Students run fraternities. They recruit the members, put the work into our good statistics, and ultimately own our future. That ownership is not represented in fraternity leadership.
Most fraternity governing boards consist of men several generations removed from the college experience. More and more decisions are made by a professional class of fraternity men and women.
In “Good Profit,” Charles Koch (disliked by many and also great at business) emphasizes the value of “decision rights.” The basic idea is that those best suited to address a problem are often those involved most directly with it. A factory manager will offer insights which may otherwise go unnoticed by far-removed executives.
Fraternities suffer by relying too heavily on the men and women at their central offices in Indianapolis (mostly).
“What Are Our Members Thinking?”
Assessment is the name of the game, and tying a survey and statistics to a press release is automatic clout nowadays. That being said, we should not be so eager to trust all data. Surveys and data are very easily organized in a way to affirm whatever an interest wishes to be true.
That should not be a surprise: We are going to ask about the things we pay attention to. But, it is an ineffective way to gather a pulse on an organization or community. It is most noticeable when the same groups which provide assessments offer solutions tailored to those expected outcomes.
The problem is that fraternity leaders create a feedback loop where they search for specific evidence to justify specific responses. Once again, special interests guide the direction of fraternity organizations more than their students.
How Else Can We Learn What Members Are Thinking?
Ask. I would often receive comments and critiques from members while working at my fraternity’s headquarters. It becomes easy; however, to dismiss those comments as ramblings from members who do not know any better. Organizations seem hell bent on hearing the same things they always hear, but instead through filtered results from a survey they paid thousands to conduct.
There are two simple ways to understand the true needs of members. By “true needs” I mean the way Apple understood our need for iTunes before consumers did. The first is to better involve your leadership in the lives of your members. Fraternities do this, to an extent, but the reach is limited by the tiny teams employed by most organizations.
The second option is to better organize decision rights. That means giving students greater ownership and responsibility.
Why Hire Students?
Many of our students are bright and working through college. Many of the processes handled by the central offices of fraternities and sororities are not location-dependent. That means that they do not require staff to be wherever the office is.
Hiring a team of students positioned throughout the country offers a growth opportunity for some members and a better-informed central office staff.
A thought: Hire a small team of students to keep up with chapters on their accreditation packet submissions, program registration progress, or filing paperwork throughout the year. Hire a team of students to keep tabs on the chapters in their area and to gather feedback. Hire a team of students to follow up on consultant visits (which should be canned anyway).
A Proven Concept
Fraternities change with the generations. Many years ago, volunteers handled the work of consultants and central offices approved all members prior to initiation. Today, organizations like the Southeastern Interfraternity Conference (SEIFC) rely on students for much of what I listed above. SEIFC officers recruit area Inter-Fraternity Councils (IFC) to attend their program. The student members also have a say in the direction of the event’s educational programming.
If your concern is that a student will not have time, tell that to their current part-time employer. There are opportunities for conflicts of interest to affect their work, but those conflicts do not dissipate with age.
Students help billing and apparel organizations connect with their peers. Why not their own fraternity leadership and staff?
Hiring students for part-time work builds a pipeline of potential employees for the central office. Students can work for scholarship grants to cover the cost of their tuition. Any training provided serves as an excellent and unique professional development opportunity.
More important than all of this is the re-investment of dues money and attention back into student members. This is greater than a student advisory council or student members of an alumni-dominated board – both of which are wasteful ways of paying lip service to voting members.
Hiring students provides an opportunity to get unfiltered feedback from our member populations and can benefit the quality of work we do.
We are all told that joining a fraternity or sorority will create opportunities. Adding a fraternity membership or officer position to a résumé; however, can be intimidating. As someone who worked for a fraternity national office for almost six years, I understand the challenge of selling a fraternity experience to an under-informed audience.
Explaining what you did for your fraternity chapter should not be hard. The same should be said for those working for a fraternity or sorority central office. Unfortunately, our esoteric language makes that sales pitch a little more difficult. What the hell is a recruiter supposed to get from seeing that you were an Archon, for example?
Provided below are several tips to better sell your fraternity experience on your résumé, LinkedIn profile, and during interviews.
1. Try Starting With The Title
Most whose advise others on résumé-building suggest that you start with the organization, then list your position. Consider switching that around when it comes to your extra-curricular activities. Cater this to the job for which you are applying.
If, for example, you know that the person leading the hiring effort is a fraternity man or woman, then you can stick with the standard format. Otherwise, try listing your positions before the name of the organization.
