Eight Years and Counting

Last year, Phi Delta Theta gave our campus partners a virtual microphone to share their wisdom, stories, and experiences with our readers. As a result, these professionals shared valuable information about their knowledge and beliefs about leadership, chapter operations best practices, and to manage time as a student leader, and even some insight into the life of a Greek Advisor. Throughout this week, you’ll hear from Phi Delt volunteers, staff members, and non-Phi administrators and we hope you enjoy what they have to say.

By Robyn Brock

Eight years.  That’s how long I have been working in Greek Life at Florida State.  Eight years.  Where did the time go?  How is it that I am still working with fraternities and sororities?  I came to FSU for graduate school after serving my sorority as a Leadership Consultant.  Fast forward about two and half years to the time when my now mentor, Dr. Adam Goldstein, asked me to work in Greek Life for six months in an interim capacity.  After two weeks of thinking about it, I decided to do it.  After all, I could do anything for six months, right?

At the end of the six months, I wasn’t ready to be done with Greek Life.  Here I am eight years later and still not ready to be done.  In our field, we see professionals changing jobs every few years.  We often see professionals burn out of working in fraternity and sorority advising.  I have colleagues on campus and in the field who tell me that they would never want my job.  Well, I’m glad they don’t want my job because as difficult as it is and as hard as we work, I still love what I do…most days.

I certainly do not have all the answers.  I can only share with you some of things I have learned—often the hard way—and hope that they offer some insight.  Some of the strategies I use to manage expectations, time and my life are as follows:

Redefine burn out for yourself.  As new professionals, we often throw ourselves into our work.  We immerse ourselves in meetings, events and committees.  Part of this stems from an eagerness to learn and prove our worth as professionals.  Part of it is that many of us were leaders and overly involved as undergraduates so we continue the same pattern.  While our intentions are generally noble, we often fail to recognize that we are investing too much emotionally and physically.  Yes, we should give 100%.  Yes, we should work hard.  No, we should not work to the point that we cannot be effective.  As a new professional, my image of burn out was a bitter, grumpy, ineffective person who had worked too long in the profession.  Much to my surprise, I have had to redefine this for myself.

My view of burn out now is me after working too many evening events and meetings while also managing a crisis, departmental demands, and student politics.  This is not to say that I function as someone who is burned out; it is to clarify that I believe professionals need to recognize and acknowledge that burn out can be temporary and reversed.  I have learned and continue to learn how to recognize what the symptoms are for me as I continue working in this field.  When I find myself starting to be short tempered, irritated and not remembering why I do what I do, this is when I know I need some time.  Call it comp time or balance time or whatever, just learn to recognize when you need it.  Which leads me to my next point…

Take care of yourself.  This generally means something different for everyone.  For me, this means that I spend time with family and friends and also take some alone time.  I also love reading, baking, red wine, and shopping.  When I can combine any of these with friends and family, then I feel like I hit the jackpot.  We often spend so much time investing in others that we forget to invest in ourselves.  I try to do something every day to take care of myself.  It certainly does not always happen, but I do have a greater awareness of this need.

I also have to own that in our field this is not always possible.  As the Panhellenic Recruitment Advisor this past year, I can tell you with certainty that at least during the week of recruitment, I did not take care of myself as well as I could have.  I stayed at the hotel most of the week with our recruitment staff and slept nowhere near enough.  For me, I knew going into recruitment that I would not have as much time for myself so I made sure I took time for me after recruitment. I do my best to make this a priority before and after work intensive times like Panhellenic recruitment.  While I do not always make this happen, I have learned that I need to do this to be effective in my work.

Don’t let your job define your life. Seriously.  You are more than the work you do.  So am I.  Each person is a community member, family member, friend, colleague, and so much more.  It is important to have identities outside of your job.   Be intentional about cultivating your involvement outside the office.

