• Fraternity Recruitment
    Fraternity Recruitment Thoughts from the Expansion Department of Sigma Pi Fraternity, International

This month's blog may seem like more of a rambling, tangential collection of thoughts, but I promise there will be a point. (I think...)

It's the holiday season, and regardless of which religious affiliation you associate with, or your family background, everyone has a few similar motivations this season. Some relish the opportunity to see family and friends they haven't seen all year. Some enjoy the thrill of watching their loved ones open that one gift they really wanted this year, and some of us enjoy the thrill of being the one to open that gift. Whatever it is that gets you in the spirit of the holiday season, I think we can all agree that the season is better with company.

Which brings me to my first point: inclusivity. This feeling we all get when we go home for the holidays, or see our best friend from high school, or that relative who is always making funny jokes and slipping you some extra spending money behind your parents back, that feeling is probably best compared to belonging. We are there because we are MEANT to be there, with the people who matter the most to us. Now, let's translate that to a Univeristy context, since this is, after all, a fraternity blog. No matter your university, no matter your Greek system, no matter what type of school you are attending, I guarantee that there are more students than you can count on campus who haven't found their place to belong yet. They don't have that group of friends they couldn't live without yet. They don't have that home away from home. Wouldn't it be incredible if we took the time to get to know them and maybe give someone else the gift of fraternity? The gift of brotherhood and belonging?

My second lesson from this holiday season is this: awareness. As I'm currently sitting on a plane back to my hometown, I'm understandably very conscious of the fact that I have exactly 8 days in town to spend with family, see old friends, do some last minute shopping, hit every restaurant I haven't pigged out at in years, and celebrate Christmas with my extended family before I have to get on another plane. Time is precious, and to again attempt to transition this back into the fraternity context of this blog, our time in our chapters is precious as well. We often get caught up in the "it will get done soon" mentalities, or the "our exec couldn't get it done, so the next will have to start over" crutches. Make the most of your time as an undergraduate, because if you don't set that one standard, if you don't host that one service project, if you don't take the initiative to create positive change within your chapter, it may never happen.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, my last lesson is this: don't worry about what everyone else gets. Some of us will walk away with some new Beats by Dre headphones this season (though I can't for the life of me understand why anyone uses those bass amplifying ear dumpsters...) and some of us will get a book and a Starbucks gift card. Everyone's situation is different, and to allow your holiday spirit to be dictated by what someone else received and you didn't is missing the true point of the season, togetherness. Some of our chapters are small, some are very large, but for those of you in smaller or struggling chapters, never let anyone make you feel like your brotherhood and dedication to the ideals of Sigma Pi are less than that of someone else. Appreciate those around you, and be a good brother and citizen to everyone you meet, regardless of your situation. That's the real Sigma Pi holiday spirit.

It’s almost the Holiday Season everyone! While it’s clearly the most wonderful time of the year, it’s often followed by what can only be described as an absolute exodus of ¼ of your membership in the spring. I’m talking about that little switch that seems to go off in all of our seniors’ minds that says “Welp, guess my work here is done!” as they rather abruptly hand the chapter off to the rest of you.

The holiday season is all about spirit and a giving attitude, but it is also about setting goals for the upcoming year. So, let’s make a New Year’s Resolution this year to give our senior members a better reason to stick around and use their experience for the betterment of the chapter. But how do we do that?

A very simple way of keeping seniors involved, and one that my own chapter very enthusiastically practiced (oddly enough, beginning my senior year…) is the tradition of a Senior Specific Event. Ours was very crudely titled, Senior Weekend. The chapter appropriated a certain amount of every senior’s second semester dues to the event, with the remainder of the cost being covered by each of us. We set a date, and went to a golf resort for a weekend to spend time with the guys who we had spent four years building a brotherhood with. Talk about putting our senior dues to good use!

Another (somewhat more productive) way to keep your seniors involved is by doing just that; get them INVOLVED. Use the experience each senior has built up to better educate your new members. After all, it wouldn’t be too much work for most of your seniors to come into a new member education meeting each week and share some of the biggest lessons their last four years have taught them. Additionally, you might think about having one or two of your seniors serve on your standards board. Not only do they know what they’re doing, but they’ve seen it all before, and will probably command some welcome respect to the standards procedure in your chapter.

Let’s play the “what if” game for this last example and really think outside of the box. What if, your 1st Counselor spent a lot of his time in office contacting local alumni who work within a 50-mile radius of campus? Then, what if he coordinated a date in the spring that all of those alumni could come to campus for a few hours to advertise careers and internships in their field? THEN, what if you invited other nearby Sigma Pi chapters to attend this meeting and conducted it like any other campus job fair? BOOM, the Sigma Pi Job Fair just became your number one senior event, and you’ve found a way to not only keep them involved in the progress of your chapter, but you may have just given them a leg up in the professional world as well.

I don’t want to make it sound like every senior in the world is out of touch or indifferent about their chapter’s success come April or May. However, it’s all too common of a problem to see great members slip into an apathetic state, and that’s no way to end a great undergraduate experience in your fraternity. It’s clearly up to every senior to ultimately make the choice to stick around or not, but if you as a chapter can give them a good reason, I think you’ll be very pleased to see the results.