There are some universal expectations we have of those who serve as “President” of an organization. You want recruiters to know your skill sets, then to look into where those skill sets came into play. Try:
“Position – Fraternity Name – Time Period”
2. Use Bold Lettering To Format Without The Clutter
Okay so an employer will now see that you were a “President” in 2015, but let’s draw even more attention away from your scary fraternity or sorority name: bold the title to highlight your attributes.
Your résumé should be no longer than one page if you are a recent graduate. Reviewers spend 1-2 seconds scanning your résumé to determine if they want to read it, so there needs to be a way to draw attention to where it’s needed.
Use this as an organizational tool in the same way you’d use bullet points, numbers, or indentations. We want this to guide a reviewer to relevant information, not to be used as a cheap gimmick like glitter to make you seem special.
President – 2015 – Delta Sigma Phi
President – 2015 – Delta Sigma Phi
Using bold lettering in this way creates a miniature set of “headlines” to guide reviewers through your résumé. It will also maximize the space you have available.
3. Use Numbers & Accomplishments, Not Job Descriptions
In an ideal world you contribute greatly to your organization. It is a typical practice to list several bullet points under each leadership position or job title. Don’t let that space go to waste.
Rather than list a bunch of things that all chapter treasurers do (made an annual budget, managed $10,000), talk about what you did differently.
For example, while I was President, my Treasurer and I closed a $18,000 budget shortfall in four months. The statistic is a part of a greater story. Stories make for more enjoyable conversations and are easier to recall than basic job descriptions. You want each of your bullet points to inspire questions from the reviewer. Generate some curiosity around your accomplishments.
Talk about the new program you built, how much more money you raised than before, how you cut expenses or how more of your members became involved. Use numbers and percentages.
4. Speak Human
No one knows what “Sergeant at Arms” means. It’s okay to replace it with a word that fits a non-member’s vocabulary.
Pretend your fraternity or sorority is a credit card company; use only the terms a credit card company employee would use. Call your brothers members, call your chapter an organization, and call a philanthropy event a charity fundraiser. Wrap “ritual” in with “brotherhood,” and call that “team-building” instead of brotherhood. There are very many employers looking for team-players and people with facilitation experience.
5. Link To LinkedIn
Be sure to include the web address to your LinkedIn profile somewhere on your résumé. You may even want to include a QR code if it fits the type of employer you’re interested in working for. If you are submitting your résumé as a PDF then be sure to create a hyperlink so that recruiters can easily click to your LinkedIn page.
This is important, because LinkedIn offers an opportunity to expand what you list on your résumé in ways I will explain below. You want recruiters who are interested in you to have an opportunity to learn more.
6. Build Off Of Your Résumé
Your résumé is a snapshot of your professional potential. Use your LinkedIn account as an extended portfolio of your work. You can import your résumé directly in to your LinkedIn profile. Just make sure to edit it as the formatting may result in some fishiness.
A great feature about LinkedIn is being able to link to your work underneath any job. For example: While working for my fraternity I created a proposal we would use to pitch ourselves to campuses. I also created a brief video highlighting our partnership with the American Red Cross. Both of these are linked under that position.
Whether its a senior research project or a video from a philanthropy event you put together, link it to the respective position. This gives recruiters and the generally curious a chance to look into what you’ve done and see your work first hand.
7. Get Skills Listed & Referrals
You can apply for many jobs on LinkedIn, and many will have a set of skills listed. These skills operate like hashtags for recruiters, and LinkedIn allows you to list your skills and for others to “endorse” them. Look through relevant job applications, see what are listed as the “top skills” required for a position, and add them to your profile (if they fit).
Help your chapter brothers do the same. Whenever possible, get friends and colleagues to endorse you for your skills. You can organize them on your profile so that those most relevant to the work you are seeking appear first (and are more likely to be seen and endorsed by others).
Consider reaching out to professors, employers, and colleagues (including fraternity officers) to write a referral on LinkedIn.
8. Share & Join
Join groups related to your professional interest. Establish groups related to your interest. Some fraternities have different groups for different professions. These are easy ways to connect with brothers who work in your field of interest.
You can also follow hashtags on LinkedIn. If you want to work for a financial technology company, follow #FinTech. Share whichever posts you find are relevant and which may be related to work you’ve done or things you have studied.