The reality of our work is that we could be in the office 24 hours a day, 7 days week and there would still be work to do.  I think it our responsibility to help students maintain proper perspectives.  How many times do we see students needing to meet with us because there is a crisis?  Only to learn, when we move our schedules around to meet with them, that the crisis is they can’t find a venue for the chapter philanthropy.  If you are nodding in agreement now, then let me ask you: how do you maintain your perspective?

Inevitably, professionals in fraternity and sorority advising will work with students through some type of crisis.  I can list a number of crises I have worked with from student deaths to sexual assault allegations to charter suspensions.  I believe that if I allowed my job to define me that I would not be able to work through these issues within Greek Life with proper perspective.  If your job alone defines who you are, so can the student successes and failures.  We cannot be defined as professionals based on the student experience.

As I write this, I think about what I have learned and the people who have impacted my life.  I have thought about moments in my career that I will always keep with me—good and bad.  At the end of the day, I have found a profession where I continue to grow and learn while working with students, staff, faculty, advisors, headquarters staff and a variety of other constituents to enhance the fraternity experience.  As I continue to attempt to take care of myself while not burning out, I will do my best to remember why I do what I do: I believe in the positive potential of the fraternity/sorority experience.

Robyn Brock earned her Bachelor’s degree in Communication from the University of Tennessee and her Master’s degree in Higher Education from Florida State University.  She has obviously worked at Florida State for a combined eight years as the Assistant Director and now the Assistant Dean/Director of Greek Life.  In her volunteer life, Robyn serves as the Assistant Executive Director for the Southeaster Panhellenic Association and on the Kappa Kappa Gamma NPC delegation.  Robyn loves spending time with her husband and their four-year old son, Jackson.  She also enjoys drinking red wine, doing a little shopping, traveling with family and friends, and reading a good book. 

A Deeper Look Into Alcohol Awareness

By Jake Byczkowski

I’ve never agreed with the formal definition of ‘binge drinking,’ I think it limits the debate and understanding of what problem drinking really is. The CDC defines binge drinking as four or five drinks in two hours. A few weeks ago I went to a baseball game with my father. Throughout the game he and I had two 16-ounce beers each. After the game we went to a bourbon bar across the river and each had a glass of bourbon, maybe an ounce apiece. I’m sure that by official definition my father and I were both binge drinking that evening. My father is in his 50’s, and baseball, beer and bourbon is just an interest we both share. And I am not about to tell a successful, healthy, 50-year-old man that having some drinks during and after a baseball game with his son is a bad idea. Neither of us were reckless that evening. And it’s not like as soon as we crossed the threshold of that fourth drink that we all of a sudden were exponentially more likely to do something ridiculous, like heave hotel furniture off a fourteenth floor balcony. Even if we did decide to end our evening by throwing hotel furniture off of a fourteenth floor balcony, I can assure you that our decision to do so was heavily influenced by something other then the few drinks we had at a baseball game.

To often do I feel that Alcohol Awareness is accompanied by terms like “binge drinking” and other numbers and statistics used to describe the habits of college students. When we bombard students with these numbers it is easier to ignore them, then to try and decipher their meaning.

I think we need to change the way we think about what alcohol awareness is and what problem drinking really means. Alcohol Awareness is not shouting numbers and stats at students. And though that may not be it’s intent, as a recent college graduate I can promise you that’s what it can feel like. Alcohol Awareness needs to be used as a platform to facilitate some sort of internal dialogue with each individual student. The problems that students experience due to their alcohol consumption cannot always be defined by numbers, rather, they are defined by actions.

