Dear brothers and friends,
SigEp embarked on a brand new chapter in its storied history this fall. At the 54th Grand Chapter Conclave, new Grand President Rick Bennet, Central Missouri ’74, shared a challenge: “We can no longer be content with being the best fraternity, or even the best organization in a struggling Greek system. We must strive to be the leader of all campus organizations, not just fraternities.”
Our resolve to be the best is making waves in the collegiate world. SigEp is receiving praise from higher education because we are genuine in our partnership efforts and we provide young college men with environments for development that can’t be found anywhere else.
With over 15,000 brothers in our 230 chapters, we are among the largest national undergraduate fraternities. This fall will be no exception: more than 4,000 new brothers will have joined by the end of the academic term, making 2015 another banner year for SigEp membership.
Our charge is giving these young brothers the tools they need to succeed in college and after graduation. The Balanced Man Program (BMP) and SigEp’s other regional and national leadership events provide invaluable experiences and learning opportunities at a critical point in their development. These lessons learned and friendships formed will last a lifetime and prove to be the foundation of a happy and successful life.
Partnering with higher education
The SigEp experience is needed on today’s college campus. Of students’ time in college, a mere 10 percent is spent in the classroom. We exist to fill that remain ing 90 percent and equip our men with the skills and habits they need in college and beyond. With a focus on scholarship, leadership and life skills, SigEp teaches brothers to lead and speak in front of a crowd, work effectively with their peers and achieve their highest academic potential.
“I dream of a time when every university wants a SigEp chapter because they recognize the value we add,” Grand President Bennet said in his acceptance speech. “Because they know that not only do we add to their educational process, but we can also be the change agent that leads with a safe and responsible role on their campus.”
Our potential and relevance to higher education has been especially apparent to me through our recolonization efforts at Virginia Tech this fall. Senior student affairs officers and faculty voiced their appreciation for SigEp’s willingness to partner and advance the mutual aims of SigEp and Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech’s senior associate vice president for student affairs, Frank Shushok, wholeheartedly approves of SigEp’s return to his campus: “We fully expect the outcome will be a chapter designed to build leaders, learners and the most decent of human beings.”
In keeping with Grand President Bennet’s challenge to us, we will be the leader of all student organizations at Virginia Tech. The same will be true at Florida when we return this spring.
This December, SigEp’s National Board of Directors will meet with university presidents and vice presidents from across the country to strengthen the Fraternity’s relationships in higher education and the value we provide to every campus hosting a SigEp chapter.
Preparing brothers for life after college
The SigEp alumni network is impressive and something to be proud of. The SigEp connections run deep in countless industries across the globe. We are just beginning to realize the potential impact our alumni can have on the professional preparedness and future success of undergraduate brothers. Through our Life After College (LAC) program, alumni are providing young SigEps, especially those nearing graduation, with critical resources and perspective, even job opportunities, that allow them to effectively focus on their future.
During this two-day leadership event, brothers connect with career coaches, sharpen interview skills and explore professional opportunities that await them after college. Sessions on personal finance, self-reliance and personal branding help brothers maintain life balance and stay true to their values while pursuing professional goals. LAC addresses the knowledge gap for undergraduates in a climate where only 23 percent of employers feel that new graduates are prepared to apply their skills in the real world.
The exceptional talent and strong values found in SigEp men are being recognized by corporations across the country. More than 50 national and regional companies signed up for our fall 2015 LAC programs. These organizations participated in our SigEp-exclusive career fairs, and many helped lead our educational sessions.
Since the program’s inception in 2013, we’ve reached over 1,700 brothers with critical professional exposure, career coaching and training. Over 82 percent of last year’s attendees said the program offers professional development opportunities they can’t find on their campuses. Our only challenge in providing more brothers with these opportunities is funding.
Establishing a clear blueprint for member development
The 54th Conclave was another historic gathering for SigEp. Of the many milestones we reached, one of them came from the Grand Chapter’s legislative floor.
In an almost unanimous vote, our undergraduates committed to making the Balanced Man Program SigEp’s official and only blueprint for developing brothers. The BMP is the centerpiece of the SigEp experience, and it is the vehicle that is catapulting us forward as the leading campus organization at universities across the nation. Our undergraduates emphasized this while casting their historic votes.
Undergraduates and volunteers have asked for more resources to improve implementation of the program, and our national Fraternity is strongly committed to supporting them in every way. Chapter leaders on the ground can expect additional education, resources and technology to help them better manage the progressive challenges that guide each brother from freshman year to graduation.
Equipping our chapters through volunteer training
Our Grand President from 2013-2015, Phillip A. Cox, Indiana ’84, carried the standard of SigEp with passion. As a lifelong volunteer, Phil understood the critical importance of SigEp’s volunteers. He has often said, “Behind every great SigEp chapter is a group of dedicated alumni and volunteers.” To honor Phil, his brothers joined forces at Conclave to launch the Phillip A. Cox Volunteer Institute, a series of volunteer training events around the country inspired by Phil’s life and legacy. The institutes are modeled after the “Drive-In” initiative that Phil spearheaded last year.
These one-day seminars address the need for accessible volunteer training by allowing volunteers with careers and busy family lives to attend an event in their area. There, they can connect and collaborate with other nearby alumni and address shared challenges through discourse and training.
This year’s Cox Institutes were held in six cities around the country from September to November. We hosted the inaugural institute in Bloomington, Ind., the home of Phil’s Indiana Beta Chapter. We are excited that the first institutes reached nearly 150 volunteers, and we are even more thrilled that this number will grow exponentially in the coming years as we get closer to our $1 million endowment goal.
Each SigEp chapter depends on a strong, well-informed volunteer base for continuity and long-term success. Our Grand Treasurer Chris Bittman, Colorado ’85, articulated the importance well: “It’s absolutely critical to the health of our chapters to have a strong volunteer group. In fact, our very future at SigEp depends on it.”
Modeling the way
Sigma Phi Epsilon has always strived to model the way for others. We haven’t hesitated to challenge the prevailing mindset. We haven’t hesitated to be different. Whether it was removing racial and religious restrictions to membership in the 1950s or creating a new standard for development by launching the Balanced Man Program in the 1990s, SigEp has been at the forefront of the fraternity world.
Higher education and Greek life face challenges today that they have never seen before. There is a clear need for leadership and for someone to do things differently. That’s a role we haven’t shied away from. As we’ve done since our founding, SigEp will be out in front, even if we’re standing alone, modeling the way for others and working with our campus partners to build balanced men.
Brian C. Warren Jr.
Chief Executive Officer