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As Grand President Tom Jelke, Florida International ’90, reminded SigEp brothers and friends in early June, brotherly love calls on SigEps “with true hearts … [to] be shields of defense to those less able to bear their burdens.” 

Undergraduate brothers in SigEp across the country have risen to their obligation and confidently expressed that Black lives matter through volunteering, fundraising to contribute  donations to community organizations, using their voices to speak out against injustice and examining how to create positive changes within their chapters. 

The stories below illustrate a handful of the ways SigEp chapters are deepening relationships in their communities and bringing people together to advocate for equality.

Minnesota Alpha, Minnesota

At the University of Minnesota the Minnesota Alpha chapter sought ways to support and get involved in the midst of the protests happening in their backyard. The chapter quickly organized a drive to collect funds, raising more than $1,200 to help replenish local food banks experiencing shortages during the protests. Members coordinated food and supply drop-offs and challenged the rest of the Greek community to get involved. The chapter is also looking at its leadership structure and recruitment processes to examine how it can be more inclusive.

Chapter President Ben Schroeder, Minnesota ’22, explained that the chapter is interested in advocating for social justice on a broad scale, but also believes that change begins at home. “It starts internally. It is time for us to focus on what we can do as a chapter to educate ourselves and get out into the community.” 

Alabama Beta, Alabama

The SigEp chapter at the University of Alabama also responded to nationwide calls for social change. The chapter created a fundraising campaign for the Brown House, a community organization that provides tutoring, shelter and a support system to children and families in need. While the chapter raised $2,000 in just a week’s time, its main focus is on taking on a more active role as volunteers at the Brown House. The chapter hopes to continue to build upon that relationship and help create a more inclusive community where all children feel like they belong. 

Reid Petersen, Alabama ’22, attended protests while back home in Nashville, Tennessee, for the summer. The first protest he attended included over 10,000 people marching in the streets of Nashville, and SigEp was a big part of why Petersen was one of them. He shared, “As a member of SigEp, I felt that it was important for me to participate in this protest because its principles can be broken down to the idea that people should treat one another with brotherly love, regardless of race. To sit idly by would be neglecting one’s duty to live by the founding principles of SigEp. I felt that I needed to actively support Black Lives Matter, not just with my words, but with my actions as well.”

California Sigma, Cal-State Northridge

[caption id="attachment_18581" align="alignleft" width="302"] Brothers from SigEp's Cal State-Northridge chapter attended protests and made donations to organizations advocating for equality.[/caption]

Brothers in the California Sigma chapter at California State-Northridge banded together to not only attend various protests, but also to provide food and water to protestors. Chapter leadership mobilized to communicate pertinent information to the chapter about ways to get involved and educate themselves on the issues. Leaders have already reached out to the campus Office of Equity and Diversity to collect resources and plan Balanced Man Program and SigEp Learning Community programming for the fall. 

California Sigma also raised $1,500 in a day for several organizations that advocate on behalf of and serve Black communities impacted by racism and inequality. “As SigEps, we are taught to be different from those around us and to use our voices on important matters like this one,” Chapter President Adrian Galera, Cal State-Northridge ’21, stated. “Staying silent will only contribute to the problem. We simply wanted to be the organization that took action.”

Nebraska Delta, Creighton

At Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, the Nebraska Delta chapter has doubled down on its relationship with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Midlands. Big Brothers Big Sisters, SigEp’s national philanthropic partner, prides itself on “Defining the Potential” of youth in our communities. SigEp brothers at Creighton have already raised over $3,000 for their local BBBS with a goal of reaching over $4,000 by the end of July in honor of the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Over 30 members of the chapter already volunteer as “Bigs” and have spent hours investing in strong relationships with their “Littles,” who come from diverse backgrounds and communities in the Omaha area. 

Brothers are also seeking to build on this philosophy and ensure that the chapter environment they’re creating is welcoming to people from diverse communities. The chapter has created a diversity and inclusion chair who will sit on the executive board, recruitment committee and Balanced Man Scholarship committee. 

National Fraternity supports diversity and inclusion

These are just a few of the many ways SigEp chapters are doing more than making a statement — they are taking action and building processes to improve their chapters for years to come. 

As our chapters continue to identify the best ways to combat racial injustice and enhance diversity, equity and inclusion, so too does the national Fraternity. The Diversity and Inclusion Task Force was created at the direction of the Grand Chapter at the 2019 Conclave in Houston to provide recommendations on improving our resources and structures in these areas. Its work has already resulted in a commitment from our National Board of Directors to create a permanent committee on diversity, equity and inclusion. The committee and national Fraternity welcome your perspective on how we can continue to address these issues and work with our local chapters to be leading voices in their respective Greek communities. Please share your own experiences or provide feedback and ideas in this survey.

