I don’t want you to join a fraternity (or sorority).

I don’t want you to join a fraternity or sorority.

If you’re reading this and you’re not already affiliated with a fraternity or sorority, please know that you’ve probably made the right decision. While I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the fraternity experience has done wonders for me, I want you to know what you’d be getting yourself into. The years of bickering and arguing about the importance of “traditions.” The mandatory events and meetings conveniently scheduled to overtake half of your week. The expenses that somehow seem to rise exponentially each semester. Seriously, if these things sound daunting to you then you shouldn’t join a fraternity or sorority.

Sure, you could make lifelong friends. But is it worth the effort? You’d have to actually take out your earbuds, stop snapchatting your high school friends, and put your phone away to engage in a good conversation with a fraternity man or sorority woman. That is probably too hard for you. It is so much easier to blend into the crowd, have one or two buddies you’ll meet in your residence hall, and throw back some Natty Light with them until graduation. There’s really no need to step outside of your comfort zone, meet new and diverse people, and bond over shared values and beliefs. You’d be much better off staying out of the Greek system, sticking with your old friends and old habits.

If you were to join, you’d have even more opportunities to excel scholastically. But do you want to try that hard? Who needs the support of other students who have experienced the same classes, professors, and programs? I have been out of school a while, but I bet that ratemyprofessor.com still has the same benefit for way less money. If you fall behind in a class or have a rough semester, you’d be able to get along just fine without a fraternity or sorority to provide support. One meeting with an academic advisor and a quick skim of a BuzzFeed article on study skills will have you on your way to a 4.0 before you know it! Honestly, I know too many members of fraternities and sororities who have failed out of school because they decided to major in drinking, drugs, and one-night-stands instead of keeping focus in their major. It would be too much work for you to balance your social schedule and your academics. Who came to college for a challenge?

Of course the skills you’ll gain as a leader could be useful someday. But wouldn’t you rather find other ways to beef up your résumé? There’s plenty of other ways to build leadership experience. Why pick a one-stop shop for leadership opportunities with access to amazing nationally-recognized programs when you can pick up a few books or maybe join a student organization or two? Never mind that most fraternity and sorority members are encouraged (or required) to join another student organization. You don’t need anyone telling you what to do. College isn’t about rules or accountability, and there will be plenty of time to develop leadership skills later.

A benefit of being part of a fraternity or sorority is definitely being able to give back to important causes. But don’t you have your own expenses to take care of? College is expensive. Your bills could include rent, groceries, cell phone, utilities, beer, car insurance, gas, clothes, and spring break. Would you even want to try to give ten extra bucks to help find a cure for cancer? And who wants to give up precious weekend hours for community service? Someone else can build that Habitat home. Obviously you don’t need to even be in a fraternity or sorority to perform service or philanthropy. Plenty of college students do it. But I’m sure you’ve got other things on your plate.

If I’m being blunt, here’s why I really don’t want you to join a fraternity or sorority: I’ve worked too hard to let someone like you be part of the problem. We’ve got enough members who decide to quit two years after they’ve taken their “lifelong” oath, or who join for the toga parties and “funny” hazing. I don’t want you to join if you’re not willing to be part of the solution.

What solution am I talking about? I’m not talking about values congruence, which is a term we’ve coined to describe an expectation that today’s college students sit around and discuss ways to make values statements from the 1800s applicable today. Instead, I’m talking about just being a decent and responsible adult and student. That means wanting to build new friendships and striving to be the brightest student in the classroom. It also means wanting to challenge yourself to be a better leader on campus and in your community. This is a lifestyle your fraternity or sorority expects you to adopt for more than just the four or five years you’re in college. We want you to be a change agent. We want you to redefine the way the world views North American college fraternities and sororities. Can’t commit? Then I wish you luck. I don’t want you to join a fraternity.