When I was in college I was a serious problematic drinker. But because of these numbers it was easy for me to watch the behavior of my peers and decide that my drinking, in fact, was not problematic. Everyone around me was drinking the same as I was. What I failed to recognize was that though I was drinking just as much as everyone else I knew, alcohol had a different effect on me than others. One particular quarter my behavior had gotten so out of hand that a friend actually sat me down and told me that he felt I had a drinking problem. I thought about what he was telling me and again I found myself going back to these numbers. Yes, by textbook definition I had a drinking problem, but, by text book definition so did he, and so did the rest of my friends. So why was I being singled out? Through some serious self-evaluation, I realized what he was actually saying. He wasn’t coming to me saying, “Jake, you have a drinking problem and if you’re not careful you could become an alcoholic and die.” What he was saying was “Jake, you have a problem, and when you drink you turn into a punk and a jerk and no one wants to be around you anymore.” If we think about what college students experience as a result of their excessive drinking–vomiting, fighting, drunk driving, drunk texting–we can all agree that these are problems that occur when we drink. Rather then trying to convince college students that problematic drinking is related to the number of drinks they have and the frequency at which they have those drinks, we need to get each student to ask one single question. “Do problems often occur when I drink?” The answer to this question is the definition of problem drinking.

My advice to everyone–students, parents, college administrators, siblings and friends–if there is an individual you are concerned about, do not approach them and use these terms. Because trust me, they’ve all heard it before. Speak their language and give them hard evidence, evidence they cannot ignore or deny. If they are the type person that ends up crying in the corner of every party as soon as they get drunk, that is a problem. If they continually get drunk and decide that it’s a good idea to punch something in the face, that is a problem. If they get drunk and embarrass themselves by trying to sleep with every person that crosses their path, that is a problem.

Alcohol Awareness is taking ownership over your own actions as well as the actions of your peers. It is about eliminating problematic drinking by utilizing the personal relationships we have with one another. And finally it is about creating a better, healthier, safer community on each individual campus. A community where individuals take an active role in the fight against alcohol related harm.

As a 2011 graduate of The Ohio State University, and a member of Delta Tau Delta Fraternity, Jake has just stepped out of unique world that is Fraternity and Sorority Life. Throughout his college career, Jake constantly found himself in harmful situations due to his alcohol consumption. Since graduating, Jake has given his time and efforts to figuring out why he continually put himself in harms way and how could he have prevented many of the tragedies he experienced. Jake is now a speaker for CAMPUSPEAK and has devoted his career to speaking to college students about their alcohol use and how to reduce alcohol-related harm.

Thoughts on “Living Your Creed”

By Peggy King, National Ritual Chairman, Phi Mu Fraternity

Happy National Ritual Celebration Week!  If I had to choose the mantra of the fraternal world in vogue these days, it would have to be “Live Your Ritual,” and there is no better time than now to focus on the ideals that our fraternal rituals espouse.

“Living Your Ritual” is a noble thought, but just how does one go about accomplishing this lofty goal?  We know that to be successful in achieving a goal, we must have a plan. One popular example is S.M.A.R.T.  – our goals must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.  Are they?

Simply by asking our members to “Live Your Ritual” defies the very first step of achieving our goal.  It is far too vague a command to know exactly what that means and when we have been successful., especially with such a moving, ongoing target.  A better option is to clearly define what our individual organizations ask of our members.  For some, those ideals may be expressed in a Creed; for others, the key concepts may be part of an Initiation oath or pledge.

I will share the example I am most familiar with as Phi Mu’s National Ritual Chairman.  Phi Mu’s Creed sets a standard for members asking them to strive to live loving, honorable, and truthful lives.  We all have a certain idea of what each of these means, but the concepts are still far too vague to be measurable.

What does it mean to be loving?  Phi Mu’s Creed spells out the expectations: “to lend to those less fortunate a helping hand; to think of God as a protector and guide of us all; to keep forever sacred the memory of those we have loved and lost.; to be to others what we would they would be to us; to keep our lives gentle, merciful and just.”

And to be honorable?  By “guarding the purity of our thoughts and deeds; being steadfast in every duty small or large, believing that our given word is binding; striving to esteem the inner man above culture, wealth or pedigree; being honorable, courteous, tender.”

And finally, our members are expected “to serve in the light of truth, avoiding egotism, narrowness and scorn; to give freely of our sympathies.”

