Being a house mom is more than just a job


Alpha Gamma Delta house mom Caron Barnhart, center, poses with sorority members in front of the AGD house.

By Meral Aycicek, Staff Writer

A sorority house might seem like an autonomous entity ruled by an Elle Woods-archetype to those unfamiliar with Greek life. However, sororities at the University are far from independent.

Sorority houses are appointed a house mom by the Fraternity and Sorority Affairs office under the University. These individuals maintain the sorority house and help take care of the girls.

Caron Barnhart is the current house mom of Alpha Gamma Delta (AGD). Barnhart grew up just south of C-U, in Arthur, Illinois, and is a retired administrator for an engineering company. She said she came back to the Champaign area after retiring and was offered this position by the University through word-of-mouth.

“It’s just something that I really enjoy; it’s so much fun to work with all the girls in the house. There’s never a dull moment,” Barnhart said. “The fun part is learning more about each girl, their majors, what their interests are; that’s a lot of the reason. There is a lot of flexibility with the job too. Even though I have a job, it’s not like a ‘real’ job because you can still do a lot of stuff that you want to during the day.”

Barnhart was previously a house mom at the Pi Beta Phi chapter on campus.

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“I initially joined AGD because I’d heard good things about the girls, that they were similar to the girls at Pi Phi. I’ve come to love the girls’ personalities and the way they look at life. This job keeps me young, and it gives me a purpose,” Barnhart said.

Barnhart’s work responsibilities consist of taking care of the house. The AGD house was built in 1927 as a sorority house. The house needs constant upkeep as it is nearly 90 years old. Barnhart pays the bills, directs the housekeeper, supervises the assistant chef, works with the property manager and fixes issues as they arise.

Olivia Schifferer, sophomore in LAS, said Barnhart’s role in the house is much more than that.  Schifferer lives at the AGD house and sees Barnhart as a motherly figure she can turn to for anything.

“Caron oversees everything and makes sure the house doesn’t burn down, but she does much more than just that. She’s always there if a girl just needs to talk to someone. I don’t think that’s a role she has to play, but she has taken on that role in the house,” Schifferer said.

Allie Graves, sophomore in LAS, has known Barnhart for one semester. Though they are not very close yet, Graves agreed that Barnhart goes above and beyond in her duties as a house mom.

“Caron is very welcoming, very sweet; she reminds me a lot of my grandma. She loves to take care of everyone and makes sure everyone is doing okay,” Graves said. “She has her own room in the house, and she always lets us know that her door is open if we need anything, if there is a dispute that needs to be settled or if we just want someone to watch TV with at night. She definitely gives us our space, but we always know she’s there.”

Because of her dedication to her job and her love for the girls, Barnhart was awarded the Outstanding Chapter House Supervisor Award this past July at the AGD National Convention.

“I got a call and a picture text from the president of the house at the time with the plaque. They were at the national convention in Indianapolis, and it brought tears to my eyes because it’s such a great feeling to know that my girls feel that way about me,” Barnhart said.

Barnhart works together with the house directors and the president to maintain order but doesn’t interfere too much with the girls’ lives unless it has something to do with the house. Barnhart said the executive board of the sorority is in charge of maintaining the girl’s lives.

“We have rules to make sure everything runs smoothly because it can get kind of crazy with 60 girls in one house. If Caron wasn’t there, there would be a lot of arguments. It would be chaotic at times, maybe unsafe. Caron always knows who is checked in, who has guests over,” Graves said.

Schifferer said the girls respect Barnhart more than anything and take care of the house because of their respect for her.

“We love Caron, and we all respect her. Like when she stands up at dinner, we stand up, and no one can leave before she leaves. We do see her as the head of the household. Caron rocks,” Schifferer said.

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