 

Not Just Another Month

When the calendar rolled over to May this year, I knew I’d be spending more than a few nights away from my pillow. For months I had been committed to facilitate both the campus session of LeaderShape for Central Michigan University and The Journey: Delta Sigma Phi. While I anticipated the typical facilitator experiences – meeting new friends, creating new memories, and developing new methods to avoid camp food – in no way was I prepared for the amount of personal growth and learning I was about to experience for myself.

I was also unprepared for how hard it would be to have no pizza.
I was also unprepared for how hard it would be to have no pizza.

Saying yes to LeaderShape was a no-brainer. After serving as the Program Coordinator for last year’s AFLV West Coast session at UCLA, I had been dying to dive into the curriculum to connect deeply with my own group of students. Not only did LeaderShape provide me the chance to facilitate an eye-opening and life-changing experience for the students I encountered, it helped open my eyes to my passion for higher education and student leader development.

Challenging students to discover their vision was a highlight of the week.
Challenging students to discover their vision was a highlight of the week.

I could probably fill pages about what I learned from each of the individuals I encountered that week, but a quick summary will have to do. The importance of discovering your vision early in life can help shape the direction of where you’re headed. LeaderShape is designed to help students identify their core values and to create a vision that will aid in making the world a just, caring, and thriving place. Admittedly, I was skeptical of the program’s ability to accomplish visioning work for a group of students who attend the “number seven sexiest party school in the country“. Fortunately I couldn’t have been more wrong.

What if bullying didn’t exist? What if all young girls felt beautiful and confident in their own skin? What if no children had cancer? These questions and more were considered by members of my “cluster family”, The Calypso Cluster. Their visions for the future were nothing short of inspiring, and I feel incredibly blessed for the chance to have coached them through their visioning process. They taught me so much about myself, and I’m happy that my sarcastic disposition didn’t scare them off too much.

I'll never watch The Wolf of Wall Street and not think of these crazy kids.
I’ll never watch The Wolf of Wall Street and not think of these crazy kids.

The work connecting with the curriculum was special, but what was equally as important for me that week was building friendships with the rest of the staff team. I learned so much from our co-leads Dana and Sam, and feel that I found true friends in Mike, Kiki, Jazz, and Jon. I remain inspired by our on-site coordinators Lydia and Dan who are quiet leaders that impact and influence their peers through their daily actions. Picking up my friendship with Jesi right where we left off a few years ago was also a highlight of the trip, and I am incredibly impressed with the work both she and Dan Gaken are doing with the Central Michigan University Leadership Institute.

Just a few of the greatest people you'll ever meet.
Just a few of the greatest people you’ll ever meet.

As if LeaderShape wasn’t enough of a boost for the month, somehow I was also given the incredible opportunity to co-lead The Journey: Delta Sigma Phi to Honduras last week. There aren’t really words to describe how this experience challenged and changed the 16 of us who made the journey to Central America, but I’ll try to explain our adventure for eager readers.

Landing in San Pedro Sula, it was immediately clear that the language barrier was real. Fortunately for Delta Sig, one of our undergraduate members spoke Spanish fluently and was an incredible asset as we worked to build community with those around us. Through daily service, nighttime discussions, and cultural experiences, our group embarked on a journey that would open our eyes to many things we rarely, if ever, think about.

We spent the week with views like these.
Day One: Both brothers and strangers

The most impactful part of the week for me was discovering the difference between wants and needs. Prior to the trip I would have said that in order to live, I need electricity, running water, a kitchen, air conditioning, and wifi in whatever home I chose to live in. To me these are essentials, and I could not imagine living without them. After spending a week building a house with only four wooden walls and a tin roof for a single father, my perspective has changed. Yes, I will hopefully always live in a home with nice amenities. However, I am much more aware of my privilege to hold a job that supports my ability to live in a home that cool in the summer, warm in the winter, and provides hot showers.

The House Delta Sigma Phi helped to build
Day Five: The house Delta Sigma Phi helped to build

Another huge takeaway from the week was just how happy the Hondurans were. My expectation coming in was to find people living in poor conditions who were hoping to find their golden ticket out of poverty. Instead, I was shocked to find people who have very few physical possessions yet some of the most positive dispositions I’ve ever encountered.

