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Revolutionizing Fraternity What happens when we think differently?
Fraternity/Sorority Movement or Inertia? We often say we’re “advancing the movement,” but are we driving forward or resisting change?
If Only I Could Reach More
Proving our effectiveness has become an expectation. How can we make the most of our resources?
editor’s note You’re out for a run. Pounding the pavement, step after step. Headphones on and listening to your favorite mix. You have a Walkman or Discman strapped to your hip, most likely playing a homemade cassette tape or CD of Matchbox 20, Destiny’s Child, ‘N Sync or Jay-Z—because it’s 2000 and the iPod (and certainly not the iPhone) and iTunes have yet to be invented, “putting 1,000 songs in your pocket.” In 2001, when Apple launched the iPod, it revolutionized the way we listen to, buy, store and share music with the iPod and iTunes. Fast forward and this innovation has grown into a host of products, apps, operating systems and beyond that some might say have changed the way we live. When we pause to think about it, innovations like the iPod seem like something that could only be envisioned by someone else. Innovation is a foreign concept done by staffers working for the likes of Apple and Google who tailor culture and environment around creativity. Surely, we could be innovative if work time and resources were dedicated to think-tanking and our offices were housed in brightly colored, open-air departments with games, wall-to-wall white boards and intentionally designed collaborative spaces.
Heather Matthews Kirk Editor @hmk0618
Innovation is something that likely feels huge, lofty and unreachable from our desks within higher education institutions and organizations. In this issue of Perspectives, we are proposing innovation is within our reach, it is not an option, and it starts with thinking differently about your work. Most inventions happen because someone asks the question, “How can this be better?” How can life be better, different or more? This is something many professionals ask themselves about fraternity—how can this experience be better, be more for our members throughout their lifetime. Yet, often we stop there, or we throw stones at the problems, placing blame, but not fixing or improving conditions. In this issue, authors raise some big, interesting, complex questions. They step outside of our comfort zone, our traditions and our past to analyze issues from a “what if” mindset. They are focused on solutions, asking readers to think differently about our work and field.
Innovation is within our reach, it is not an option, and it starts with thinking differently about your work.
While this issue does not have a concise theme like others of late—service, harm reduction or mentorship—when we reviewed the articles seeking publication, we noticed a very clear, common thread. The pieces submitted all aim to challenge the process we’ve grown accustomed to. The articles prompt bold thinking about fraternities and sororities, and they encourage bold action and conversation. Whether you agree or disagree with the hypotheticals or directions the authors pose, we hope this issue inspires you to approach something about your work differently—maybe conversations with students (see Schutts on page 14), advising style (see Carlson on page 34) or programming (see Wrona on page 18). Additionally, don’t just ask yourself “what if?” or “how could fraternity be better?”—think about and act on solutions. Innovation does not happen overnight. Invention is rarely accidental. It requires the same intentional, focused work we are used to, but the focus changes. To take a page from the innovation experts, we must “think big, but start small” (Wojcicki, 2011). As Susan Wojcicki, Google’s senior vice president of advertising, says, “No matter how ambitious the plan, you have to roll up your sleeves and start somewhere” (2011).
Apple (n.d.). iPod + iTunes Timeline. Retrieved Oct. 10, 2013 from http://www.apple.com/pr/products/ipodhistory/ Wojcicki, Susan (2011). The Eight Pillars of Innovation. Retrieved Oct. 10, 2013 from http://www.google.com/think/ articles/8-pillars-of-innovation.html
from the president For the past several weeks, I’ve been reflecting on a powerful Thomas Merton quote: There can be an intense egoism in following everybody else. People are in a hurry to magnify themselves by imitating what is popular—and too lazy to think of anything better. Hurry ruins saints as well as artists. They want quick success, and they are in such haste to get it that they cannot take time to be true to themselves. And when the madness is upon them, they argue that their haste is a species of integrity.
Jeremiah Shinn 2013 President @booneshinn
To me, it seems like a profession whose members are among the youngest, most passionate and energetic in all of higher education ought be more consistently innovative.
