Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Yesterday as I returned to the house after my morning run, I came across a friendly looking older gentlemen on the front porch clearly waiting to get let in. I introduce myself even though I'm dripping sweat and breathing heavy. He introduces himself as "Dr. Chuck" and tells me he's from Baton Rouge, LA and was in Little Rock for his 50 year med school reunion, and he figured he'd stop by to see the renovated house which he donated money to. Right off the bat he wanted to find his composite, which luckily was right in the main room. He began to tell me the backgrounds of every man in the composite and you could see the viable smile on his face. He assured me that I didn't need to stay with him and that I could go shower. Luckily Afshar was in the dining room and was quickly able to take my place as host.

Later in the Day I met with Ashley Tull the Senior Associate Dean of Students. He made a very clear observation that the chapters with the strongest alumni support are the most successful on campus. The same is true for the opposite. We also went on to discuss the connection between Greek Life and donations to the University. What is it that makes Greek alumni feel so much more connected to the campus? In a conversation with CAB chairmen Matt Durrett, he put it bluntly: "You don't see old guys from the 4th floor of Pomfret (Residence Hall) having a reunion every year". He went on to explain that his pledge class has reunions every year and they still reminisce about they good memories they had not only at Phi Delta Theta, but at the University of Arkansas.
So next time you see an alumni peering into the windows, don't look at him like a leper. Greet him with a wide smile and a firm handshake. Take the time to listen to his stories and laugh at his jokes. Keep them connected to both the chapter and the university, Because one day in the not so distant future, that's going to be you.

Photo 1:Michigan Alpha Christmas in 1979 - Courtesy of Tom Horlacher
Photo 2: Michigan Alpha Founders Day 2010 - Courtesy of Greg Karmazin

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Week 1

So I've been in the beautiful city of Fayetteville for almost a week now. I've spent my time meeting with the colony members, PNMs, and campus leaders. I've always been fascinated by how Greek Communities differ between campuses. Below are a couple interesting facts I've found:

- Chapters down here are HUGE. Sorority rush just finished up and almost all of the the chapters have over 100 new members. The largest fraternity, Kappa Sigma, is well over 200 men.

- However, the reason for that is they have fewer chapters. Arkansas has 13 IFC chapters and 8 NPC sororities as opposed to 31 fraternities and 16 sororities at Michigan

- Fraternities down here actually have "formal rush" similar to sororities. Groups of PNM's are lead from chapter house to chapter house and as the rounds press on, more and more people are cut.

- At the end of fraternity recruitment, PNM's pick up an envelope with only one bid in it based on mutual selection

- Much of fraternity recruitment is done over the summer. Chapters hold large events in large feeder areas (Fort Smith, Little Rock and Dallas). Some guys are committed to joining before they even step onto campus.

- The alumni support for our colony is incredible. There is a group of local alumni that attend every colony meeting. Its unlike anything I've experienced. I also have a meeting with Skip Rutherford, who is the Dean of the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock.

- Having a house owned by the University is an interesting situation. We have a Graduate Assistant that acts like an RA, minus the "community programming". Also during move-in I had to fill out the same kinds of forms I did when I first moved into Bursley.

- The amount of guys who know coming into school that they want to rush is much higher than I'm used to.

- Girls planning on rushing actually move-in early and rush takes place the week before classes start. The girls know where they got bids to before they go to their first class. I think this makes a lot of sense as opposed to monopolizing the first 2.5 weeks of class.

Just thought some of you might like to know. Comments Welcome

Monday, August 23, 2010

RIP Gabe

So this morning I got news that one of close friends, Gabe, had committed suicide back in his home country of Sweden. Details are scarce and this time but the news hit me pretty hard as we were co-counselors for weeks at a time. It inspired me to write this post, not only as a memorial to him, but as a reminder for everyone else.

Gabe was a teenager when he took the long journey from Sweden all the way to Oscoda Michigan. At that point his English wasn't perfect, somewhat broken in fact, but his attitude and enthusiasm made him an instant favorite among the staff.

His hobbies included aggressive skating, making techno music and gymnastics. He brought the same passion from these activities and brought them to job of Camp Counselor. He inspired group after group of Metro Detroit youth with his infectious smile and playful demeanor. We grew very close throughout the summer as we learned about each others lives and cultures.

After camp ended, we parted ways promising to keep in touch. We did for a short while, and then the twists and turns of life made keeping in contact an afterthought. I haven't spoken to him in close to two years, and now I won't have the chance to.

I challenge each and every one of you to reach out to someone who you haven't spoken to in a long time. This could be anyone from a family member to an old high school friend, because you never know when you'll no longer have the chance.