I have yet to meet many individuals who can live up to these lofty standards 100% of the time.  I will freely admit that I haven’t, but I also know that I try.  Some may think it silly of me to keep a copy of the Phi Mu Creed on the dresser where I get ready in the mornings, but it serves to remind me of the kind of person I want to be.  We are human beings with human flaws and these are, after all, high expectations.  So have I failed?  Have we failed?  Have our members failed us, or have we failed them?

The Rituals of our fraternal organizations provide a framework for and a picture of the kind of lives we want for our members.  We fail our members by not being specific about our expectations.  Too often, we recruit our members based on one set of standards and expectations (appearance, partying opportunities), then we do a “bait and switch” when it comes to expecting them to live according to our Ritual.  The two are not always in sync.

We fail our members, too, when we do not give them the support and motivation to live our Ritual.  Are we providing opportunities for philanthropic work if that is one of our goals?  Are we holding memorial services for loved ones we have lost?  Are we being the sister/brother to them that we expect them to be to us?  When a member strays from our expectations, are we quick to judge and punish, or do we provide a system to address the unacceptable behavior and provide support for change?  Do we recognize those that are living examples of our expectations?

To make our Ritual goals more tangible and to demonstrate their achievability, we should be allowing time at every meeting for members who have exemplified our ideals to be recognized and applauded.

Our efforts at clearly defining the meaning of “Living Our Ritual” pay off when we see a measurable difference in the number and caliber of members we recruit and in the number of “cases” that must come before our disciplinary boards.  Along the way we may find that for some “Living our Ritual” is not realistic.  Is that a bad thing?  After all, shouldn’t our members have a shared vision of what it means to be a member?

Where do we begin such a monumental task as “Living Our Ritual”?   Let us clearly define what that means and challenge each and every member to invest in our ideals.  Let’s take inventory annually to evaluate our shortcomings and plan for change if needed.  Let’s celebrate success!

If we truly want to change the too-often negative image of Greek life, let’s not only let our Rituals and ideals be known, but let’s “shout it from the mountaintop” that we are organizations truly striving to develop responsible members to lead their families, their communities and the world today and tomorrow.  And we are succeeding!  Let’s not make that a well-kept secret!

Peggy King was initiated into the Alpha Eta Chapter of Phi Mu Fraternity at Louisiana State University in 1969.  She has served as Phi Mu’s National Council Member-at-large, National Alumnae Vice-president, Volunteer Coordinator, Phi Mu Foundation Trustee and as National Ritual Chairman since 2002.   She has received the Fraternity’s Outstanding Alumnae Achievement Award as well as LSU’s Greek Excellence Award and a Leave a Legacy Award in her local community. Peggy holds a B.S. in Spanish, an M.A. in Cultural Anthropology and an MA+30 in Curriculum and Instruction.  She currently teaches Spanish in LSU’s Osher Lifelong Learning  Institute  and is an assessment administrator for Westat, a research company under contract to the U.S. Department of Education.

When All Is Said And Done, Did You Say More Or Do More?

By Rachel Westra Marsh

In his book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, author Stephen Covey states, “By centering our lives on timeless, unchanging principles, we create a fundamental paradigm of effective living.” I am not sure if Stephen Covey is a fraternity man, but I know for sure that this statement exemplifies exactly what is meant when people in the fraternal world say that you need to live your Ritual. As members of fraternities and sororities we have committed ourselves to organizations that were founded upon timeless, unchanging principles and because of the oath that every one of us took when we became members of our organizations, it is our responsibility to live those values all the time, every day.

Before I move forward with sharing some specific ideas of what living your Ritual looks like, let’s first make sure that we are on the same page about the definition of Ritual. I am sure, for the majority of you who are reading this blog, the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear ‘Ritual’ is some sort of ceremony from your chapter – maybe it’s your formal chapter meeting or maybe it’s your initiation. You are probably also thinking, our Ritual is secret, so how am I supposed to live that every day? Well I am not asking you to put on your robe, sing your songs, or re-enact your ceremonies on a daily basis. What I am asking you to do is to think about the meaning of your organization and what those ceremonies teach you about what it means to be the greatest version of yourself. Think about the words you recited in your oath when you committed yourself to your fraternity for the rest of your life. Think about the three Cardinal Principles of Phi Delta Theta: Friendship, Sound Learning, and Rectitude. Speaker Mari Ann Callais defines it best, Ritual = Values = You!