To foster ongoing discussion about these issues, we also presented “Our Lives Matter: Black in SigEp,” a virtual dialog in which several of our brothers spoke about what it means to be Black in the United States and a SigEp. We encourage all our brothers to watch the video, learn from their stories and become a part of the solution.

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In a banquet room full of hundreds of people at the 1995 Conclave, someone found Kelly Williams, Tennessee ’92, and handed him a note. It read:

You are now a member of the Board of Governors.

The note was from Jim Clayton, Tennessee ’57, and it outlined his plan to invest in Williams and place him on a path to give back to the Fraternity that had given him so much. Clayton would pay 90 percent of Williams’ Board of Governors membership the first year, and Williams’ share would grow over the years as he progressed in his career and was able to give more. The Board of Governors supports the Fraternity’s Annual Fund, which prepares our undergraduates for a lifetime of success by enabling chapter programs and regional and national leadership events.

Flash forward to 2020: Williams has been a generous supporter of the Fraternity and member of the Board of Governors for the past 25 years. In addition, he now serves on the SigEp National Advancement Council, which helps advise and plan the Fraternity’s fundraising efforts. The investment Clayton made in him, emphasizing the importance of giving back to the Fraternity that had shaped both their lives, created a ripple effect that has inspired decades of generosity. 

“As a 25-year-old young man,” Williams said, “to be surrounded by all of these captains of industry, to hear their advice and stories of success, was really impactful for me.”

The ripple effect didn’t stop there. At the 2020 Chicago Carlson Leadership Academy, Williams told the story of Clayton’s generosity to a room full of alumni. Many were inspired to follow suit, and a new wave of sponsorships is the result. By the time the Southern California and Dallas Carlsons concluded, 25 brothers had sponsored young alumni and undergraduates as members of the Beacon Society, which enables brothers age 30 and younger to join the Board of Governors at a reduced cost of $600 per year. 

[caption id="attachment_18563" align="alignleft" width="1001"] At the 2020 Carlson Leadership Academy, Kelly Williams shared the story of how he became a Board of Governors member.[/caption]

Williams sponsored a new Beacon Society member himself, recent grad and Ruck and Quest Scholar Clark Williams, Tennessee ’20 (no relation to Kelly). “He represents all that is good in SigEp and was a natural selection when I thought about who I could sponsor,” Kelly said. “I invited him to dinner and told him I had a little graduation gift for him. I then took a BOG pin from my pocket and slid it over to him. The look on his face was priceless, and he appreciated it greatly. Just as much as I appreciated what Brother Clayton did for me some 25 years ago.”

Peter Varney, Davidson ’96, has sponsored several Beacon Society members over the years. After hearing Williams’ story, he was moved to do so again at Carlson. 

“The people I sponsor are amazing people, and they’re going to have amazing futures. I want SigEp to be a part of that,” he said. Undergraduates and recent grads “think the Board of Governors is just for old people who have a lot of money. But as a younger member, if you’re not spending time at Conclave or SigEp events with members of the Board of Governors — from a networking and mentoring standpoint — you’re missing out.” 

Regarding his habit of Beacon Society sponsorships, Varney explained, “If I get a lot of benefit from something, I owe something back.”

Chris Purdum, Wichita State ’07, also embraced the sponsorship effort. “As an undergraduate, I was fortunate to have met and been positively impacted by several volunteers and alumni locally and across the country,” he said. “One of the areas I saw their influence early on was in their generosity in supporting undergraduates.”

Purdum chose to sponsor Beacon Society membership for Max Yates, Montana State ’21. “Max Yates and I first met at the 2019 Ruck Leadership Institute, and he immediately struck me as a unique leader,” he said. “I’ve chosen to sponsor Max not only as a nod to his accomplishments, but also to honor those who have and continue to influence my decision to give to what I consider to be the greatest organization around.” 

Yates was appreciative of Purdum’s commitment. "Being sponsored by Chris is a really incredible honor,” he said. “For me, it epitomizes the value of connections formed at the Ruck Leadership Institute. I really look up to Chris as a leader, brother and person. I'm hoping that what I have gained in my undergraduate years at Montana Beta will set me up to be in a position to give back through the Beacon Society for years to come and facilitate similar experiences for brothers across the country.”

Interested in honoring a brother under 30 with a Beacon Society sponsorship? Go here to learn more.

