. Retrieved from

Swales, J. (1990). The Concept of Discourse Community. Genre Analysis: English in Academic and Research Settings. pp. 471,472,473.