One of the students on the trip made a great observation that in the United States it seems like the more you have, the more you want. You get an iPhone 5 and a year later wish you could have the 5S. You buy a new car, but still wish you had a bigger TV. In Honduras, the things that matter most are family and God. They’re not out for material possessions or big promotions. Instead they’re about supporting each other and building a strong community.

Fernando was everyone' favorite friend. Watching him scale a 30 foot palm tree to get us coconuts was awesome.
Fernando was everyone’s favorite friend. Watching him scale a 30 foot palm tree to get us coconuts was awesome.

To say this experience was humbling is an understatement. I met the most incredible and beautiful children who helped us complete our house construction. I hiked down a gorgeous river and planted trees on the side of a mountain in the jungle. I ate fruit fresh off the tree and attended church service in a foreign language. I zip-lined over and climbed under the most breathtaking waterfall I could ever imagine. I survived on cliff bars, goldfish, and applesauce for six days. And I’m not the same person I was when I left.

Pictures of this waterfall could never do it justice.
Pictures of this waterfall could never do it justice.

I wish that programs like LeaderShape and The Journey could be experienced by everyone. There’s much to be gained through the visioning work and tough conversations facilitated by LeaderShape, and so much possibility for a new outlook on the world through cultural immersion programs like The Journey. I find myself wishing that my family members, college roommates, grad school cohort, and even casual acquaintances had access to the type of opportunities I had this May. I am fortunate to have had the chance to experience and facilitate each of these incredible programs, and am thankful to the students and fellow facilitators who helped provide me the chance to learn and grow.

The Post You’ve Been Waiting For

The secret’s out: I’m not a great long-distance friend.  Lots of folks have been promised updates of greater length than a text, Tweet, or SnapChat and I’ve chosen to take the easy way out with a one-size fits all blog post.  I know it may not be the promised phone call, but I hope you enjoy!

If you’re way out of the loop, then you need to know that I finished up my Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration at Ball State University last July.  Just before graduation I made the move from Michigan via Indiana to Fort Collins, CO.  Never in my life had I ever considered Colorado as a potential landing spot for my first post- grad school job, but I was lucky enough to be in a right-time, right-place scenario.

Little did I know how much "fun" I'd have driving this thing.
Little did I know how much “fun” I’d have driving this thing.

Working with non-profit association volunteers and events, I have almost been with Synergos, AMC for a year.  Currently I work heavily with the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors and the Association of Fraternal Leadership & Values to engage both college students and professionals as a part of their Association membership.  Since starting last July, I’ve been fortunate to work with an excellent team with our company’s staff in the office and our volunteers who are spread across North America.

While my skills in higher ed have been put to good use mentoring some undergraduate and graduate interns at our annual conferences and providing thoughts to improve education in our  client programs, I’ve also developed skills in areas I hadn’t previously considered.  My job has helped me to become more adept at relationship development, gain experience with major events and programs, and create an understanding of the non-profit world.  I’ve also picked up fun tidbits along the way by sharpening my travel skills (I’m almost officially a Frequent Flyer), developing a general working knowledge of craft beer, and learning how to single-handedly buy $600 worth of groceries at an inner-city Wal-Mart.  If you’ve ever gotta do that last thing, consider asking for carry-out assistance and don’t bring a sedan.

This is what those groceries looked like.  Carried up a flight of stairs in the rain!
This is what those groceries looked like. Carried up a flight of stairs in the rain!

My job is great, but assimilating to life in Fort Collins hasn’t been the easiest transition.  Much of my initial struggle when moving here centered on my apartment: a 100-year-old and 300 square-foot studio apartment in a great location was unfortunately hindered by an extremely nearby (read: 20 feet from my bed) booming train and lack of working heat.  Without being able to get comfortable in my own space, I struggled to “buy-in” to my new community.  Fortunately luck worked in my favor this February when I found a less central but much larger space further from the train and closer to my comfort zone.  Moving to my new place has mostly been a blessing, but I’ve definitely discovered how quickly living on your own can add up… especially when you’re not in West Michigan.