So now that you understand that living your Ritual means living your organization’s values that you committed to, let’s reflect on what that looks like. My good friend and colleague Scott and I have presented several times to students and professionals about this idea of living your Ritual and what it looks like.  We have boiled this idea down to four key categories: knowledge, education, execution, and accountability.

Knowledge. Our Ritual is the one thing that makes our fraternal organizations different from any other organizations on campus and the values and lessons that our own Rituals teach us make our own fraternity or sorority unique from others. It is important for chapters to recognize the importance of learning about your Ritual and making the Ritual readily accessible to all of the members. Members need to embrace the mentality of learning about their Ritual not because they have to but because they want to.  Again, I am not referring to just memorizing the lines, the oath, or learning the handshake. I am talking about facilitating discussions and reflections around what that Ritual teaches us about how we live. It is each of our individual responsibilities to make sure that we really know and understand what our Ritual is teaching us. If the fancy words used in your ceremonies confuse you, take some time to dissect that Ritual and interpret what it means today. Re-writing your oath into your own words will help you to gain a deeper perspective and appreciation for the commitment you have made. The very basics of being able to live your Ritual starts with your knowledge and understanding of what it is you are supposed to be living. So if you aren’t familiar with what your Ritual is telling you about your organization, the first step is to take some time to really read it and reflect on it. If you need help comprehending what your Ritual is telling you, your advisors and International staff members are a great resource to reach out to for clarification and understanding.

Education. Once you gain the knowledge of your Ritual, the next step is to make sure that your chapter is teaching the values of your Ritual to all of your members. Chapters who struggle in this category are unable to teach the values and principles of their organization, lack Ritual training, and have little to no follow-up after Ritual ceremonies are conducted. Many organizations have a post-initiation education session with their new members, but what are you doing to continue to educate all of your members about your Ritual? Why not spend 5 minutes at each chapter meeting picking a different part of your Ritual to review and evaluate as a chapter how individual members and the chapter as a whole is actually living that part of the Ritual? Take a separate line of your oath each week and as a chapter discuss it’s meaning and specific examples of how it can be lived. Remember, it’s not just up to our new initiates to understand this, but every member, so let’s be sure we are educating all of our members on an ongoing basis. Chapters who focus on education consistently train, educate, and discuss Ritual in various settings. Members feel comfortable discussing Ritual and a good deal of time is spent reflecting on what Ritual means to the chapter.

Execution. Once you have gained the knowledge and educated your chapter about your Ritual, it’s up to you and all of your members to live and/or execute the values of your Ritual. You have to “walk the walk” and put values into action. The key thing to understand about execution is that you cannot pick and choose when you want to live those values, they must become such a part of your daily routine that you don’t even have to think twice about them. They need to be just as evident on a Friday or Saturday night as they are on a Tuesday afternoon when you are in class. Think back to those three Cardinal Principles and how they can each be incorporated into your daily actions. Demonstrate your friendship by being there for your brothers when they need your help, and putting them before yourself. Dedicate yourself to sound learning, get out of bed and go to class, participate when you are there, and go up and speak to your professor afterwards. Sound learning isn’t just about getting good grades but it is staying open to new experiences and opportunities that will help you to continue to grow into that greater version of yourself, and that doesn’t end when you leave college. When making decisions about how to spend your time and money, both as an individual and as a chapter, let your moral rectitude guide those decisions. Execution is where the rubber meets the road; our Rituals are not just pretty words on papers, but a call to action and a guide for how we should be living our lives every day.