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Even if the coronavirus pandemic had never happened, there’s no doubt that Dr. Tyler Miller, Ohio State ’10, would someday make a great contribution to medical science. A pathologist, he’s been researching treatments for brain cancer since 2011, and currently works as a clinical pathology resident at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

That research is now on hold, however. Since March, all of Miller’s energy has been focused on efforts to develop and verify the effectiveness of coronavirus antibody tests. Antibodies are proteins in the blood produced in response to being infected with a foreign pathogen, and they typically provide at least short-term immunity from a future infection by the same pathogen. Coronavirus antibodies can be detected seven to 21 days after a person contracts the virus. 

In response to this novel coronavirus, several pharmaceutical and biotech companies have raced to develop tests to detect these antibodies. The sense of urgency created by the pandemic led to bypassing typical testing timelines and regulatory procedures in order to get the tests to hospitals and labs as quickly as possible. However, the speed with which they were created and rush to make them available also resulted in questions about just how effective the tests actually are.

Because of his position as a senior clinical pathology resident at the country’s top research hospital, Miller was tasked with helping answer these questions. Since mid-March, he’s spent 80-plus hour weeks evaluating tests and compiling data as part of a team trying to identify the tests that can most accurately detect coronavirus antibodies.

[caption id="attachment_18568" align="alignright" width="302"] Dr. Tyler Miller (far right) is joined by colleagues from the team working to verify the effectiveness of coronavirus antibody tests.[/caption]

“When this all started, we knew that antibody tests were going to be important. Because we’re at one of the premier research hospitals in the U.S. and because of our affiliation with Harvard, there were a lot of companies that were interested in working with us and sent us their tests to evaluate,” Miller explained. Team members evaluated tests developed in China, Korea, Singapore and Germany, as well as a test they developed in-house at Mass Gen. 

In the first phase of the study, the research team evaluated tests to see how accurately they identified the specific antibodies associated with COVID-19. Miller said they’ve seen promising results from some of the tests, including the one developed at Mass Gen.

With the number of U.S. infections surpassing 3 million in July, it’s understandable that much of the attention from the media and the public is focused on developing an effective vaccine. But the work Miller is engaged in will also be a game-changer in terms of how the coronavirus will be treated in the years ahead. 

“Once we know who has antibodies, then, we can study them to see if they get re-infected,” Miller explained. By identifying people who’ve developed antibodies, studies can determine if their cells block re-entry of the virus when exposed again. And those results can be measured against a control group, enabling researchers to compare the potential for infection in people who’ve already had the virus to those who’ve never had it.

There’s widespread belief in the medical community that contracting the coronavirus will make people immune to future infections. Miller believes this is probably true, but cautioned that because we’re dealing with a novel virus, more data is needed. Even if being infected does provide immunity, additional research will be required to determine its duration — short-term or for a lifetime — he noted. 

From the lab to the real world

Miller’s involvement is more than just theoretical, it’s also personal. He tested positive for the virus in April and spent two weeks quarantined at home with his family. Fortunately, his case was a mild one. Despite not being able to go to the lab, he continued to analyze test results and direct studies from home. Since recovering, he’s helped present the team’s findings to the mayor of Boston and Mass Gen’s president.

As states continue to stage phased re-openings of businesses and government offices and as the medical community learns more about immunity in those who’ve been exposed, Miller’s work is likely to become important in another way. “Would it be safer for certain workers to return to their jobs?” he mused. “If people knew they had antibodies, and we knew these antibodies were protective against re-infection, would those people be more willing to perform essential tasks that would place them at higher risk for exposure to the virus? For example, healthcare workers who had antibodies might be able to work in the ICU with less risk than colleagues who don’t have antibodies.” 

In addition, workers in high-risk categories or who live with someone at high risk might want to know their antibody status in order to decide if they’re comfortable remaining in their jobs or want to seek other employment.

Although years of research lie ahead, Miller is pleased that his team’s efforts have already begun to produce real-world benefits. Mass Gen began using its data to identify areas in the surrounding community that have a high percentage of residents with antibodies.

[caption id="attachment_18569" align="alignleft" width="302"] Dr. Tyler Miller (far right) and colleagues test Boston-area residents for antibodies at a drive-thru testing center.[/caption]

“In late March, we identified that a disproportionate number of people in the ICU have come from a particular zip code. We went out to that community with one of the antibody tests that showed early promise and found 30 percent of those tested had been exposed. It was one of the first antibody studies in the U.S. and detected the highest percentage of people positive for antibodies in the world at that point. It really brought attention to the number of infections there, and as a result, more resources have been deployed to that area.” 

