It wasn’t all that long ago when I was getting ready to attend my first national event. I was a bright-eyed sophomore who already knew everything, or so I thought. For anonymity sake, I’ll leave my organization and name of the event out (although, it won’t be hard to search for my letters). My first event was a leadership school hosted in the town headquarters is located. Me and a few of my pledge brothers made the 8 or so hour drive up to the quaint little town in Virginia (narrowing it down further). The drive itself was one of the best parts of the trip. It was another opportunity to bond with brothers. But that’s another story.
Arriving at the check in location, we felt like we were heading behind enemy lines. After all, we were coming from a single letter chapter willingly to visit “nationals”. Please, this can’t be worth it. “They” don’t know what it means to be from our chapter. We we’re a well-oiled machine (again, so we thought). There isn’t anything we need to learn or do better. Let’s just do our best to get through this week unnoticed and get home.
We’re given our name tags, asked to meet in an auditorium to review the rules (yes, there are rules) and learn the objectives for the week. Then we split up into preassigned groups with brothers from all different chapters. We spent the next few days working in these groups on an assignment and submitted a project to be judged. The project itself was actually a lot of work. It was hard to think I signed up for this on my own. Not at all what I thought I was getting into when the president of the chapter asked for volunteers early in the spring semester. Okay, here we go.
We worked within our groups for a few hours in the morning, followed by programing and speakers, lunch followed by more work with our groups. One day, we even participated in a community service project. They were certainly long days. At the end of each night, chapter brothers and I got together and compared notes. We couldn’t believe how we were actually enjoying ourselves, learning from brothers and thinking of how we could use this information at our chapter.
I wish I could go back to that bright eyed sophomore, and tell him what’s to come. Maybe I could’ve gotten even more out of the week. If I could, this is what I might say:
- The national office puts in a lot of work to make these leadership schools happen– Be respectful and appreciative. Believe it or not, they’re not the enemy. Good facetime could help you in the long run.
- Enjoy yourself – it’s not often you’re surrounded by fraternity brothers from all different parts of the country. Embrace it. You’ll meet brothers who are quite different than you, but you’ll see, they’re still your brother.
- Make connections – Go out of your way to make connections with your brothers, especially those in your region. I know as an officer, I would’ve enjoyed to have a contact from another chapter to bounce thoughts off of when dealing with a difficult situation in my own chapter.
- Keep an open mind – You’re going to need it. You can actually learn from this week’s programming. Your chapter has some of the same issues as other chapters.
Would I go back if given the opportunity? Absolutely. I enjoyed actually learning something, spending time with brothers from across the country and putting in some good facetime with national headquarters staff. Who knew that I would be working in the position that I am today? Just last week, I was with that same headquarters staff ensuring our company was meeting their needs.
Take a leap. Sign up for your fraternity’s next leadership school/seminar, but get ready to learn, grow and become an even better fraternity man.
Mathew Tooker, Director of Chapter Sales
800.276.6342, Ext. 1168