“We’re not here to fit in,” said Arizona Chapter President John Emery, ’17. “We’re here to provide an experience that changes brothers’ lives.” When alumni and current students at the University of Arizona resolved to return SigEp to their campus, they knew they’d be facing challenges that had plagued the chapter before.
“Greek life at Arizona is notorious for party-focused organizations that place little value on ideas other than social reputation,” Emery said. “It can be a difficult environment to create a chapter that thinks differently, acts differently and believes in different things.”
Despite the challenges they faced in the Greek community, they were dedicated to doing things right. So far, said Emery, their efforts have paid off.
Since coming back to campus in 2012, the chapter has grown to more than 80 men and consistently holds the highest Greek GPA on campus. This year, the chapter took home Arizona’s Greek Chapter of the Year Award, the Dean of Students Award for Excellence in the Greek Community, the Excellence in Diversity Awareness Award and others.
Now, with a state-of-the-art facility completed and Residential Learning Community accreditation in their sights, the brothers are ready to take the chapter to the next level.
Stepping up the academic game
“With our new facility, we have a huge opportunity to do more than ever to help every brother reach his potential,” said Vice President of Membership Development Blake Stacy, ’17. “Last semester we took advantage of the space by dedicating the second largest room in the facility to studying and mentoring. It’s open 24-7, and thanks to our alumni, it’s furnished with desks, chairs, two new computers and a printer.”
With its all-glass walls revealing the surrounding mountainsides, it also happens to be the most beautiful view on campus.
“From now on, brothers know there’s somewhere they can come, day or night, to focus on their studies and get ahead,” said Stacy.
Another draw for brothers is the regular presence of faculty mentors. Last semester, university instructor Steven Reff, who Stacy describes as one of the best known and most loved instructors in Arizona’s business school, began holding office hours in the home. As a SigEp faculty fellow, he also gives presentations in the new space and occasionally joins the chapter for dinner. Stacy said the chapter hopes to grow the number of faculty fellows who feel comfortable socializing at the house.
“There’s a difference between getting to know your instructors inside a large lecture hall and getting to know them in the comfort of your own home,” he explained. “Besides helping us sharpen our focus on academic excellence, we’ll have opportunities to talk with professors about career advancement, post-graduate degree options and secrets to living successful, balanced lives,” Stacy said.
Engaging with alumni
The new facility has also opened doors for reconnecting with the chapter’s alumni. Last fall during homecoming weekend, the chapter invited alumni from every generation to attend the facility’s dedication. Over the weekend, they reinstated a decades-old tradition of inducting accomplished alumni into the chapter’s “Hall of Fame.”
“They did a masterful job,” said alumnus Pete Rich, ’76, who served as Alumni and Volunteer Corporation (AVC) president before the chapter’s closure and helped oversee the chapter’s return to campus. “By opening the home and honoring older alumni, they built bridges to connect the different generations.”
Working with their new AVC, the chapter hosted more than 200 alumni and guests in the new home and inducted three members into the Hall of Fame.
“It’s new and it’s different, but these guys have a 3.4 GPA,” Rich said. “The university loves them. They’re doing everything right.”
“You can’t deny the results the chapter has produced,” Rich said. He’s proud of what they’ve accomplished through the Balanced Man Program.
“In the end, it’s all about guys creating some tremendous friendships and bonds that will sustain them through a lifetime. I’m proud of them for figuring out how to recreate themselves for their day,” he said.
Recruiting the right men
As the chapter gains visibility for their achievements and the presence of their new home, they’ve got their work cut out for them, said former Chapter President Kevin Johnson, ’15.
“Now that our chapter facility has been completed, there’s a danger that guys will start coming around for the wrong reasons,” Johnson said. “The trick for us is to make sure we’re only recruiting the best men by engaging them early in honest discussions about our values.”
As long as they recruit men who exhibit the Fraternity’s values and are genuinely interested in bettering themselves, he’s confident they’ll continue to lead on campus.
“Being a SigEp means striving to reach our greatest potential as human beings,” said Chapter President Emery. “Our alumni and volunteers have given us a huge opportunity by providing us with this incredible new facility, but we know the house won’t do the work for us. It’s on us to instill the values that make this chapter great for generations to come.”
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