Accountability.  Perhaps one of the most important aspects of living our Ritual, but often the most neglected, is accountability. I get so frustrated when I meet with chapter presidents and they tell me that there is nothing they can do about members in their chapter who are not paying dues, getting good grades, or whose behavior is destructive to the organization. “I am not their dad,” they say.  Correct, they are not their dads, but they are the president of the organization and each of their members took an oath to uphold the values of their organization. It is up to the leaders, and really all members, to make sure that we are all holding each other accountable for doing what we say we will do when we join our organization. Recognizing members who are living out your values on a regular basis can reinforce accountability among your members.  Each week as you review a line of your oath and discuss examples of what it looks like in practice, take time to recognize members who have demonstrated those values through their actions. This will help positively reinforce the idea of living your Ritual and help other members see how they can do that in their own lives. Additionally, when you see members behaving in ways that are inconsistent your values, you must call them out. Have a conversation; remind them of the commitment they made, help them understand the negative impact it is having on the chapter. So often we get caught up in the rules and policies and only holding members accountable for those. Don’t get me wrong, those are important, but remember: our Ritual is the blueprint for the success of our chapter and its members, so let’s start incorporating that into standards meetings and conversations.

At the end of the day it’s important to remember that we made a lifetime commitment to living our Ritual when we were initiated and that doesn’t end when we graduate from college. As a Phi Delt, friendship, sound learning, and rectitude should always be the principles that serve as your paradigm for effective living.  Our Ritual is not just words on paper to be memorized or recited once or twice a year. If we are really members of our organization we have to put those timeless and unchanging principles at the center of our life every day.

One of my favorite quotes is “when all is said and done, did you say more or do more?” The future of your fraternity and our Inter-fraternal community depends on your ability and willingness to DO more.  It is time for us to stop just saying we stand for these values and actually demonstrating them through our actions every day. Let’s start living our Ritual!

Rachel Westra Marsh currently serves as the Director of Greek Life at the College of Charleston, previous to that she served their community as the Assistant Director of Greek Life for two years. She is originally from Virginia, where she completed her undergraduate studies at Virginia Tech. She spent two years working as a National Consultant for Chi Omega Fraternity before she returned to school to pursue a Master’s Degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs at the University of South Carolina. While pursuing her master’s degree, she served as the graduate assistant for Greek Life as well as Assistant to the Associate Vice President for Student Affairs. Rachel has experience working with NASPA’s Knowledge Community for Sorority/Fraternity Affairs and has given presentations and facilitated at a number of fraternity and sorority conferences. She also serves as a volunteer for Alpha Chi Omega, Beta Theta Pi, Chi Omega, and Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

Please Fasten Your Seatbelts And Turn Off All Electronic Devices As The Plane Departs

By Matthew Dempsey

Getting ready to leave Central America after a week of service with the Association of Fraternal Leadership & Values (AFLV), I felt accomplished, yet saddened to see all my new friends go back to their own homes and communities. Fellow participants that I had only known for the past week or so, felt like they were closer to me than some of the friends that I had back at home. Some of the people I met in El Salvador were so authentic and enlightening, that I could feel nothing but satisfaction to know that because of the work of a handful of Greek students, we forever made a difference in their life.

Going on an immersion trip allows you to see another culture in its entirety and compare it to the culture of your own. For a quick example: as a person from the United States, I often called myself an American, and was shocked when a woman from El Salvador also said, “Soy Americana, tambien” translating to, “I’m American, too.” While something we do not think about, the term American can describe anybody from North America, Central America to South America. While this is a small vernacular difference, it made a difference when I told the woman that we were both Americans and acknowledged the flaw in what I had said.

We all have customs that we are comfortable with and deviating from those customs if often difficult or awkward for us. Most of us have friends and family that we are comfortable, and going on an immersion trip truly questions all aspects of our life. After participating in this trip, I can confidently say that I can more easily question the status quo. It helped me think about how I talked with my peers and how I was speaking with people I did not even know. I recognized and learned about the culture I was visiting as well as my own culture. I felt comfortable and encouraged to be myself in a group of peers whether I was being the chirpy morning person, contemplating and reflecting about my day or if I was sick after accidently drinking the water.