I have been simultaneously haunted and inspired by Merton’s words of wisdom and warning. The sheer simplicity and poetry of his statement has been the catalyst I needed to help me crystallize a jumbled mess of disconnected thoughts I have had for a while. I think the quote is applicable in multiple stations of one’s life, but in the context of fraternity/sorority professionals, it caused me to reflect on three things specifically. 1.
Why on earth do we do what we do as professionals? And more importantly, why don’t we do what we don’t do? Specifically, why do we as well-meaning, educated, talented professionals continue to support, affirm and promote the tired conventional wisdom regarding our work? Is it because we truly believe the conventional wisdom is the most likely strategy for progress? Or is it because aligning ourselves with the well-worn conventional wisdom provides each of us with sufficient professional currency to avoid the conflict and stigma associated with being a professional who is known to challenge what has become the norm?
Why isn’t our profession consistently pushing the envelope, moving the needle or [insert any other cliché pertaining to change and innovation here]? Is it, as Merton suggests, because we’re lazy? Is it because we’ve prioritized our work ineffectively? Is it because we lack the ability, influence or wherewithal to make things happen? Is it for another reason altogether? To me, it seems like a profession whose members are among the youngest, most passionate and energetic in all of higher education ought be more consistently innovative… or at least open to change. Yet somehow we find ourselves in an idea rut that has us buried to our elbows with the same basic assumptions, beliefs and ideas we have been kicking around for years. During the past 15 years, the patterns of our lives have fundamentally shifted as a result of technology and innovation. What prevents our profession from doing the same?
It is interesting to ponder the notion of being in a hurry while simultaneously not moving fast enough (e.g. innovative ideas, change, etc.). To use the driving metaphor: It seems like we are in a hurry to be somewhere, but we are in less of a hurry to actually get in the car and endure the dull monotony of getting there. I don’t doubt all of us dream of a better world for fraternities and sororities—NOW. But I wonder if our appetite for mind-blowing success NOW is what ultimately prevents us from rolling up our sleeves and beginning the long, dull and monotonous process toward change.
This issue of Perspectives is focused on innovation, challenge and change. Whether by Borton and Bureau’s provocative “fraternity redraft” article, Callais and Griffin’s timely review of Generation on a Tightrope or Deeg’s reminder that the higher education landscape is shifting underneath our feet, I hope you will be challenged to think differently about your work. I believe this issue will serve as a prompt for rich discussions about what is next for our profession and how we become more comfortable knowing, being and doing differently.
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Perspectives is the official publication of the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors, Inc. (AFA). Views expressed are those of the individual authors/contributors/advertisers and are not necessarily those of the Association. AFA encourages the submission of articles, essays, ideas and advertisements. Submissions should be directed to the Editor, advertising queries to the staff. Submission Deadlines: Winter 2014: November 1, 2013 Spring 2014: February 1, 2014 Summer 2014: May 1, 2014 Editor: Heather Matthews Kirk Zeta Tau Alpha Heather-Kirk@zetataualpha.org (317) 872.0540 @hmk0618 Staff: Lea Hanson Director of Marketing & Communication email@example.com Monica Ceja Coordinator of Marketing & Communication firstname.lastname@example.org 2013 Editorial Board: Noah Borton, Delta Upsilon Fraternity Emilee Danielson Burke, Shippensburg University Andrew Hohn, University of Illinois Scott Isenga, University of Central Arkansas Sarah McCracken, Delta Zeta Nathan Thomas, Bradley University Cover art by Haleigh Castino, Zeta Tau Alpha Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors P.O. Box 1369, Suite 250 Fort Collins, CO 80522-1369 email@example.com phone: (970) 797.4361 fax: (888) 855.8670 www.afa1976.org @AFA1976
in this issue
8 Fraternity/Sorority Movement or Inertia? Timothy H. Reuter
Fraternity/sorority isn’t a movement; it’s simply in a state of inertia. In order to jolt fraternity/sorority out of its inert state, we need to challenge the thinking of leadership at every level. How can we get rid of the barriers and start moving forward?