If, over the past few weeks, you’ve paid an ounce of attention to one of the countless screens you view on a day-to-day basis, you have no doubt caught wind of what is going on around the NFL this fall. In the course of three weeks, numerous allegations have come out regarding domestic abuse, child endangerment, and the accused players have been in the limelight more than the actual gameplay.

However disturbing some of these offenses may be, it’s the league’s (and more importantly, the teams’) handling of each situation that has begun to catch my eye, and the attention of critics across the country. To keep a very long and detailed story concise, no one has handled this situation responsibly. Instead, NFL owners, coaches, and even the commissioner himself, have been sucked into what ESPN radio host Mike Greenberg very accurately dubbed, a vacuum of leadership.

His reasoning resonated with me, both as a fraternity leader and as a citizen, that leadership is supposed to be about truly clearing a path for others to follow, and never being afraid to stand up for what you know is right, moral, and true. In their dancing back and forth decision making process over the last week, the leadership of several major NFL teams has been displayed for what it truly is; cowardice.

True leadership is not reliant on the approval or opinion of others. Leaders do not wait around to see what the rest of the world thinks before acting. Leaders do not sit and make excuses while waiting for someone else to make a decision for them. Leaders, in our world, in our community, and in our fraternity, know the difference between right and wrong long before public opinion has to tell them otherwise. Our leaders are not afraid to say, “I’m not comfortable condoning this,” or “This is what needs to be done.”

 So to the NFL teams that continue to wait on the rest of the world for the right call, I say this. Make a decision, and stick with it. Even a decision everyone dislikes is a more profound statement of leadership and direction than what is currently happening in this league.

To the members of our fraternity, pay attention. Every day, for the rest of your life, you will be tested. You will be challenged. Your morality will be put to trial, and I promise you, it will always be easier to take the easy way out. It will always be easier to let someone make decisions for you, and it will always feel more comfortable to do so. But by joining this organization, you swore to lead. You swore to stand up for your beliefs, and to create a better world around you. I have faith that our generation can show the rest of the world that despite a lack of true leadership in our most popular sport, the young men who make a difference every day on college campuses across the country know what it really means to pave the way for everyone else.

Take this to heart brothers, and challenge yourselves to make a difference today. You alone control the impact you can have on this world. 

A few weeks ago, I had the unique opportunity to hand the undergraduate members of my chapter the Grand Sage’s Cup, the highest award given to a chapter of Sigma Pi. Now, having spent some time enjoying this amazing experience, and relishing the overwhelming feeling of knowing my chapter has officially “made it,” I’ve been able to take a way a few things that hadn’t immediately been clear to me.

  1. Just because it’s not “my” success, doesn’t mean it’s not a success
    I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little jealous at first. I worked hard for my chapter. I wanted to see this happen when I was able to celebrate with all my pledge brothers and those who recruited me. My initial thought was, “why couldn’t that have been us?” But after having my selfish moment, I realized what an amazing thing had really happened. I was recruited by some of the best. We continued to recruit some of the best, who went on to become the best. This was a win for everyone who has ever been involved in our chapter, because in one way or another, we all played a part, and the feeling those undergraduates now have is something no one will ever be able to take away from them.
  2. Success is a journey, not a destination.
    This wasn’t a one-off thing. Looking back two years, we walked away from convocation with a Grand Council award. Looking back 4 years, we did the same, and the same 2 years before that. True success isn’t something that just happens, it takes work, and the continued dedication to being better tomorrow than you were today. Some of our best chapters lose hope when they don’t immediately see the results of their effort, but if they continued to work hard, dedicate their efforts to continued success and triumph, and keep the work of success in mind, not the end goal, they might be surprised how much that comes back to them in dividends down the road. (Not to mention how much easier running their chapter would be!)
  3. There are now two very important responsibilities to my chapter.
    First, the undergraduates now have the responsibility to be better. I know that sounds foolish, considering the hardware they just walked away with, but like I just said, it’s a journey, not a destination. The Bulls didn’t stop playing basketball in the 90’s just because they finally walked away with the title. They won it again. And again. And three more times again. It took continual hard work, struggle, difficult decisions, and team effort to put six trophies in the United Center. (Hopefully seven, come on D-Rose…) Second, we as alumni have the responsibility to challenge our undergraduates, and keep them focused on the right things. We, who have now seen our tough losses and our sweet victories, need to work with our undergraduates and remind them just how fine the line between good and great can be.

So what does this mean for Expansion, since this is supposed to be an expansion-related blog at it’s core. We begin new groups every year, and put groups of new people together to try to accomplish something great on their campus and in their community. Many of those members may never see the true result of their hard work. That philanthropy you organized might not become a huge success until the group’s third year. Your colony might not charter until after you graduate. But in reality, none of that should matter. Rewards are an inevitable outcome of success. You as colony members should remember this, and remember how I feel right now. I didn’t get to win my trophy. I didn’t get to come home and tell everyone that we won. But the victory is still just as sweet as an alumna, knowing that I helped to build something that will never be torn down. 

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About Ryan Armstrong

Ryan Armstrong

Ryan Armstrong serves as Director of Expansion of Sigma Pi Fraternity, International. Founded in 1897, Sigma Pi Fraternity is the leading, international men's collegiate fraternal organization which provides training, guidance and innovative opportunities for Leadership Development, Social and Personal Development, Academic Achievement, Community Service and Heightened Moral Awareness for its brothers throughout their lives.

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