A great thing about LinkedIn is that the conversations happening are mostly professional. You may encounter a recruiter or engage with someone who wants to work with you. Create those opportunities for yourself by sharing and commenting as naturally as you would on Facebook or Instagram.
I will not number these off, but connecting your fraternity experience to your future job will do you well in an interview. Review your résumé and jot down some key points you want to hit on if you are asked about your fraternity experience. Keep these at the top or bottom of a notepad you bring to the interview.
You can search any number of “interview tips” posts online, and many suggest you keep notes and ask good questions. Highlight the fact that your fraternity encouraged you to try new things, to collaborate with a variety of people, and to give you the opportunity to learn from failure.
Those are common experiences for most of us who pursue leadership roles in fraternities. Just make sure you are honest. There is nothing worse for your prospects than getting caught in a lie.
Over the course of five minutes I went from business hopeful to business applicant. Then, within 36 hours of filing, I was approved by the state of Indiana to do business. Compare that to my time working for a fraternity: While director of a fraternity growth operation, I courted students and campus professionals for months or years. Eventually, they would casually suggest that they were “open” for expansion.
In many cases, I would send a package of promotional material and perform a one or two day “exploratory” visit. Most desired that I present to the members of other fraternities to earn their favor. We would offer gifts and transport students and alumni to speak on our behalf at the presentations. It was an often elaborate courtship to win the favor of college students so that we may have the pleasure of competing against them.
Imagine a group of thirty students at a large public university. Say this group of students are unimpressed with the 32 fraternity options available to the 20,000 men in attendance. Say they want to build an organization around academics and athletics. Why prevent those men from creating a valuable addition to the fraternity community?
One could argue that the risks are too great, and that without proper vetting the men may not create a stable chapter. Perhaps that would make sense if we could trust chapters and governing councils to properly vet fraternity candidates. The investment to risk ratio is far lower with a relaxed organizational standard.
One could argue that many low quality chapters is a doomsday scenario, and that many fraternity chapters are struggling and could use those members. But why force students to refurbish something they don’t want?
What’s That Saying? “A Rising Tide Lifts All Ships.”
That may be true, but a rising tide will not benefit a ship with a gash across its hull, and old ships rot. Rather than expose struggling chapters to the threat of personal failure, we attempt to prop them up. The issue is, great students don’t always (if ever) want to fix someone else’s mess. They want to make their own. So most failing chapters end up failing anyway.
It is a strange situation – one where we perpetuate the kind of exclusivity we demand ceases among students. This protectionism is a top-down predicament as umbrella associations take up the role of unions for fraternity chapters. More often than not, having the right money and connections lands a fraternity a new chapter at an institution. Not to mention, there are no commonly agreed to standards used by the otherwise standards-obsessed communities.
The Literal Cost of Protectionism
This raises the price for fraternity membership, thereby limiting its accessibility. In no state does the cost of incorporation cost more than $1,000 – compare that to typical fraternity dues. Perhaps a group of students want a simplified fraternity experience. Is $50 per semester enough to join a group with whom to hang out, study, play sports, volunteer, travel, and celebrate?
How could students adapt the fraternity experience to their generational experience? We know that fewer men are having sex , the constant presence of information, that fewer teens are drinking before college . How should that influence the way we prevent harm? Our work on hazing and substance misuse plateaued because the way we address problems no longer speaks to how students experience them.
True Diversity Comes In Structure
Reducing the burden around fraternity recognition at colleges and universities will result in a more diverse community more attuned to the school and its community. It allows fraternity communities to adapt to changes in student habits and demographics.
We can already see the structural differences in historically black organizations compared to historically white ones. Why perpetuate the idea that there is only one way to frat?
It shouldn’t be harder to start a student group than to start a business. So, why is that the case for fraternities? Exactly what stability are we trying to maintain?
“The work we do is important,” or some quote like that is an easy applause line at any fraternity|sorority professional conference. Those conferences are interesting. We affirm our commitment to the development of students, then gossip about how backward and privileged they are at the hotel bar.
The most recent issue of the Association of Fraternity|Sorority Advisors (AFA) e-publication, Essentials, focused on challenging the process. Contributors, most of which work directly with fraternity/sorority chapters, pointed out some of the blind spots they observe among their peers.
We operate as a “Cult of Convenience,” writes Sam Waltemeyer, who acknowledges the difference between “best practice” and “widely adopted.” Dan Bureau asks, “Does getting more resources really mean better outcomes?”