14 Perhaps It’s Time We Quit Talking about “Shared Values.” Joshua Schutts
Fraternity/sorority professionals are speaking a different language than our students. While we continually discuss shared fraternal values, students better understand more tangible concepts such as standards and expectation. How can we get on the same page?
I Could Only Reach More: Calculating the Return on 18 IfInvestment of Educational Initiatives Dan Wrona
Is it really enough if you only change one person’s life or way of thinking? A basic understanding of how return on investment works says it is not. How can we stop settling for moderate results under the guise of being admirable?
24 :: Are We Keeping Up With the Times? 26 :: Fraternity Redraft: Creating Commitment Through Choice
03 :: Editor’s Note 04 :: From the President 07 :: Letters to the Editor 32 :: Book Review 34 :: Spotlight
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the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. –Marcel Proust
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Building New Leaders is an Interactive Workshop that gives your emerging leaders the opportunity to develop strong leadership skills before they take on a leadership role within your chapter. Your members will examine their values, explore different leadership styles and discuss common leadership challenges with other new leaders. This Interactive Workshop will help your members identify their personal leadership style and prepare them to be a leader in your chapter. Building New Leaders is ideal for new members, students interested in a leadership position, newly elected officers and anyone interested in learning more about themselves as a leader! Learning Outcomes •
Have a clear picture of values and how these values impact their effectiveness as a leader
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Demonstrate and practice leadership styles in order to understand the value and difference between each
letters to the editor Redefining Service with Students
I don’t normally do something as bold as this, but I had to write and express my appreciation for the summer issue of Perspectives. In the past on our campus, meaningful engagement, purposeful service and philanthropy have been lacking. I am passionate about redirecting our students’ actions and thoughts involving their community service and philanthropic endeavors. With what was covered within this issue, I feel as though I have some wonderful supporting material to amp up necessary critical conversations with my students. I appreciate the work the editorial board has done and thank each writer for their words. It is truly an excellent issue and I know I (and I am sure I’m not the only one) will be utilizing much, if not all, of its information. Katherine Carnell Director, Office of Student Involvement & Leadership University of Mount Union
Sparking Dialogue at a National Level
I am writing in response to the summer issue of Perspectives. The articles and topics addressed in Perspectives provided a space for staff members at the Phi Mu National Headquarters to engage in meaningful dialogue as we planned for our annual National Philanthropy Day (NPD). This day of service encourages members to volunteer in their local community and to live out the first line of Phi Mu’s Creed, “to lend to those less fortunate a helping hand.” While encouraging hands-on service ever since it began in 1999, NPD had not provided members the opportunity to examine their beliefs, values and assumptions about their service experience. Phi Mu is proud to introduce a new component to NPD this year: reflection activities. The reflection activities provide a space for members to examine topics ranging
from power and privilege; personal identity development; and creating change within a community. The Perspectives issue assisted Phi Mu staff with the development of intentional reflection activities that aim to help members define the, “what?”, “so what?” and “now what” of their service experience. As an educator, I am grateful to you, the Association and all of the contributing authors. Elyse Gambardella Director of Leadership and Curriculum Development Phi Mu Fraternity
Making Time for Reading
I just have to tell you how much I’m enjoying the summer issue of Perspectives. I have to admit I haven’t made reading, pursuing scholarly articles and challenging myself to give more thought to my work or our field a priority. The summer issue of Perspectives has been so exciting to read and such a motivation to do more and seek a deeper understanding. I appreciate it so much. Well done! Megan Latchford Assistant Director of Leadership & Education Beta Theta Pi
Fraternity/Sorority Movement or Inertia Why we cannot achieve a better future when we are constantly responding to debilitating issues By Timothy H. Reuter 8
level that believes quantitative measures are more important than the quality of the experiences we provide. I also believe we must stop enabling members, chapters and volunteers who bastardize fraternity/sorority and use it as a vehicle to perpetuate debilitating issues. Once we get beyond these issues, we can focus on the opportunities ahead of fraternity/ sorority and achieve aspirations as a movement. This past year, I was involved in a number of fraternity/ sorority programs, summits, institutes, strategy sessions, think tanks, dialogues, coaching and consulting opportunities, etc. These experiences informed my thinking that we are in a state of inertia, yet an opportunity for a movement still exists. Here is why.