Medicine and brotherhood

Miller looks back fondly on his days as a member of SigEp’s Ohio Gamma chapter at The Ohio State University. He received a Balanced Man Scholarship and later chaired the BMS committee.  Some of his best memories are of living in the chapter house his senior year with other senior brothers who had all decided to move into the house to spend time together during their final year of college. 

He noted that relationships formed during that time continue to have a strong influence, not just on his personal life, but also on his career. “Many of my closest friends are SigEps from undergrad. Even 10 years later, I talk to many by phone regularly and meet up at least once per year, even though that normally involves a plane flight,” he stated.

Several of his professional mentors are also SigEps, including chapter brother Christopher Alvarez-Breckenridge, ’05. Now a neurosurgery resident at Mass Gen, Alvarez-Breckenridge collaborates with Miller on brain cancer research.

 He’s also become good friends with another Boston-area brother who’s a doctor. The two met as undergrads at a cancer research conference and “have collaborated and pushed each other ever since,” he said.

“I imagine my life will always be influenced by my time in SigEp at Ohio Gamma and through my continued relationships with amazing SigEp brothers.”

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In 2017, Matthew Dominick, San Diego ’04, embarked on the ultimate adventure after being selected for NASA’s astronaut training program. Following two years of rigorous training, he completed the program in January 2020 and participated in the first public graduation ceremony ever held for an astronaut candidate class. 

“I liked the idea of going fast and flying, so in 2005, I joined the Navy and became a test pilot,” he told Colorado Community Media, a news outlet in his home state, days before graduating. “I realized that if you want to go higher and faster than airplanes, you’ve got to go to space.” 

Dominick participated in flight training in T-38 jets, learned robotics, practiced spacewalks and learned how to make repairs to spacecraft. He also studied geology to better communicate with geologists about potential discoveries and prepared for potential missions with Russian cosmonauts by studying their language.

“I always wanted to explore and understand the world around me. I think every child has that,” he stated. 

It may be a couple of years before Dominick is assigned to a mission in space, though. In the meantime, he’s working with NASA engineers to test several unlaunched spacecraft. Dominick now has the opportunity to take part in flights to the International Space Station, expeditions to Mars or a mission in the Artemis program, which aims to return to the moon by 2024.

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Brothers from SigEp’s chapter at American University stepped in to assist one of their philanthropic partners when social distancing prevented the organization from holding a major fundraising event. Washington, D.C.–based SOUL Programs had to cancel its annual basketball fundraiser just days before tipoff. The organization supports development programs for low-income student-athletes ages 10-21.

Jason Koehn, American ’20, has been tutoring students in SOUL’s college prep program since 2019. While speaking with Donald Curtis, the group’s founder, Koehn learned the canceled fundraiser cost SOUL an estimated $40,000 in donations. The organization has responded by suspending plans to expand programming and may have to cut back on emergency financial assistance for students in its college program.

[caption id="attachment_18574" align="alignright" width="280"] D.C. Delta brother Jason Koehn[/caption]

“I realized that it would take some creativity, but a virtual fundraiser could bring our chapter together, while supporting the amazing work of SOUL,” Koehn shared.

Koehn sought feedback from a chapter brother who had also interned with SOUL about the idea to hold a fundraiser. They thought it would be a good way for brothers to help out since they were disappointed they couldn’t support the organization by playing in the tournament.

During a weeklong series of virtual chapter get-togethers, brothers discussed SOUL’s mission and how the virus has affected the organization. While the main purpose of the event was to encourage brothers to contribute to the fundraiser, the get-togethers also served as an opportunity for them to catch up on each other’s lives and discuss their adjustment to social distancing.

By the end of the week, more than 40 undergrads, alumni and friends had donated, raising over $1,100.

[caption id="attachment_18575" align="alignleft" width="302"] SOUL Programs founder Donald Curtis[/caption]

Curtis expressed gratitude for the fundraiser and the chapter’s commitment to his organization. “I am beyond thankful for the dedication and support Jason provided us throughout the academic year,” he stated.

Koehn commuted 45 minutes each way from American University to SOUL. “For him to sacrifice that time each day to assist us with empowering our aspiring scholars is noble and a testament to his interest in making our local community more equitable,” Curtis added.

Proceeds from the fundraiser will be used as emergency aid to help program participants attending college out of state during the upcoming academic year pay for books, fees, groceries and transportation.

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For 100 years, Oklahoma Alpha’s chapter homes have served as a space where Oklahoma State brothers gather in camaraderie. Thanks to a decade-long effort by volunteers, 80 chapter brothers continued that tradition in a brand-new home in the fall of 2018.