I appreciated the issue, as challenging the wisdom espoused at AFA meetings (among others) is why I started blogging as a young fraternity professional. While we are in the mood, let’s review some bits of advice we regularly offer to students and re-apply it to ourselves. Disclaimer: I am not an academic, and I don’t write like one.
“Respect Is Earned Through Actions – Not A Title”
This is an easy one. You may have worked with fraternities and sororities for twenty years. You may have earned a master’s degree in higher education, leadership, or something else you feel prepared you to serve as a Fraternity/Sorority Coordinator. No matter your title, you must demonstrate respect to receive it.
That means we cannot live vicariously through our students, and that we must respect their wants and ideas. It means that we cannot “respect” our students to their face and then stereotype and generalize them when it can win us snaps at a conference. Earning respect means establishing trust, and requires that you stick with a job and a group of students for more than one or two years.
“Step In When Someone Is Disrespected – Including Yourself”
What does it say when students (or professionals for that matter) leave a room littered with wrappers, spilled drinks, and half-eaten food after a program? Almost every leadership event starts with a rules conversation where we remind attendees to pick up after themselves. If students are allowed to break one of the most basic rules – right in front of our faces – then why should they think we will enforce any other rule?
There should be one question after on every post-event survey: How did the rooms look after a session? That question alone can tell you whether or not you’ve won the respect of your attendees. If you are a speaker, educator, staffer, or volunteer then you must enforce the “leave the place better than you found it” rule.
I have lead and taken part in several fraternity programs where the volunteers all agree to sit with students in the main sessions. At each of those programs, the facilitators end up gathering in the back of the room and occasionally talk through the session. It is disappointing.
“Your First Error Is A Forgiven ‘Misstep’ Subsequent Errors Are ‘Mistakes.'”
Community bans don’t work. Top-down deferred recruitment policies, zero-tolerance policies, and statistic-based sexual assault education don’t work. Press releases by umbrella associations do not change behavior. Stop the madness. . . people are dying.
“Sometimes You Need To Let Your Members Fail”
I serve on the alumni board for my chapter. After a recent non-incident, a university staff member explained the rationale for a mandatory “training” by saying it was their duty to co-parent the students. We cannot become the helicopter parents we so despise. We may facilitate the process by which students address their problems, but students must address their problems.
Some chapters cannot compete. We should not prevent new startups because it might drive the nail in the coffin of a failing chapter. Some students do not value what you value. That does not mean they do not fit in with the fraternity experience. Many of our approaches to nationwide problems, such as hazing, are failures. Learn from it and try something different.
“You Do Not Need Alcohol To Have A Good Time”
Stop getting so drunk at conferences. “When the cat’s away the mice will play,” is not a motto to live by. Implement FIPG recommendations at the next AFA Annual Meeting. Maybe you will come to understand why students feel infantilized by them.
“Diversity Makes Fraternities Better”
You will encounter students who embody everything you hate. For the vast majority of fraternity|sorority professionals. . . probably, like, 90%. . . that means white, male, straight, privileged, conservative, and self-absorbed college students. They have a right to join a fraternity whether you like it or not, and they have a right to define their experience. Earn their trust, win their respect, and persuade them to think differently.
Shutting students down in person or on Twitter is unprofessional. It makes students resentful, combative, and contributes to their self-doubt. If you are aware of suicide statistics among young people, then you can understand why demonstrating kindness is important.
On that same note, break down the invisible walls between our historically white and non-white organizations. Make the NIC co-ed. Stop using the fact that one umbrella association’s organizations are “different” as an excuse for poor practices.
“Flash Isn’t Always Better”
We all want offices of 5-6 laborers focused entirely on the fraternity and sorority experience. That is as silly as the giant concerts chapters throw as “philanthropy” events. If you want students to value substance, then stop with the superficial “standards of excellence” checklists. Stop with the separate awards ceremonies. Stop begging for more money to do more things – you are already burned out!
Focus your attention on advising students. They are not raw material to build your resume. If truly advising is something you feel is beneath you then pursue a more “serious” career. . . these are friend clubs.
A record number of young people, and particularly college-aged men, are committing suicide. Increasing numbers of young people suffer from chronic anxiety and depression. America is generally overweight. There is no need to panic – a solution lies in friendship. Fraternities are all about friendship. Fraternities are well-equipped to tackle these nationwide issues.