A movement is the activity of a group toward the achievement of a specific or common goal. Today in 2013, are we collectively working toward the achievement of a specific or common goal? I do not believe so. Our professionals and invested volunteers dedicate hundreds of thousands of hours per year to debilitating issues—hazing, excessive alcohol consumption, asocial behavior, illegal drug use, sexual assault, theft, neighborhood disruption, general contradictions of professed values and ritual teachings, etc. Host institutions, headquarters and supporters of fraternity/sorority spend a disproportionate amount of time managing these debilitating issues. Is this our shared or common goal—managing and preventing risk? I certainly hope not, but I think it is the only mutual objective and shared practice between host institutions and headquarters. This leads me to believe fraternity/sorority is in a state of inertia, but I believe it could again become a movement. We can find localized bright spots within our organizations and campuses. We have institutional and organizational leaders, students and invested individuals who are doing the right thing in situations when it is not so easy to do so. These bright spots are intentional efforts to achieve values-based aspirations; these efforts demonstrate a desire to be greater than the current fraternity/sorority collective. Unfortunately, these efforts are disparate and oftentimes overshadowed by the reactive nature of what is currently happening in fraternity/sorority life. This begs the question, if we are not a movement, what are we? The simple answer is we are in a state of inertia—resistance to action or change. I believe we can jolt fraternity/sorority out of its inert state by embracing change and taking collaborative action. In the best interest of the future of fraternity/sorority life, we need to challenge the thinking of leadership at every
We have contrasting definitions of “the movement.” I have spoken with students, campus-based professionals, headquarters professionals, trustees, board members, association leaders, other consultants, and more. They have different lenses through which they look at fraternity/ sorority and very different definitions of its function. A prime example occurred at the 2013 Interfraternal Summit, a bi-annual event hosted by NASPA’s Fraternity & Sorority Knowledge Community. I was asked to define “fraternity/ sorority movement” while leading the program. With more than 25 senior student affairs officers and fraternity/ sorority association leaders in the room, I turned it over to the participants for a response. It was clear individuals had different interpretations of the movement’s definition. Some defined “the movement” through a historical narrative, while others believed it related to quantitative measures, contributing to the mission of higher education, and more. These unclear and inconsistent definitions of “the movement” have continued to vex me.
The implications of these competing and inconsistent definitions of “the movement” are compounded by our constant focus on debilitating issues. We spend hundreds of thousands of hours preventing and cleaning up messes. One colleague recently shared with me that his department jokingly changed their name to “Hazmat” due to the number of incidents they managed.
Turning on the Bright Lights
Success is currently determined by quantitative measures (number of chapters, members, and pledges, size of staff, foundation dollars raised, etc.) and not by the quality of the experiences we provide which positively change people. Look at the majority of our institutional/organizational data on fraternity and sorority, the way chapters and organizations are grouped together, what undergraduates boast during recruitment, etc. Yet, bright spots and localized efforts indicate a desire for a better future exists, i.e., the Call for Values Congruence, headquarters’ recent member development and assessment initiatives, localized campus programs and investments, etc. How do these evolve from bright spots within fraternity/sorority to bright lights leading fraternity/ sorority?
We are capable of challenging the status quo on our campuses and within our organizations, though I do not necessarily believe everyone is interested doing so. I believe fraternity/ sorority professionals are interested in defining and working towards a shared objective; however, interest is often offset and undone by the influence and expectations of supervisors, donors and board/trustee members. Self-interest and quantitative measures are common barriers to challenging the status quo.
25 hours: Campus professionals (associate dean or dean level) and headquarters professionals (director level)
20 Hours: Campus professionals (assistant VP or VP level) and headquarters professionals (executive team level)
“Success is currently determined by quantitative measures and not by the quality of the experiences we provide which positively change people.”
