Ernest Evans grew up as the only boy in his family. But in college, he went from having no brothers to thousands.
Evans, director of student involvement and Greek life, joined the historically Black fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha while he was an undergrad at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
However, the camaraderie was not the the only benefit of joining Greek life. From his time with his fraternity, Evans gained skills and experiences that shaped him into the man he is today.
"I think it was the intentional leadership development that was provided to me as a student. We were afforded a lot of opportunities," he said.
Coming into his own as a leader stands out specifically in his mind. Before joining Alpha Phi Alpha, Evans was involved on his campus, but he never took a front seat.
"I was always kind of a worker in the background, never wanted to take full leadership positions or try to take on any attention to myself or anything like that," Evans said. "And I think it really pushed me to see my own potential as a leader."
After graduating, Evans started his graduate assistantship as a trainee Sorority Life advisor.
But the job's unpredictable nature wavered his confidence that he was in the correct field.
"I felt it was very reactive," he said. "I felt like I had to be on my toes all the time and worried about getting sued and hazing and all those things."
As his career progressed, however, he took on many different positions with various focuses. He worked in Black male initiatives, was a first-year education teacher, became a coordinator for commuter student engagement, and dabbled in diversity work.
But his job always seemed to bring him back to Greek Life.
“So, I decided, ‘now let me give a full time Greek life position a try,’” he said.
This job manifested itself at Culver Stockton College in Ken, Missouri. There, he worked as the director of diversity initiatives and Greek Life. Next, he moved to Howard University in Washington, D.C., also working with fraternities and sororities for three years.
Then 2020 rolled around, bringing all its unwanted surprises with it, including the COVID-19 pandemic. With his mother getting older in Indiana, Evans wanted to move closer to home. So, he started looking for jobs in the Indianapolis area.
He applied to Franklin College and nabbed an interview, led by a panel of Greek Life leaders. Among those on the panel was sophomore Clayton Black, president of Kappa Delta Rho.
“I was super, super impressed by his resume,” Black said. “Coming to a smaller school like Franklin, some people might view that as a step down, but in a lot of ways, I think he saw that as a step up because he's from Indiana. So, he's coming back home.”
Not only was the location advantageous for Evans, but the promise of new start intrigued him.
“After the interview, I realized that this position is the best to set me up for success in my career, providing me with different opportunities, and an opportunity to display my skill set in a way that I had not been granted in my previous position,” Evans said. “And to be a part of the positive change that I want on this campus.”
Junior Grace Shaffer, president of Delta Delta Delta, believes Evans’ fresh perspective will revitalize Franklin’s Greek Life community.
“There's a lot of struggles with our campus specifically,” she said, “Because there's only three sororities, which is a lot different than if you were at some big private school. He's just been very open to trying to have different ideas for us.”
In addition to revamping recruitment itself, Evans also has been working to see Franklin College establish a presence for Black Greek letter organizations.
“Black Greek letter organizations are pivotal to the recruitment and retention of students of color with an institution of higher education, specifically, predominantly white institutions,” he said. “It is a major part of Black culture and Black history that our students here at Franklin College deserve to be able to experience.”
Establishing a new Greek Life organization on campus is a lengthy process. In the meantime, Evans hopes to bring new leadership opportunities to FC students and raise awareness about serious topics such as sexual assault and dating violence.
For now, Evans continues to enjoy getting to know Franklin’s campus and meeting its community of students.
His favorite part of his job is having the opportunity to connect with students—even if their interactions are only virtual.
“I was concerned that I couldn't connect with them the way that I needed to be successful, but our students here at Franklin College are on it,” Evans said. “They were open and receptive, and I appreciate them for that.”