Which committee or chairman position is most neglected? Arguments can be made for several positions, but my vote goes toward the Health & Wellness officer/committee. I realized – as a student leader and fraternity staffer – how little fraternities provided in terms of resources for these positions.
How Can Fraternities Build A Healthier World?
Fraternities today are more attuned to well-being compared to two or three years ago. Unfortunately, their approach to their member’s well being seems fragmented and limited in scope. Mental health awareness is the buzz of the education community. As a result, [inter]national fraternities have incorporated mental health resources into their plans and offerings.
If it is anything like our work to combat hazing, alcohol misuse, or sexual assault; however, it may not offer much benefit. Few seem to be taking precautionary steps, such as reducing their standards checklists, to protect their students mental well-being.
Your chapter should approach health and wellness in a way which suits your membership. Listed below are 19 thoughts to consider for a chapter health and wellness program. This may be a good place to start if your chapter does not have a reliable wellness plan. Am I qualified to share this information? In a way, yes. I have an Integrative Health Science degree. Onward!
These 19 thoughts are divided into 4 categories: Preparation (1-4), Resources & Support (5-10), Holistic Health (11-15), and Fun & Stuff (16-19). Enjoy :).
1. Establish Chapter Goals | Preparation
Keep your overall chapter goal simple unless Health & Wellness become a top three priority for your chapter. For example, you may want to make a commitment that all members improve in their physical, emotional and cognitive health prior to graduation. You may set some baseline metrics to track: Body Fat %, Grade Point Average, Completion of Programs, etc.
Most people want to be healthy, so keep this broad enough that it can apply to a variety of people. Not everyone can be shredded or devoid of anxiety by graduation. The goal of any health and wellness plan is to move closer to an ideal.
2. Build the Program Around a Position or Committee | Preparation
Here’s an obvious fact: different fraternities lay out different structures and expectations for their officers. That being said, your chapter has plenty of room to tinker and innovate. Consider a few different set ups while you’re in the process of revamping or starting a health and wellness program.
Click through the options below for some suggestions.
Focus on collaboration and resources if there is a single member in charge of health and wellness for your chapter.
In later thoughts I’ll talk about integrating a health and wellness program into broader chapter activities. This should be the primary focus of any officer without a committee. The important thing here is to keep the scope narrow and easily manageable.
The reason is simple: You can’t be sure that your role will be filled, or taken as seriously, in subsequent years. Working on a resource list and embedding health and wellness into your chapter’s regular activities are the way to go. Combine this with intramurals if you are short on members to fill the role.
Assign specific goals to individual members of a health and wellness committee. The strength of a committee is in it’s ability to focus on multiple objectives. Seek a diverse set of interests for committee members.
There may be a member whose focus is on finding mental health resources. Another member may then focus on overseeing an exercise regiment. A third may focus on “sports,” which basically means you’ve integrated your intramural chairman into “health and wellness.”
This is a great option, as it allows for a more holistic approach to your members’ health. Again, every member of your chapter may not find every thing your committee does interesting. That said, if any member improves due to the work of any one committee member, that’s success.
A third, and more fluid option, would be to organize your health and wellness officers by class. This is something which intrigues me for all fraternity positions, as it creates a leadership pipeline.
Elect or assign an officer to each class year (1st year, sophomore, junior, senior+) to report to an executive board member or chairman. These class officers can help monitor progress within their year, but can also coordinate events among their peers.
Maybe the fall health and wellness retreat (another point on this list) is organized by the sophomore class. Perhaps the juniors organize a yoga session after a chapter meeting. This setup allows for a competitive aspect. Competition works well with fraternity men.
3. Choose “Optional” or “Mandatory” and Stick With It | Preparation
Whatever activities are associated with your health and wellness program must be entirely optional or entirely mandatory. Optional means that everyone, including new members, has the opportunity to opt-out. Mandatory means that everyone, including graduating seniors, must take part.
It shouldn’t be more strenuous for one group of members than another regardless of which choice you make. Finally, if you make it mandatory it is because it is an essential component of your chapter’s operations. That means you take it as seriously as meetings, ritual, etc.
4. Poll the Crowd | Preparation
Use an anonymous or confidential poll to determine what your brothers want out of a health and wellness program. Use a confidential survey to determine what individual members want to improve upon prior to graduation.
After an event or program is complete, ask brothers how they feel about it. Ask them if they have ideas of games to play, places to play them, or activities to take part in. Keep tabs on your members by regularly polling the crowd. You do not have to do what they say. Just stick to what fits within the scope of your chapter’s overarching goal for well-being.