When you think about the multiplier of this scenario, you begin to see the full picture of why fraternity/sorority is in a state of inertia. There are approximately 800 college campuses that host fraternities and sororities. For the sake of argument, assume host institutions average four fraternity/sorority-related incidents per year. Simple math tells us that would produce 640,000 hours of professional staff time spent responding to the past and not leading fraternity/sorority into the future (3,200 issues times 100 hours per campus and headquarters per issue). This does not even include the Friday afternoon phone calls about unregistered weekend events.
While all four barriers hold us back, it is lost time that makes it impossible to move forward.
The Real Cost: 100 Hours in the Life of a Fraternity/Sorority Professional Imagine a situation where two initiated and active members (men’s or women’s organization) scoop up five to seven new members, take them to an off-campus location, and subject the new members to what would commonly be interpreted as physical and mental hazing. The hazing allegation is reported to your office. What are the costs and implications of this allegation? After posing this scenario to the 2013 Interfraternal Summit participants, we determined the following: •
This type of allegation can easily necessitate 100 collective hours of staff time and attention for both campus and headquarters professionals.
Mid-level staff does much of the heavy lifting, i.e., investigating, interviewing, drafting reports, making meaning of what happened, etc. Senior staff has additional meetings to think about the larger impact of the alleged incident and exposures to the campus/organization. All of this takes time, and all of this is reactionary. I had one colleague recently share that a hazing allegation produced a 94-page document when all was said and done. Imagine how long it takes to type 94 pages, much less gather enough information to fill them.
Do the math for your campus/headquarters. How much does 100 hours cost, given the following individuals’ time and salary?
We need to own the future of fraternity/sorority, yet we are being owned by its past. It is not healthy for professionals or fair to the future of fraternity/sorority to remain victims of debilitating issues. I am tired of seeing friends and colleagues enjoy creative, generative spaces and working to make fraternity/sorority better only have that inspiration undone by the immediate and reactive needs of a debilitating issue. I can remember walking into a chapter, and even one colony installation, with some inspirational message and seeing a common source alcohol container, or learning of a hazing allegation or alcohol violation. An annual cycle of responding to the past, cleaning it up, recharging through a meeting or generative discussion and then repeating is does not lead to a movement. If we do not get beyond the cycle, how will we ever collectively achieve a better future? How will we do so before risk exposures, liability insurance and indemnification create permanent road blocks on a path to a shared objective?
“We need to own the future of fraternity/sorority, yet we are being owned by its past.”
Do the Math
• 5 Hours: Campus professionals (VP on up) and headquarters level (executive director or board member)
50 hours: Campus professionals (assistant director, director or assistant dean level) and headquarters professionals (consultant, assistant or associate director level)
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Implications for the Future
Our commodity is not a mass-produced widget that comes out of an assembly line, despite what formal recruitment looks like on some campuses. The fraternity/ sorority world is complicated, but our commodity is simple— it is relationships. What we offer is belonging, community, achieving self-actualization and other intangibles. This is something that takes time and intentional nurturing, and it also requires healthy environments that facilitate a student/ member journey towards those ends. That is the lynch-pin for jolting fraternity/sorority out of a disparate idea of purpose to truly operationalize a movement. The environments in which fraternity/sorority exists and the cultures we create, tolerate and/or perpetuate ultimately influence the student/member journey. If our environments
and cultures are strong enough and maintained with an intentional regard to facilitate self-actualization, we can minimize the debilitating issues that occupy so much of our time. This does not eliminate the possibility of struggles, failures or regression. However, healthy environments certainly potentiate a trajectory that gets fraternity/sorority to a better place. This leads me to think there are two main implications for the future of fraternity/sorority: 1. Do nothing and accept things for what they are. Admit that we cannot agree on a shared vision and purpose alignment for fraternity/sorority as a collective. Embrace the fact that changing environment and culture is too difficult and focusing on quality of experience is not as important as quantity of members, chapters and money. Openly accept that harm and crises will accompany the debilitating issues perpetuated by fraternity/sorority as a whole. Train professionals for a cyclical approach to their work: respond to debilitating issues that have already happened, clean them up, recharge with a positive experience and repeat; or 2. Commit to change and embrace the opportunity to achieve shared objectives for a better future. Create environments that positively influence student/member development. Place the interest of the collective above the interest of yourself (or your unhealthy culture and illegal traditions), and do so without compromising your values, the mission of higher education, or your organization’s ritual. Adapt, evolve, and change how we measure the success of a fraternity/sorority experience. We all know how to do this; we teach students and chapters how to do this every day. We are more than capable of creating clear expectations across organizations, campuses and associations to inform members’ spheres of influence (alumni, programming, training, conferences, campus culture, etc.) on what is expected. When individual campuses and headquarters are strategically aligned and headed in the same direction, we have the beginnings of a true movement that gets beyond the cycle of responding to crises and cleaning up the past. My fear is that more campuses than we typically admit are satisfied with the current conditions of their culture and the environment in which they provide a fraternity/sorority experience. I also fear more headquarters than we typically admit believe quantitative measures are the end goal and accept increased potential for debilitating issues as the tradeoff. We will always have the opportunity to align and collaboratively influence fraternity/sorority for the better. However, we must do it in a collective sense and not let debilitating issues and quantitative measures outweigh and overshadow the bright spots that indicate interest in a better future. I believe it is timely, given the nature and trends of today’s student demographic. I believe it is needed, given the nature of what is happening in society. I believe fraternity/ sorority could and should be a movement. Most importantly, I believe it must.
Are We Ready to Move? Here are points to think about regarding the future of fraternity/sorority. As you answer these questions, do not just think about yourself or your campus/ organization. Try and think about all of the headquarters professionals (executives to consultants), campus professionals (trustees, presidents, VPs to grad staff), alumni, volunteers, members, association leaders, board members, etc., with whom you have interacted over the years, decades, etc. •
As a whole, are we dissatisfied enough that we want to move forward?
Can campuses, headquarters and invested stakeholders agree on a common objective or better place where we want to end up?
Are we comfortable, or capable of, gauging success not by quantitative measures (number of chapters, number members, number of pledges, size of staff, foundation dollars raised, etc.) but by the quality of experience we provide?
Can we agree we have to make changes that potentiate more proactive work than reactive work?
Can we agree we have to stop dedicating most of our time, energy and attention to a small percentage of members, chapters and organizations that perpetuate debilitating issues?
Can we embrace the fact that this is going to alter how we do our work and lead our campuses, organizations and members?
Can we find a way to calculate the return on investment (ROI) of making this leap?
As individual campuses and headquarters, are we willing to embrace the challenges this will present and support one another as we adapt and evolve? This means help and support one another when the “C” words (consequences and change) come into play. This also means collaborating and staying the course when our boards and other high-level leadership get nervous about the bottom line (which is a natural thing, because that is what they are expected to do; this is why we need to calculate and understand the ROI first).
Tim Reuter is a learning experience and organizational change architect. A partner and co-founder at Growth Guiders, his proactive and collaborative approach is informed by a background in nonprofit management, curriculum design, governance, organizational change, experiential learning, collaborative design thinking, and research/assessment. Tim volunteers on center/association boards and committees in the areas of higher education, fraternal organizations, and training/development
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Perhaps It’s Time We Quit Talking About “Shared Values” By Joshua Schutts
In 2012, Dr. Gentry McCreary and I conducted a series of research studies to explore how brotherhood is conceptualized within the college fraternity. What resulted was the first quantitative scale to measure the construct of brotherhood. As we developed the scale, we began with questions about standards, expectations and values. To our surprise, the items worded to capture “values” did not load within our exploratory statistical procedure. By contrast, items aiming to capture standards and expectations did. This informed us that values are not an explicitly overt part of brotherhood. If we are to engage our men in the concept of brotherhood building, we should move away from the more nebulous conversation on values, and rather examine their standards and expectations. Some might contend a chapter’s standards and expectations are rooted in values. At first glance, it is safe to support that, but let’s not be naïve in this assumption. How one conceptualizes values and which values are being considered are equally as important. Groups like the Franklin Square and Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors have challenged campus and headquarters professionals, as well as volunteers,
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to focus the conversation around values, or more specifically “shared values.” We fall short as a profession if we believe the “values conversation” to be the ultimate solution. If the values our students are connecting to are the expectations held by their peers, then a misalignment occurs. Here we find the rudimentary disconnect between our founders’ creation and daily operations at the chapter or member level. I propose a re-conceptualization of values as (1) being both positive and negative, and (2) being the result of how we spend our time and our money. Maybe we should put down the ritual book and find alternative points of entry into the conversation. Leadership author Stephen Covey once said, “I can tell everything I need to know about what you value by looking in two places: Your calendar and your checkbook.” Students, therefore have a difficult time conceptualizing the positive, esoteric shared values because they are being lost in translation. Sometimes that breakdown is a result of the way the transmission is occurring. I recall again the challenge given to participants at the NIC’s Undergraduate Interfraternity
“So, we as professionals could talk about ‘shared values’ until we are blue in the face, but behavior illuminates real shared values.”