Back in 2008, the chapter’s alumni and volunteer corporation (AVC) realized its current chapter facility, which had been built in 1978, was showing its age. Oklahoma Alpha volunteers weren’t alone in their desire to replace their outdated facility. Between 2012 and 2016, Greek organizations on campus were building homes at a rapid rate. Consequently, SigEp’s chapter facility had begun to look outdated to potential members.

After completing a feasibility study, the AVC launched a capital campaign in 2012 to raise funds for the project. By 2016, the AVC had acquired over $1.1 million in pledges, and Mike Reddout ’85, was serving as head of a newly formed building committee. Other members of the committee included Darrell Pulliam ’84, Mike Daniel ’85, Jerry Dow ’86, David Mayfield ’90, Lance Miller ’95 and Trevor Davenport ’14. The team set out to raise additional dollars to make a down payment on the home.

To do so, the housing committee knew it needed to brag on the chapter’s successes. In the previous 10 years, Oklahoma Alpha had won three Buchanan Cups, placed no lower than third in intramurals and won various campus awards, including numerous Top 10 Freshmen awards. These achievements were reinforced by strong member development programming and summer recruitment. In addition, the chapter’s facility had been substance-free since 2005.

Hearing about the chapter’s success impressed alumni and got them excited about how much more the men could achieve if supported by the right kind of facility. With support from the AVC, the building committee raised an additional $600,000. This funding enabled the AVC to demolish the 39-year-old facility in June 2017 and begin construction.

In September 2018, over 400 alumni, undergraduates and guests gathered to celebrate the dedication of the chapter’s new $4.8 million, 23,000-square-foot facility. Architect Jon Kucera, Virginia ’69, and Gary Bridwell, Oklahoma State ’74, worked closely on the project. Kucera’s design for the chapter home was inspired by building styles he and Bridwell observed while touring the campus and the Karsten Creek Golf Course clubhouse in Stillwater. The home’s 30 bedrooms can accommodate up to 80 brothers in an assortment of two-, three- and four-man rooms. The house includes three stories and a basement, two study rooms with wall-to-wall white boards, and a resident scholar/house mother suite.

Other amenities include a full-service kitchen and dining room that seats around 100 people, a laundry room equipped with six washers and dryers, and a large elevated front porch that has become a coveted spot for hanging out with brothers and/or having lunch when the weather’s nice. The exterior boasts covered parking and the largest front yard of all the Greek houses on campus.

Chapter President Kase Anderson, ’22, said the new facility has had a positive effect on the chapter. “Brotherhood has increased due to the number of brothers able to live in-house, and chapter academics have improved through the benefit of ample study space in the facility.” Anderson noted that the chapter’s GPA, which was at 3.21 just a few years ago, has been at 3.30 or above every semester since the chapter moved into its new home.

In his remarks at the dedication ceremony, then-District Governor Glenn Ezell, North Texas ’87, observed, “The national Fraternity recognizes the importance of a chapter home, as over 90 percent of an undergraduate’s experience is outside of the classroom. Our chapter facility is the impetus for our men’s professional, personal and academic development.”

As Reddout congratulated volunteers and the chapter on a job well done, he summed up the significance of their achievement. “The commitment we make today cannot be underestimated — it will have a far-reaching effect on the lives of Oklahoma Alpha brothers for years to come. Sigma Phi Epsilon will continue to provide a quality living environment that supports, nurtures and develops outstanding young men with the skills and confidence to face an ever-changing world.”

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To show our appreciation, we're recognizing a number of dedicated SigEp volunteers who give their time to support our chapters and mentor our undergraduate brothers. We're grateful for the commitment of each of SigEp's more than 3,000 volunteers.

Austin Hurwitz, Pepperdine ’97, took on the role of Alumni and Volunteer Corporation president in 2017 for his home chapter. Combining long-term thinking with personalized support for the undergraduates, he's laid a foundation for long-term success at California Psi. Designing a five-year plan for the chapter, he aims to take the chapter to new heights and achieve a Buchanan Cup. In addition to his big-picture thinking, he's contributed greatly to the chapter's recruitment by helping undergraduates refine their recruitment pitches and maintain their manpower goals. Brother Hurwitz resides in the Los Angeles area.

Why do you volunteer with SigEp? 