""They stay in our lives for awhile, leave footprints in our hearts, and we are never, ever the same again. "

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Fayetteville First Impressions

So I finally arrived in Fayetteville after my two six-hour drives from Oxford, OH to Arkansas. The drive itself was pretty uninteresting. I scanned for radio stations the entire trip. The highlight was driving right next to the St. Louis Arch.

Upon arriving at the house, one of the first people I met was Mar Teze, the Greek graduate assistant that lives in the house; he functions like an RA. He's working on his doctorate in Higher Ed and was an Alpha Phi Alpha advisor for a couple years before coming here.

I moved everything I own into my new room, which is roughly the size of a dorm room. Luckily my room would normally be a double, so I have two of everything, including two beds pushed together. Right now I have the entire hall to myself, but eventually freshmen who accept bids will be moving in around me. It'll be exciting to actually have people around me.

The most rewarding part so far has been getting to know the guys in the house. The first night I went out to dinner with two of the officers and they gave me the low-down on how things used to be in the chapter. In addition to that, a lot of the guys have stopped by my room to introduce themselves and just hang out.

We have our first Colony meeting monday night, and I have a lot of preparing to do to make sure the year gets started on the right foot.

And for those of you who missed it, here's my video of my trip down: here

High: Finally getting all moved in
Low: Trying to run around Fayetteville = mountains

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Calm Before The Storm

So this past month has flown by. Tomorrow the staff is heading to Purdue for a training visit. I'll be returning with a few others Tuesday night, spend Wednesday morning packing my materials and hitting the road to Fayetteville Arkansas. I plan on stopping for the night to stay with one of my chapter brothers in St. Louis. In total, the drive is going to take about 12 hours.

I'm excited to get down there. We've been training non-stop since I got here on July 5th, and we really tightened the screws this week to get everyone ready to hit the road. It reminds me of my time playing high school football. As a linemen, we practiced hours a day for weeks hitting the same people over and over again. We would do the same drills, same film sessions and same simulations until finally we were able to go out on that first Friday night under the lights and had the privilege of finally taking it out on someone in different colored jersey.

That's how I feel now. We've done training, case studies, practice presentations, tests, pop quizes, conferences, risk management training.... You name it and we've probably been exposed to it. We as consultants can only pretend to be helping people for so long, finally we get a chance to go out and make a difference with real people and real chapters. The most exciting part is that I know eventually there's going to be a curve ball, something we didn't train for.

Its going to be an adventure. My hope is that I can stay connected to everyone I care about despite being 12+ hours away. Write me emails, comment on my blog, even send me letters/packages. Any small act will be greatly appreciated. I've already learned how difficult keeping friendships together can be.

For those that missed it, here's my short ELI video I created:

High: Getting ready for a new chapter in my life
Low: Packing up my life for the second time in just over a month

Monday, August 9, 2010

Buck Up

A week ago today we were wrapping up the Emerging Leaders Institute, which is our largest undergraduate leadership conference with close to 400 participants. We as a staff logged incredible hours over the 5 day affair. After one of the days I was unable to spell my name backwards and had no idea what day it was. After we finished on Tuesday morning, the consultants had the rest of the day off, and needless to say we slept most of the day.

At points during the weekend it was really hard to keep a positive attitude, or even fake a smile if things were rough. I found myself constantly asking if all the work we were putting in was worth it. The weeks of preparation and the 20+ hours a day were mentally and physically draining.

It was not until today, almost a week later, that I found my answer. I was given the tedious task of typing the six written responses of roughly 200 evaluations from the conference. What started as mind numbing quickly became incredibly rewarding. The responses people wrote were truly inspiring. I got to physically read how much we inspired another person, and you could feel the excitement jump off the page.

Here are some of the responses (emphasis mine):
-"If I knew then what I knew now, I would kill to go ELI"
-"Going from being nervous about the conference to not wanting to leave. I learned so much and have met many new brothers. I am rededicated and refocused to being a leader"
-"I would love to come back, but I would love for another Brother to have the opportunity to experience this! Thank You!"
"Overall I found this to be a great experience in growing in the spirit of Phi Delta Theta."
-"Fantastic. All new initiates should be required to attend."

It reminds me a lot of the Starfish Story. While the conference itself was huge drain on myself and everyone on staff, I lost track of individual victories being scored in every chapter meeting, every general session and every educational session. Reading those comments was probably the most rewarding part about being on staff so far.

High: Spending the weekend with Christie - including King's Island and Rascal Flatts
Low: Having to come back to reality Monday morning.