Institute: “learn it, live it, teach it, expect it.” We all know what “it” is. But if we’re really going to start reformulating values back into the equation, perhaps we need to break “learn it” into understand it and practice it. People and organizations have an interesting interchange. I once had a new member tell me he was frustrated the initiated members of the chapter teach new members about positive aspects, yet display behaviors completely contrary to those lessons. Holding oneself to a high standard, being a moral person of strong values and committing to the expectations of membership were preached but not inculcated. In this example, the chapter (or its members speaking ‘for’ the chapter) stated the values of the organization were, for example, honor, love and gentlemanly character. However, what they demonstrated was that the chapter actually valued drinking beer, womanizing and picking on each other. Here we see the disconnect from the perspective of the member. So, we as professionals could talk about “shared values” until we are blue in the face, but behavior illuminates real shared values. In many respects, to me, this is why brotherhood and sisterhood is not about values in a book or secrets. Values are delivered every day in the interactions, positive and negative, that members display between and among each other. If your chapter was anything like mine, we said we valued scholarship, but the brethren often got drunk and slept through class. We said we valued leadership, but few if any brothers got involved on campus. We said we valued athletics, and guys would sign up for intramural sports and then blow them off to go smoke pot. We said we valued being a gentleman, and brothers would call women horrible things that embarrassed them just to get a good laugh. We valued convincing someone’s daughter that the bed in the room on the right was more comfortable than her own.
significant hours of service to the local community. We valued the ceremonies and we valued bringing in new guys we liked (not just because they would clean the house). Ritual was probably the most attended programming we performed. My chapter was an interesting paradox of positive and negative behaviors. We were unique, in our minds, yet we shared so much of that in common with our contemporaries. While this experience might not be the norm, it is certainly not abnormal. So how do we try to align values? We tend to impose them. We make things required—too many things. And why? Do we need all of our brothers there? For example, who is initiation for anyway: the new member, or the guys in the back of the room? Sure, there are some people who have to be there—they play a part – they are an actor on the stage. But does everyone? We force people to come to things that we place little time and care in. We wonder why their attitudes suck and why they cause disruptions. I think we need to take a page from T.J. Sullivan’s book Motivating the Middle. It is time we considered what baseline expectations we need from people, and then hold them to those. These do not have to be rooted in values,
We valued these things because we did them, and few brothers, if any, tried to stop these actions. Return to my previous comments in the example of my student: words state, whereas actions demonstrate. Now, we also valued loyalty and honor and friendship. I know this because we had a solidarity—a “one man is no man” attitude that was fervent and beyond reproach. We valued raising money for charities and walking the dogs at the local animal shelter. Two of the years I was in the chapter we won the award for most charitable donations, and once for
although they certainly might be. I think the power comes from when they connect to tangible things like the standards of the group or the expectations of being an active member. We must also be comfortable parting ways with those who cannot seem to do the minimum. At that point, those members have made the selfish choice to put themselves above the group, and the group should feel exonerated moving in a direction away from them. We each joined our fraternity for a host of reasons. To that end, the reason we joined and the reason we stay connected and engaged might be altogether different. Brotherhood has become a word that permeates the fabric of our experience. But what is it? When I asked a few of my students these questions, each provided a different response. However different it might seem, in order to sustain an organization it must have some commonality shared by all members. Because we cannot seem to find alignment with nebulous things like “values,” brotherhood coalesces around the tangible, the explicitly experienced. In short, brotherhood is about solidarity to the group, shared social experiences, a sense of belonging and accountability.
