As the new school year begins, hundreds of girls across campus have begun the week-long process of Panhellenic Formal Recruitment.

Saturday marked the first day of Rush Week during which undergraduate females meet and evaluate all of UT's 13 Panhellenic sorority chapters, each hoping to end the week by pledging to the Greek organization of their choice."

Katherine Sargent, sophomore in kinesiology, serves as a Gamma Chi Recruitment Counselor during this year's recruitment process. Voluntarily relinquishing their affiliations for the summer, these sorority women train to shepherd potential new members, referred to as PNMs, through Rush.

"As a leader in recruitment, we prepare through a semester-long counseling class and a three-day retreat to focus solely on the coming days," Sargent said. "We learn as much about each chapter as possible so we can answer any tricky questions a PNM might ask."

Despite the long preparation process and the isolation from her own sisterhood, Sargent regards the purpose of a Gamma Chi as an essential part of the recruitment process. "My role is to be the PNM's go-to girl for anything and everything," she said. "I can be there to help her decide what outfit to wear, to help her understand what to expect, to help her eliminate sororities and to be there for any emotional support that might be needed."

The overwhelming majority of women going through formal recruitment are freshmen students at UT. In addition to adjusting to college life, the ladies are thrown into socially demanding situations. "At times it can be surprisingly emotional for first timers," Sargent said, "but, overall, it is a great opportunity and a perfect way to meet other girls who typically share interests.

"The camaraderie formed between PNMs during this emotional week only adds to the allure of the Rush process."You make a lot of friends in your Gamma Chi group," said Cara Sanders, a veteran of Panhellenic Recruitment and a sophomore in public relations. "You just meet a lot of really smart, intelligent girls that are really fun to hang out with."

For the first two days of Rush, titled the Go-Greek round, the women were taken to visit each chapter for 15 minutes in order to begin the elimination process. Some participants of formal recruitment would regard this as the most nerve-wracking event of the week.

"It is the first official day of completely working together and it takes some trials to get everyone and everything moving smoothly," Sargent said. "On top of the typical challenges, this year we faced rain and an open football scrimmage, so that definitely added to the stress.

"The days and nights that follow progressively limit the number of chapter houses that PNMs are allowed to visit, while also increasing the amount of time that ladies get to spend with each sorority.On the final night of Rush, girls will be allowed to visit up to three chapters before making their final decisions on the following day. This round of recruitment is known as Preference Night.

"This is the most serious round," Sargent said. "Cocktail dresses are worn and sisterhood is the topic. Strict silence is also enforced to ensure the ladies do no change their mind based on their friend's opinion."After a week of meet-and-greets with various chapters and stressful nights of dissecting every social encounter, PNMs gather to receive their invitations from sororities who want to bring them into their chapter. The expected size of the pledge class for each chapter is between 50 and 60 women.

"My favorite memory is pretty cliché," Sargent said, "but it would have to be opening my Bid Day card and seeing which sorority I received and running up to my new chapter. Everyone is yelling and cheering and then all 900 PNMs are standing with their new chapter as they hear their first Roll Call."

For more information on Rush Week and sorority profiles, visit go.utk.edu.