5. Build a Wellness Resource List & Share It | Resources & Support
The best place to start, whether you are an individual or working with a committee, is to survey your environment. Take some time to research and compile as many health and wellness-related resources as possible. Put them into a “bank” that you and/or your committee has access to. This can be done via cloud storage or a physical filing cabinet if you’re old-school
Share these resources with your members in a variety of ways. Post a flyer about healthy stools and urine inside of bathroom stalls or above a urinal. Send a weekly text message with an article related to exercise or meditation. Print out some simple, nutrient-dense recipes to post in your kitchen. Offer advice on what to get in the cafeteria. Go crazy. Resources are fun! (not really, but let’s pretend)
6. Bring in a Nutritionist | Resources & Support
Find someone professionally capable of providing an introduction to nutrition and ask them to speak with your chapter. It could be a professor, a campus professional, an alumnus, or an undergraduate with a personal training certification. Ask them to cover topics like meal preparation, nutrient-dense foods, and dieting.
Beyond that, consider conversations around supplements and disorders. It’s important to cover a wide range of topics and to establish a line of communication. Find someone you trust to occasionally offer advice if you or your brothers have a concern. Again: Keep it professional. Johnny Six-Pack may have a six-pack, but not everyone needs pre-workout, a protein shake, and Johnny’s lessons on boiling chicken.
7. Track Progress – Don’t Get Cray With It | Resources & Support
For the sake of sticking to your chapter’s goal, track progress in some way shape or form. Perhaps you conduct an annual (and confidential) weigh in. You might have a sticker chart to show when members attended health and wellness activities. In any case, you need to be able to point to potential members that your plan is more than a plan. The only way to do that is to point to some recorded information.
It is best, and I will repeat this often, to keep it simple. Until your chapter has gotten into the groove and standardized its health and wellness plan, there’s no telling what the next guy will keep up with. Start slow.
8. Health Journals: Do Them | Resources & Support
Include in your resource bank a list of apps or physical booklets which help people track their fitness. Encourage each member to track something. For example, it can help a brother to record his meals for one week of each month. Even if he improves his eating for that one week, that’s 12 weeks of better nutrition each year!
Apps provided by Fitbit, or which work with an Apple Watch track a variety of fitness-related information. There are journals specifically designed to track exercise and eating habits. Beyond all of that, keeping a regular journal is good for the mind. It helps people process their day. If a brother does not want to keep a journal of his physical health, ask that he keep a general journal anyway.
Thomas Jefferson did it, and he’s great. So. . . enough said.
9. Bring in a Relationship Specialist | Resources & Support
It is obvious, given the media attention, to focus on mental health. What may be less obvious is to incorporate inter-personal relationship education in your health and wellness plan. The relationships we establish with friends, family and lovers are a major influence on our behavior and well-being. Find a book to read as a group or a professional to talk about healthy relationships.
I recently gave away a copy of Aaron Boe’s “In A Relationship” to an email subscriber. [subscribe here, bruh] It is not the end-all-be-all of relationship advice, but it offers a candid approach to healthy relationship advice without going on and on (and on) about sexual assault statistics. Incorporating this into your wellness program may help brothers identify toxic relationships in their lives. It may also help your chapter be better hosts to your guests.
10. Organize Orientations | Resources & Support
Work with your campus recreation center or a local gym to provide a facility orientation to all members. This is essential for chapters with mandatory programming. Ask the staff to explain the features of the facility, its amenities, the types of classes available and how to use some of the equipment.
Gather interest from members to determine who may have use for a personal trainer. Most facilities offer a free trial with a personal trainer, which is enough time to learn to use the equipment. It also works as a great way to set benchmarks. Organize additional orientations for your campus/local counseling office, medical center, and any other available recreation or health services.
11. Offer Variety to Challenge the Muscles | Holistic Health
Some members want to outrun a zombie during the apocalypse. Some want to get “yoked,” and others want to get through a day without contemplating all that’s wrong with them. Improvements in physical health have a mental effect, so keep your members interested in exercise by encouraging variety.
In addition to making things more interesting, variety helps those who are struggling to progress. Following the same exercise routine day-after-day leads to stagnation. Be sure to encourage members to switch up their routine and to try something new – such as any of the options below.