Through the amazing and positive times in Central America, I worked with my peers to make a difference in the lives of many. The close-knit feeling of our volunteer community came quicker than anybody could have expected. I shared some of the most personal aspects of my life with the group that I would typically never share with people after four days of knowing them. The connectedness has continued since the end of the trip, as I have been able to call many of the fellow participants to ask them with help in making decisions through my life and they have been able to do the same for me. After the trip, I found myself in an extended layover in Chicago, and asked a fellow participant if she had a place for me to stay and she opened her doors to me without reservation.

Going on an immersion trip was one of the most eye-opening and amazing experiences I could have asked for. It has allowed me to be a better member of my family, brother in my fraternity, friend and student. It has given me comfort to know that there are individuals spread across the United States that I know I could call for help without hesitation. It has motivated me to challenge the status quo and dream of the impossible.

#WHATIF you could help change the world?

#WHATIF you had friends across the country who you knew would always be there for you?

#WHATIF you dreamed the impossible?

Learn about Phi Delta Theta’s Service Immersion Trip to Honduras this Spring.

Matthew Dempsey is a senior education major at the University of Connecticut and a currently serves as the president of his chapter of Beta Theta Pi Fraternity. He is also a member of the Residence Life Staff at the University of Connecticut.  Matthew participated in the AFLV Immersion Trip to El Salvador in January 2011.

How You Do Things Is More Important Than What You Do

By Nick Prihoda

During the last four years, I can’t recall the number of times I’ve heard that phrase.  For my most recent boss, the phrase is not only her personal mantra, but also a mantra for how she manages her job, her team and the department of the agency she oversees.  When adopted, it has a noticeable, direct impact on the quality of work we provide our clients.

While I thought I understood what she was talking about the first few times I heard her say it, it wasn’t until much later that I fully realized what it meant, or that my fraternal experience had laid the groundwork for ‘how you do things.’

At the heart of the statement is the idea that no matter how intelligent, smart, correct or otherwise amazing what you are doing is, if you don’t do it in a manner that solves a problem, meets a need or in a manner not consistent with your values, that idea/deed cannot reach its full potential.

Our fraternal experience provides a great foundation for developing the ‘how.’  It teaches us how to be men with a high standard of morality and how to live lives with integrity and accountability. Our fraternal experience also gives us the opportunity to get ahead of our job competition with some very concrete job skills.  From basic skills like how to run a meeting, prepare a budget, and work with a diverse team to more advanced skills like how to be a self-starter, exceeding when no one is holding you accountable and not settling for being average.

While all of these skills and opportunities can be a part of our fraternal experience, they are not given to anyone.  Just being in a fraternity doesn’t automatically mean that you’ll develop these skills.  Full, active participation in your fraternity experience puts you on the path to learning the ‘how’ and puts you at an advantage over your colleagues who didn’t have these same opportunities in college.

When correctly utilized, this experience can be a four-year head start on the competition to not only get the job you are dreaming of, but to also take that job and make it a successful and rewarding experience.

Nick Prihoda is a member of Delta Tau Delta Fraternity and a 1999 graduate of Wabash College.  Nick works as an Account Director on the Nintendo account for Leo Burnett USA, a worldwide advertising agency in Chicago, IL.  Prior to Leo Burnett, Nick spent six years as the Director of Expansion and Recruitment for Delta Tau Delta International Fraternity where he led the colonization of more than 15 new chapters and developed fraternity-wide programming which has led to double digital overall growth for the entire organization.

We Have Work To Do

By Annie Carlson

When I tell people I’m a fraternity and sorority advisor, I receive several reactions. Whether that’s a look of shock and horror or comments like, “That’s a full time job?” I’ve pretty much heard it all. My least favorite response is, “So you help fraternities plan parties?” I respond simply with,

“No, I don’t have time for that.”

