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Photo from Kelly Morrison

Two sophomores have launched a chapter of the national co-ed business fraternity Phi Chi Theta at Penn and have made mental health their focus.

Promoting wellness is not explicitly within the national organization's mission, but founders Wharton sophomore Kelly Morrison and College sophomore Daniel Gordon have made the issue a core aspect of the chapter’s identity. 

“Our ethos is really to empower our members to not only get their dream jobs, but to succeed when they’re there,” Morrison, who is the Phi Chi Theta president, said. “Through life skills and mental health programming, in addition to traditional professional development training, our brothers will know how to succeed professionally and personally.” 

The business fraternity, the fourth to be recognized by the Wharton School, informally recruited 20 members last spring and this fall and will institute a formal recruitment process to welcome a new class of members this coming spring. The new class will undergo a pledging process that will include learning life skills and mental health training. 

The idea to incorporate wellness into the fraternity’s core identity comes from personal experience. When Morrison was 13 years old, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer – a challenge they faced together as a single-parent, only-child duo. 

“The need to take care of ourselves was a point that was really driven home to me when she passed away this summer,” said Morrison.

The death of a parent is a grueling experience, Morrison said, but she was supported by her fellow Phi Chi Theta members. 

“I have to speak to the quality of this group — I was flooded with support,” Morrison said. “When things get difficult, you want a tribe to fall back on. Phi Chi Theta wants to create a space that would offer that to more students at Penn.”

The group was formally recognized by Wharton as of Oct. 3, 2018, but Wharton sophomore and treasurer of Phi Chi Theta, Arjun Govind, notes that the ties between fraternity members has been there from the start and is strengthened by their commitment to a shared vision.

“We’re all very good friends and look forward to working with [new members]. While it does have some things in common with the other pre-professional fraternities, I believe we offer something different. We focus on wellness, we hope to have wellness themed programming and we hope to make mental health a greater conversation on campus.” said Govind.

The launch of Phi Chi Theta comes at a time when the topic of wellness has become a prominent issue on campus, with the University ramping up its efforts to improve the wellbeing of its student body. This fall, the University appointed its first-ever Chief Wellness Officer Benoit Dubé this summer and also launched a series of policy changes and new positions in the name of wellness. 

There are currently three other Wharton recognized business fraternities: Delta Sigma Pi, Alpha Kappa Psi, and Phi Gamma Nu. College senior and President of Alpha Kappa Psi Alex Yang said he welcomed the addition of Phi Chi Theta. 

“I think it’s great because every cycle we have lots of applicants, probably in the hundreds, across the three current business fraternities and it’s great to have one more opportunity for [applicants] to join a business fraternity especially given the competitive environment at Penn and Wharton,” Yang said. 

Gordon, who serves as the executive vice president, said the fraternity has been flooded with inquiries about how to get involved since the launch of its social media account last week. 

“It’s been so nice to see so much interest, especially when Penn has a hyper-competitive atmosphere, and we are looking to take Penn students out of that and bring them into a cooperative atmosphere where everyone can work together to form better solutions,” Gordon said.