12. Go Outside & Bring Green Inside | Holistic Health
The more you can do outside, the better. Be sure to pack sunscreen for your fair-skinned friends, then get to wherever there is greenery. Treadmills are depressing, but just being around green plants can boost one’s mood. It also contributes to the variety mentioned in #11.
Be sure to bring some easy-to-care-for plants into your chapter facility if you are lucky enough to have one. Succulents require little light, about a tablespoon of water per month, and are small enough to tuck anywhere. Being around plants improves our mood, so why not line your chapter room with green plants to offset the stress of a bid-voting meeting.
13. Group Fitness Is Great | Holistic Health
Working out together makes working out more fun. It also helps most people push their limits. Group classes are not for everyone, but try to incorporate them when you can. I am leaving that term pretty broad on purpose, because group fitness could mean Zumba, Aerobics, Circuit Training, Yoga, or Meditation. It depends on how granola you can get as a chapter.
Yoga in particular is fun to do with a group of brothers or sisters. There are likely classes on your campus, but if cost is an issue then just follow along to a Youtube video. Do it outside, giggle a little bit, and enjoy the stretch. By the way, strength without flexibility is worthless – so get everyone to stretch.
14. Mental Elasticity Activities | Holistic Health
When we read about mental health it almost always diverts to the topic of depression, anxiety, or suicide. Broaden your mind and focus some effort on mental elasticity. That means doing activities (like laughing yoga) for your happiness, but also giving your academically talented members a chance to shine.
Websites like Lumosity help train your brain with a variety of addictive games. Lumosity can also track progress and provides score readouts, which are great for measuring progress. Consider asking members to pick up a second language with DuoLingo. Perhaps you can practice with one another. Organize a miniature spelling bee, a Jeopardy party, or a simple math challenge. Brains plus brawn is sexy.
15. Parks & Recreation | Holistic Health
Don’t rely entirely on intramural sports for your athletic activity. Competing with friends is fun, so organize occasional games or mini-tournaments within your chapter. These also serve as wonderful recruiting opportunities. Just invite a potential new member to “a kick ball game with some friends.”
Get quirky with it. Play touch football, sure, but try for age-old favorites like kick-ball, animal volleyball, elimination, or freeze tag. I once organized a capture the flag tournament for my chapter and some potential members. About 25 of 60 brothers participated and we made some new friends along the way. For a one-off event on a week day I would consider that a success.
16. Integration 1: Brotherhood | Fun & Stuff
If health and wellness are important to your brotherhood, make it a central part of any retreat. Go for a hike. Relieve some stress at a shooting range (if you’re into that). If your retreat lasts more than one day then consider including a ropes course, morning jogs, or yoga at sunset.
The boost to your energy levels and a slew of other chemicals which affect your mental activity will result in better conversations with your brothers. You can easily create conversations around any group health and wellness activity. Start with, “How did that feel?” and go from there. See, facilitation is easy.
Integration 2: Service/Philanthropy | Fun & Stuff
Modern researchers say that modern generations of students are stuck in child hood. Introducing your goldmine: a philanthropic spelling bee.
If your chapter takes well to health and wellness, then consider aligning with service or philanthropic causes associated with the concept. Pi Kappa Phi’s Ability Experience is a perfect example of something that can be integrated into a health and wellness program. Beyond organizing a day to adopt dogs from a local shelter, offer to walk or care for the animals.
If you volunteer for an after-school program, then take time to learn what such programs can do for a child’s confidence and sociability. Learning is a part of health and wellness, as is sharing the love.
17. Put It Online. Get Goofy | Fun & Stuff
Live stream your spelling bee (I’m really loving this idea of fraternity spelling bees huh?) on Instagram, Snapchat, or Periscope. Organize phony press conferences after an intramural win. Share a video with your top 3 movers and shakers at a group Zumba class. You don’t need to put all of this online. Sometimes it is fun to just do things as a chapter, without cameras present.
The content you can pull from a health and wellness program can be social media gold. Just be sure not to make a mockery of your members for the sake of likes and laughs. Be a judgement free zone -unless you’re a chapter of a-holes. . . In that case, good luck at your membership review.
19. Encourage The Heart | Fun & Stuff
It is very easy to give up on health and fitness goals. It is also easy to cheat using unhealthy habits such as crash dieting. Recognize members who take an active part in your programming. Thank the men who show up to your pick-up kick ball game. Give a certificate to the “Nimblest Mind of XYZ Fraternity” for winning a Lumosity tournament.