My brothers and I successfully led Pepperdine’s transition from local Greek organizations to colonization and chartering with national organizations. As a California Psi founding father, there has never been a doubt in my mind that SigEp was the perfect fraternity for us and the ideal choice for the Pepperdine community. In February of 2017, following the 20th anniversary celebration of our chapter’s chartering, I agreed to serve as AVC President and worked with our chapter’s members and alumni as well as our brothers at headquarters and many other chapters across the country to forge a new and exciting path for SigEp CA Psi. Core to this path were clear objectives and goals rooted in furthering SigEp’s Learning Community concept. I volunteer with SigEp because I care deeply about my alma mater and my brothers. While our chapter is already one of the most historic student organizations as well as longest actively tenured and consistently successful Greek organizations on campus, SigEp’s full potential at Pepperdine and in the greater Los Angeles area has not yet been realized. We’re going after some pretty big things as a group, and that’s extremely exciting and profoundly rewarding.

How has serving as a SigEp volunteer impacted your life? 

Our university affirms … "Knowledge calls, ultimately, for a life of service.” Continuing to serve our Fraternity, which has helped deliver immeasurable and lasting added value since our national chartering in 1997, has impacted my life greatly. To me, our Fraternity has always afforded an unrivaled opportunity to make a positive impact on our university, community, spirituality and brotherhood. Our chapter's short-term and long-term goals have never been higher, and I’m inspired by how this is pushing everyone to think and act more creatively than ever before — even more so now, with the life-changing challenges that we’re all experiencing. With a combined local fraternity history that dates back to 1946, and national fraternity history that began in 1901, I’ve always appreciated the gravity of what has come before us and the responsibility of furthering the legacy we share with those that come after.

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The only diploma that hangs on investor and philanthropist Warren Buffett’s wall is a certificate he earned from a public speaking course. Buffett believes that communication skills can make or break a career, and Seth Irby, Louisiana State ’11, agrees.

Brother Irby has spent his career speaking in front of crowds and training executives. He is currently chief marketing and customer experience officer for a large insurance company in Louisiana. Here are his top three tips to effectively speak in public:

1. Preparation

Know your audience and figure out what they care about. Figure out how you can tailor your topic to their interests. Build a framework and stick to it before, during and at the end of your talk. Your framework doesn’t have to be complex, but it should have a main point and two to five supporting concepts. Refer back to it and use it as a roadmap for yourself and your audience.

2. Practice

Practice builds confidence, and confidence builds toughness. You’ll need toughness when public speaking, and in fact research shows that speaking in public is many people’s greatest fear. How do you build that toughness? Practice for yourself, taking a video and self-critiquing — and get feedback from others. Feedback is the breakfast of champions, and learning to try, fail and get better through feedback is one of the best things you can do.

By the way, Seth’s favorite piece of feedback is to eliminate filler words like “um,” “uh,” or “so” — the things we say to fill space when pausing. Get rid of filler words!

3. Storytelling 

A Harvard Business Review study showed that while less than 5 percent of those who listened to presentations could remember a specific piece of data, 63 percent of listeners remembered elements of a story. Storytelling is powerful, and gives our audiences something to remember us by. Identifying great stories is a great way to plan for future presentations; Seth keeps a list whenever he hears a great story. Open with stories, tell them throughout and leave your audiences with great stories.

Watch Seth’s IGTV video here — and keep an eye out for a story about worms.

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Early on, Nathaniel Reid, Missouri ’03, discovered the joy that comes from making something with his own hands. His father was a carpenter, and growing up, Reid learned many of the skills of his dad’s trade. Now,  he’s channeling that creative energy into a venture of his own. His chosen medium? Pastry.

The Le Cordon Bleu–trained chef has continued to solidify his reputation as a rising star in the food industry since opening his self-named bakery in 2016. Now, he’s been recognized with one of the most coveted honors in the business: In 2020, Reid was named a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Baker Award for the second year in a row. 

Earning a James Beard Award nomination signifies a level of culinary excellence only a few chefs ever achieve. José Andrés, Rick Bayless and Bobby Flay are among the chefs who have won James Beard Awards.

Reid described his first nomination in 2019 as “a complete shock.” He recalled how he found out. “I got a call from a food magazine,” he said. That’s not unusual, so I didn’t think anything was up. Then, they asked me how it felt to be a semifinalist.” 

Semifinalists are typically announced sometime in February, but it’s not always on the same date. Ever humble, Reid said his previous nomination made him more aware of the time frame for this year’s announcement, but that he was still surprised to receive another semifinalist nod.  

Although he didn’t progress to the finalist round either time, Reid appreciates being recognized as one of the country’s top bakers. 

Birth of a chef

His journey to becoming a chef began during college when he was working at a restaurant and asked to fill in when the pastry chef became ill. Reid chuckled as he recalled how, even though he had no experience making pastry, he repeatedly asked the executive chef to let him do the job. “Finally — just to make me go away, I think — he agreed to give me a shot, on the condition that I come in at 4 a.m.” 

