As the Associate Director of Greek Life and Housefellow at Carnegie Mellon University, Jesse Koch works directly with Greek organizations, programs, and partners, with the goal of improving the Greek experience for all members.
More specifically, he directs advisory support for fraternity and sorority chapters, regularly meeting with chapter leaders to provide advice, help them achieve their specific chapter goals, and problem solve. Additionally, Jesse works to facilitate collaborative working relationships and partnerships among Greek chapter advisors, alumni, and national headquarters, as well as with Carnegie Mellon campus partners such as Housing Services, Alumni Relations, Student Activities, and the Office of Community Standards and Integrity. He also directs the Greek community standards process, the Standards of Excellence (a chapter assessment program), and the annual Greek Awards.
As Housefellow, Jesse supports students who live in on-campus chapter houses.
Jesse earned his undergraduate degree in criminal justice from Penn State, Altoona, and master’s in higher education in college student affairs leadership from Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan.
How did you come to join CMU?
Before CMU, I worked with the Greek community at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. I loved the job, but knew that I eventually wanted to come back to Pittsburgh, my hometown. Coincidentally, the summer I started looking for new opportunities, the position within Greek Life at Carnegie Mellon became available. After researching the institution, meeting students and staff members, and visiting the campus, I knew it was the right place for me.
Being a member of a Greek community can mean many things: being a mentor, taking on leadership roles, organizing community service opportunities, creating lifelong friendships, and carrying legacies and traditions forward. What inspires you most about Greek Life at CMU?
Our students truly guide their own experience, and that’s really inspiring to me. As a staff, the Greek Life team embraces an advisory approach in which we focus our energy on student support, rather than telling our students what to do and how to do it. We work to understand the goals of our Greek organizations, give them advice on how to achieve these goals, challenge them when appropriate, and allow them to do the work.
When our students are afforded this responsibility, they create a Greek community focused on self-governance, shared accountability, and high expectations. With this framework, it’s amazing what our Greek students are able to achieve.
Share an example of when a Greek Life event or initiative made a tangible and positive impact on campus or the broader community.
Many people may not know that the 1000plus Day of Service used to only happen once a year and that the Carnegie Mellon Greek community used to host a similar program called The Greek Day of Service, which was coordinated annually by our office and Greek students. The Greek program grew to the point where it made sense to combine efforts with 1000plus.
To me, it was encouraging and inspiring to see the Greek community take a very successful program and join forces with another incredible program on campus, thus leveraging the event’s strength in numbers and impact.
What is an important life lesson you have learned from working with students, Greeks in particular?
It’s okay to not be the smartest person in the room (at CMU, I rarely am!). Rather, understand your personal strengths, experience, and expertise, and be confident in what you bring to the table as a result.
Outside of work, what are your hobbies/interests? What are you passionate about?
I love dogs! I have two of my own – Kevin and Livvy – and I walk dogs every week at the Animal Rescue League shelter. If you see me walking on campus after work, there’s a really good chance I’ll have a dog with me. I also enjoy playing soccer, softball, and running. This is largely to counteract my unhealthy obsession for pizza.
All-time favorite book.
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. It was my favorite childhood book. I’ve probably read it a few hundred times.
You could travel anywhere in the world for free and stay for a month. Where would you go and why?
I love skiing and have been doing it since I was 4 years old. My dream would be to spend a month in British Columbia checking out the ski resorts and heli-skiing some remote mountains. To me, skiing is a perfect combination of adrenaline rush and peaceful relaxation.
What advice would you give to someone living in Greek Housing?
Your Greek housing experience hinges largely on your chapter’s respect for the house. Treat the space with pride, and others will do the same. If your members work together, you will benefit from a clean environment free of unnecessary distraction and a place you can look forward to showing off to your guests.
There are a lot of support mechanisms in place to ensure your Greek experience is a positive one. Feel free to reach out to your chapter leadership, Housing Services, or Greek Life should you ever need help or guidance!