Give brothers stickers, certificates, pats on the back, gift cards, or whatever it takes to encourage them to keep improving their body and mind. You would be surprised at how many people appreciate a $5 gift card.
I would love to hear how your chapter’s health and wellness program works, what you like about it, and if anything on this list helped. Sound off in the comments or reach out to me on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram with thoughts or suggestions.
This post was first published to Fraternal Journal, an extension of Fraternity Man hosted on Medium.com. It is open to all who wish to contribute life lessons or fond memories of timeless traditions related to the fraternity|sorority experience.
One unexpected benefit of my fraternity experience was greater exposure to and understanding of the deaf community.
My chapter of Delta Sigma Phi was the only operating chapter in Florida throughout my undergraduate experience. We were 3–4 hours away from the closest chapter in Georgia. Only one consultant visited over the course of four years. It is safe to say that we did not come expect many visitors to DeLand.
In fact, only two fraternity brothers ever made an unexpected pilgrimage down to DeLand. Both came from our chapter at Gallaudet University and both were deaf. I remember meeting one, who we will call John, while at an intramural game and chatting by texting one another.
A Greater Understanding Working For The Fraternity
I saw our educational programming from the side of the planners while a staffer at the national office. Deaf students were always in attendance, and so I built relationships with many students and our regular interpreters.
Many fraternities|sororities do not or forget to hire interpreters. That may be due to the perceived cost, or just a general misjudgment of the diversity of an organization’s membership. We were lucky (and ahead of the curve, in many ways) to have interpreters. Even still, I noticed several blind-spots in our communication efforts while a fraternity staffer. Our videos were not captioned, and our ritual was a listening experience.
Growing Our Delta Sig Deaf Community
Delta Sigma Phi was one of the first fraternities to charter an all-deaf or mostly deaf chapter. We at one point had three or more mostly deaf chapters operating at the same time. During my time as a member; however, there was only ever one – at Gallaudet University.
I knew I could change that through my role as Director of Fraternity Growth.
Thankfully, members of our Eta Eta chapter at Rochester Institute of Technology approached me to re-establish their historically deaf chapter. Our recruiters established a thriving chapter at the university by utilizing local interpreters and lots of texting. There were finally members from more than one deaf chapter at our national programs.
That may sound trivial or cheesy, but it had a fascinating effect on our relationship with our student members. I was able to better get to know each of the students from our mostly deaf chapters as they got to know and share more about one another.
Fraternity, it seemed, could genuinely serve as a cultural education experience. Students at our Arizona State chapter began to learn American Sign Language (ASL) after recruiting a deaf student. We did not have much to offer in terms of support. Our staff tried to recruit a blind student at a new chapter in the Southeast. Unfortunately, our documents were not in the correct format to use with his reading device.
These were missteps and learning moments, and they have been or will hopefully be addressed soon.
Broadening Our Reach To Share The Value Of Fraternity
There are thousands of deaf members of college fraternities. Still, fraternities still have a ways to go to better communicate the benefits of brotherhood to all.
I am not the only fraternity man to acknowledge the need for broader communication efforts. Unfortunately, it is almost never a conversation at fraternity|sorority conferences. Beyond the deaf community, we face language barriers with native speakers of Spanish, those who are blind, and beyond. Let’s talk less about prohibition and privilege and do more to expand access.
It goes beyond hiring interpreters: Organizations need to consider how their resources are consumed, how their governing documents are understood, and how to communicate with all members. Fraternity leaders must consider how to strengthen sharing and communication between all members.
Leadership Is Communication
For that reason, when setting up a RedBubble store for Fraternity Man, I decided to put all proceeds from the “YITBOS” collection items (linked above) to an eventual fund to support accessible communication efforts within my fraternity.
Such a fund may help pay to caption videos. It could be used to hire interpreters, or to develop alternative methods of delivering the ritual. (deaf students, for example, perform all of our ceremonies with their eyes open because they communicate with their hands. Will we take that into account with our next set of updates?).
I would like to work toward making these considerations a part of our leaders’ native thinking processes. How are we communicating the value of fraternity at the broadest level.
Exposure to people who communicate differently from myself was one of the greatest takeaways from my fraternity experience. I think that too little of the public understands how those worldview-shifting benefits of fraternity membership come into being.
Beyond the “YITBOS” collection, I am happy to help others interested in strengthening their organization’s communication reach. Connect with me via the comments or on social media. Lets talk about what we can create to inspire your members.