I can’t say that I’m exceptionally “busy” here as I have been in the past, but I’ve fortunately made a few great friends and work with amazing colleagues who have helped to make Fort Collins feel like home.  If you don’t already know, making friends post-grad in a college town in your early twenties is tough and a constant work-in-progress.  For the first time in my life I didn’t walk into a classroom, living center, fraternity house, or cohort with insta-friends.  It has been a year of uncomfortable growth that’s pushed me farther than I once thought I could go, and I’m proud to say that I’m now at a place where I’m ok with my social life being in flux.

There are cool breweries to check out around here as evidenced by this tiny bike.
There are cool breweries to check out around here as evidenced by this tiny bike.

Lots of people like to ask “what’s new”, and it has become my dreaded question as my life seems relatively routine.  However, I’ve gotten to travel a lot in the last twelve months for both personal reasons and work.  I co-led a trip to New Orleans to serve Habitat For Humanity with 21 college students, supervised 35 graduate and undergraduate interns at three major association conferences in Indianapolis and Costa Mesa, re-engaged as a volunteer for Delta Sigma Phi’s Regional Leadership Academy in Santa Clara, and experienced the Northeast in February for the first time since high school.  I’ve been fortunate to travel home several times to visit with family and friends, and most recently was able to spend time with much of my family in North Dakota for my cousin’s high school graduation.  Also, I got to go to Disneyland!

Didn't meet Mickey though :(
Didn’t meet Mickey though :(

There’s a lot coming up this summer too.  In two weeks I’ll embark on a nine-day trip to Boston and Cape Cod where I’ll experience the area for the first time while being responsible for the planning of my first multi-day conference.  Immediately after that I’m returning back to Michigan to spend some much needed time on the lake with friends, and cruising the Westside to visit loved ones for the 4th of July weekend.  Later in July I’ll be at my first ever LeaderShape as the Program Coordinator at our session in UCLA, and I’ll be traveling home in August and September to participate in the wedding festivities of two close friends as their Best Man.  Clearly there is a lot to look forward to and a lot of busy weekends ahead!

I'm ready.
I’m ready.

Other random news: I’ve been marathoning lots of shows on Netflix, but I think my favorite will probably always stay Arrested Development.  I have now scored over 1,000,000 points in Tetris ten times over.  My new ride this year is a 2009 Ford Escape. Last Friday I went to my first TEDx event.  And, for some reason, I thought it was a good idea to get a season pass to a local theme/water park.

I already made Master Blaster status.
I already made Master Blaster status.

The door is always open in my train-free apartment for a visitor, so consider stopping on by.  Wishing all of my friends a safe, fun, and warm start to their summer!

Summertime

Summer has officially started!

I just finished an amazing weekend with my sister Rosie and our close friend Haley who chose to come visit me in Indiana.  We had a blast exploring Indianapolis and seeing the sights of Muncie (for real).  It was sad to have them leave this morning, but totally worth the awesome memories.  Image

Since summer started, things have been busy.  Right after classes ended I joined several members of my cohort on an immersion trip to Atlanta.  The trip gave us a chance to visit an array of colleges and universities in the city, including Georgia Tech, Morehouse, Agnes Scott, and Emory.  Our group had an absolute blast and it is a great way for me to spend time in a new city and build relationships with my colleagues.  Additionally I got to see my old friend from college Ashley as we did all of the touristy things that Atlanta has to offer.  Last week also started my new internship at Phi Kappa Theta fraternity.  My internship focuses on educational curriculum and assessment initiatives.  When I wrap up at Phi Kap in June and finish my assignments related to the Atlanta trip, I’ll officially have completed the requirements for my Master’s degree!

Boom.

This week my apartment search for my upcoming move is starting to ramp up.  I got my packing materials this week (a little early) from UHaul… so the only detail left to plan is where I’ll be driving to.  One thing I do know is that I’ll certainly be seeing this logo a lot more in the near future!

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