In 2006 I was a senior at the University of Illinois attempting to figure out what I was going to do with my life. I loved being a history and anthropology major and thought a museum might be the place for me. However, I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that I needed to do something that would make a difference in the world. Cue the entrance of my Greek advisors. I remember sitting with them, asking why fraternity and sorority members say they believe in something when our actions are far different. And they simply said, “Have you thought about advising?” My world changed, and I never looked back.

I didn’t become an advisor because Greek Week was awesome or because my sorority made cool shirts or because I wanted to help fraternities plan parties. I don’t have time for that. I became a fraternity and sorority advisor because we have work to do. A lot of it.

Fast forward five years, and you’ll find me at the University of Oregon where I have the privilege of working with a community that is willing to think. There are a couple key parts to this statement. First, my job is a privilege. I get to spend my days supporting and challenging students in their growth, and I’m lucky enough for those students to be members of an experience I deeply believe in. Second, the ability to think is crucial and often seems rare to locate. In lower levels of the college environments, students are taught to memorize facts. Hopefully by junior and senior year students have moved into the realm of contemplating and engaging their coursework. Often this is leading to shifts in beliefs or attitudes. The ability to think, ponder, wonder, dive deep into possibilities – that is what we often lack in the fraternity and sorority world. In so many unfortunate ways, our membership has taught us to respect tradition so highly that we’ve lost our ability to question it.

Now this is why I am a fraternity and sorority advisor! I have endless amounts of time to work with students, collegiate chapters, inter/national organizations, alumni and colleagues across the country who are ready and willing to engage in critical thinking about the fraternal experience. I would venture to guess most fraternity and sorority advisors feel this way. Survey advisors across the country about their daily activities. What you’ll find is most spend their time acting like emergency room doctors. Major injuries come in, the doctor stops the bleeding, fixes as much as possible and moves on to the next patient. The problem is that no one goes to the emergency room because they’re healthy. So if the majority of an advisor’s time is consumed in the emergency room, they are rarely able to leave the hospital and encourage people to stay healthy. What I’m saying is that if the dysfunction in our fraternity and sorority communities takes nearly all of an advisor’s time to deal with, there’s nothing preventing the high performing chapters from falling among the rest. We need to spend more time among the healthy encouraging them to prosper than fixing the wounds of chapters that live high risk lifestyles. We simply don’t have the time for that.

Earlier I said I became an advisor because we have work to do. So let’s get working! As undergraduates, alumni, headquarters staff and campus-based professionals, it’s time for us to start asking some tough questions. What do we want this experience to be? What purpose can we serve? How can we change the world? It’s not always about how we were founded – it’s hard to make a personal connection to our founders when some of them lived over 200 years ago. It’s about exploring what fraternity could be in light of tomorrow’s student. Easier said than done, and I don’t have a solution. What I do know though, is we have an opportunity to engage undergraduates in a critical conversation about what they’re experiencing. I don’t think we give enough credit to the abilities and brilliance of today’s student to move mountains when given the chance. We also have the opportunity to engage an incredibly optimistic population in the world of possibility. What if fraternities and sororities could ____? Let’s let our undergraduates fill in the blank and then help them realize the potential. It’s time to “live with a healthy disregard for the impossible.”

We don’t have time to talk about parties anymore. And we certainly don’t have time to “do things as they’ve always been done.” But we have endless amounts of time to create something new and like a phoenix, to rise from the ashes a reborn and meaningful experience. I became a fraternity and sorority advisor to engage in the conversation, so let’s do work!

Annie Carlson serves as the Fraternity and Sorority Advisor at the University of Oregon. A 2007 graduate of the University of Illinois, Annie went on to receive her master’s degree in higher education from Florida State University in 2009. Annie volunteers for the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors, Oregon Women in Higher Education, the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators and Beta Theta Pi Fraternity. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with friends, traveling (A LOT!) and hunting down the perfect glass of red wine.