After a few hours of trial and error, Reid prepared several desserts before heading off to class. Everything he made sold out. That experience got him hooked, and a chef was born. “The artistry of it was just fascinating to me,” he shared. 

After graduating from the world-renowned Le Cordon Bleu with a grand diploma in culinary and pastry arts, Reid embarked on a career that’s taken him to the kitchens of some of the world’s finest hotels and restaurants. Along the way, he won the 2010 U.S. Pastry Competition and in 2012, was named one of the top 10 pastry chefs in America by Dessert Professional magazine.

[ngg src="galleries" ids="8" display="basic_imagebrowser" template="default"]

He’s now putting those award-winning skills to use at the Nathaniel Reid Bakery, bringing the flavors of French pastries to the Midwest. “I feel like a lot of the products we make here are unique to this market, and some are unique to the whole country,” Reid stated. 

His takes on easily recognizable desserts like snickerdoodles and double chocolate brownies sit side by side with signature creations like the Amber, a French butter cookie with salted caramel mouse and pecan caramel, and the Kyoto, a hazelnut cake with lime caramel and a hazelnut milk chocolate mousse. Savory items like quiches, sandwiches and salads also feature prominently on the menu. With roughly 120 items available every day, customers will have no problem finding something delicious. 

Located in Kirkwood, Missouri, a suburb outside of St. Louis, the Nathaniel Reid Bakery operates from a small storefront in a nondescript strip mall. In an area that isn’t exactly known for its high foot traffic, Reid’s deserts and savory dishes have attracted a large and devoted following. In fact, demand was so great, he added another 1,000 square feet of baking and storage space in September 2019 just to keep up. He was also in the process of expanding his staff of 40 before the coronavirus pandemic forced him to shut down temporarily. The bakery reopened for curbside pickup on May 12 and is now open for takeout orders. 

A labor of love and loyalty

Those carpentry skills Reid learned from his father came in handy, as the two did much of the work to prepare the storefront themselves. It was a labor of love, and he’s grateful that several of his chapter brothers pitched in to help him get it done.

 “Some of my brothers who I hadn’t seen since college came in to help with this space. They ripped up floors and just helped me do whatever was needed to help get this place open,” he shared.

He had moved out of the country to attend culinary school right after college and lost touch with most of his chapter brothers. So having them show up to help him made an already significant time in his life even more special. Reflecting on his undergraduate days as a member of SigEp’s Missouri Alpha chapter, Reid said it’s not surprising that his brothers would make such an effort. “The individuals who were in the chapter with me were just a really great group of guys.”

He added, “To me, the interesting thing is it’s not just about that time together at school. There’s a loyalty to each other for life. To see them kind of rally and come together to help me out was great.”

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To show our appreciation, we're recognizing a number of dedicated SigEp volunteers who give their time to support our chapters and mentor our undergraduate brothers. We're grateful for the commitment of each of SigEp's more than 3,000 volunteers.

For nearly a decade, Dr. Brian Kassar has served as faculty fellow and chapter counselor to SigEp’s Montana Beta chapter at Montana State. Among his many accomplishments is spearheading a learning community committee that resulted in a faculty lecture series that’s open to the entire campus. A Renaissance brother, he connects undergraduates to other faculty members and is a major factor in the chapter’s positive relationship with university officials. A 2020 recipient of SigEp's University Partner of the Year Award, Brother Kassar has facilitated at the Carlson Leadership Academy and also received the Volunteer of the Year Award in 2013. 

Why do you volunteer with SigEp? 

I volunteer with SigEp because it’s an organization whose values I believe in. The men of the Montana State chapter are great and I want to help them reach their personal and chapter goals.

How has serving as a SigEp volunteer impacted your life? 

It has impacted me professionally and personally: it’s given me leadership skills and professional experiences I wouldn’t have gained otherwise, and it’s given me a huge brotherhood. Growing up, I always wanted a brother, and now I have hundreds. I think male friendships, and inter-generational friendships, are vital in men’s lives, and SigEp has given me many of them. Being with the guys inspired me to finish my first half-marathon!

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As Grand President Tom Jelke, Florida International ’90, reminded SigEp brothers and friends in early June, brotherly love calls on SigEps “with true hearts … [to] be shields of defense to those less able to bear their burdens.” 

Undergraduate brothers in SigEp across the country have risen to their obligation and confidently expressed that Black lives matter through volunteering, fundraising to contribute  donations to community organizations, using their voices to speak out against injustice and examining how to create positive changes within their chapters. 

The stories below illustrate a handful of the ways SigEp chapters are deepening relationships in their communities and bringing people together to advocate for equality.

Minnesota Alpha, Minnesota

At the University of Minnesota the Minnesota Alpha chapter sought ways to support and get involved in the midst of the protests happening in their backyard. The chapter quickly organized a drive to collect funds, raising more than $1,200 to help replenish local food banks experiencing shortages during the protests. Members coordinated food and supply drop-offs and challenged the rest of the Greek community to get involved. The chapter is also looking at its leadership structure and recruitment processes to examine how it can be more inclusive.

Chapter President Ben Schroeder, Minnesota ’22, explained that the chapter is interested in advocating for social justice on a broad scale, but also believes that change begins at home. “It starts internally. It is time for us to focus on what we can do as a chapter to educate ourselves and get out into the community.” 

Alabama Beta, Alabama

The SigEp chapter at the University of Alabama also responded to nationwide calls for social change. The chapter created a fundraising campaign for the Brown House, a community organization that provides tutoring, shelter and a support system to children and families in need. While the chapter raised $2,000 in just a week’s time, its main focus is on taking on a more active role as volunteers at the Brown House. The chapter hopes to continue to build upon that relationship and help create a more inclusive community where all children feel like they belong. 

Reid Petersen, Alabama ’22, attended protests while back home in Nashville, Tennessee, for the summer. The first protest he attended included over 10,000 people marching in the streets of Nashville, and SigEp was a big part of why Petersen was one of them. He shared, “As a member of SigEp, I felt that it was important for me to participate in this protest because its principles can be broken down to the idea that people should treat one another with brotherly love, regardless of race. To sit idly by would be neglecting one’s duty to live by the founding principles of SigEp. I felt that I needed to actively support Black Lives Matter, not just with my words, but with my actions as well.”

California Sigma, Cal-State Northridge

[caption id="attachment_18581" align="alignleft" width="302"] Brothers from SigEp's Cal State-Northridge chapter attended protests and made donations to organizations advocating for equality.[/caption]

Brothers in the California Sigma chapter at California State-Northridge banded together to not only attend various protests, but also to provide food and water to protestors. Chapter leadership mobilized to communicate pertinent information to the chapter about ways to get involved and educate themselves on the issues. Leaders have already reached out to the campus Office of Equity and Diversity to collect resources and plan Balanced Man Program and SigEp Learning Community programming for the fall. 

California Sigma also raised $1,500 in a day for several organizations that advocate on behalf of and serve Black communities impacted by racism and inequality. “As SigEps, we are taught to be different from those around us and to use our voices on important matters like this one,” Chapter President Adrian Galera, Cal State-Northridge ’21, stated. “Staying silent will only contribute to the problem. We simply wanted to be the organization that took action.”

Nebraska Delta, Creighton

At Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, the Nebraska Delta chapter has doubled down on its relationship with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Midlands. Big Brothers Big Sisters, SigEp’s national philanthropic partner, prides itself on “Defining the Potential” of youth in our communities. SigEp brothers at Creighton have already raised over $3,000 for their local BBBS with a goal of reaching over $4,000 by the end of July in honor of the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Over 30 members of the chapter already volunteer as “Bigs” and have spent hours investing in strong relationships with their “Littles,” who come from diverse backgrounds and communities in the Omaha area. 

Brothers are also seeking to build on this philosophy and ensure that the chapter environment they’re creating is welcoming to people from diverse communities. The chapter has created a diversity and inclusion chair who will sit on the executive board, recruitment committee and Balanced Man Scholarship committee. 

National Fraternity supports diversity and inclusion

These are just a few of the many ways SigEp chapters are doing more than making a statement — they are taking action and building processes to improve their chapters for years to come. 

As our chapters continue to identify the best ways to combat racial injustice and enhance diversity, equity and inclusion, so too does the national Fraternity. The Diversity and Inclusion Task Force was created at the direction of the Grand Chapter at the 2019 Conclave in Houston to provide recommendations on improving our resources and structures in these areas. Its work has already resulted in a commitment from our National Board of Directors to create a permanent committee on diversity, equity and inclusion. The committee and national Fraternity welcome your perspective on how we can continue to address these issues and work with our local chapters to be leading voices in their respective Greek communities. Please share your own experiences or provide feedback and ideas in this survey.

To foster ongoing discussion about these issues, we also presented “Our Lives Matter: Black in SigEp,” a virtual dialog in which several of our brothers spoke about what it means to be Black in the United States and a SigEp. We encourage all our brothers to watch the video, learn from their stories and become a part of the solution.

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