“We each joined our fraternity for a host of reasons. To that end, the reason we joined and the reason we stay connected and engaged might be altogether different.”
If you are building a house, it is advisable to start at the bottom and work your way up. We gauge our success on the structural soundness of the foundation. The foundation of brotherhood may not explicitly be shared values. I think we, as a profession, should come to terms with that. The foundation may well be the standards and expectations that our chapters place on their membership. Are they congruent with action? What values are they rooted in? Are they causing the top to check in, the bottom to check out, and the middle to become so stressed out that they do not know what to do? Perhaps values are the stone and clay that is used to make the concrete, rather than the actual base from which we build. Begin with expectations as those blocks, and work upward toward a house of commitment. We know standards and expectations are directly related to brotherhood. This resonates with fraternity men, and it is arguably the reconceptualization we should look toward for positive and lasting change.
Joshua Schutts is the Assistant Director of Institutional Effectiveness at University of West Florida and a brother of Pi Kappa Alpha. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in education with an emphasis in research, evaluation, statistics and assessment from The University of Southern Mississippi. His research interests include brotherhood and sisterhood as well as organizational behavior in higher education and student organizations.
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NEW: Contact us to discover how we can customize this workshop for the needs of your particular campus and organizations
Individually, we are one drop. together, we are an ocean. –Ryunosuke Satoro
Bringing fraternity & sorority leaders together for a day of community building
IW interactive workshops
Are you looking for an innovative way to create stronger unity among all your councils and chapters on campus? In this interactive workshop, fraternity and/or sorority leaders will make connections that will help them tackle the important issues facing their community. They will foster a greater understanding of organizational similarities and differences while discussing values, examining current and potential relationships and exploring perceptions about fraternity and sorority life on their campus. Participants will improve communication and collaboration while strengthening their commitment to work together for the benefit of their campus as a whole. Learning Outcomes • • •
For more information about SALAD, contact CAMPUSPEAK at (303) 745-5545 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit www.campuspeak.com/salad.
Understand the differences and similarities of the diverse fraternities, sororities and organizations of their campus Create opportunities for establishing and expanding relationships among fraternity and sorority leaders Create a plan for implementing change and developing collaboration on an organizational and community level Be able to articulate organizational and community values and align them with actions
“Time is the coin of our life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” —Carl Sandburg
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If Only I Could Reach More Calculating the Return on Investment of Educational Initiatives by Dan Wrona
“If I reach only one person” is a common saying in student affairs. It brings about a sense of inspiration, encouragement and occasionally solace for many professionals. To me, the sentiment equates to falling embarrassingly short of expectations. It is not something you would want to hear from your doctor or your mechanic, and it should not be the standard of success in higher education. To clarify, making a difference for one person is not something to be disregarded, but when it comes at the expense of resources that could have been better invested for an entire population of people, it becomes worthy of critique. With all the talent and expertise in the fraternity/sorority profession, our bar should be much higher. Raising the bar forces the question, what is the return on all the time, energy, money, and other resources invested into a fraternity/sorority community? And how much of that is better than doing nothing? It seems unreasonable to think that these efforts are in vain, but lacking a good framework and real metrics, any claims of impact amount to nothing more than conjecture. Given the call for more meticulous use of university resources, this is unacceptable. Enter assessment. It was once a scary word used by only the most forward-thinking professionals, but it is now a basic expectation. Assessment answers the question, “Did the initiative work?” but it still falls short of answering, “How well does this work, was it worth it, and is it better than doing something else?” Despite the information gained from assessment, there is still a need for a model that helps determine the effectiveness, return and financial value of our work. Such a model would make it possible for more intentional, informed and careful decisions about how to invest our resources. Toward that end, this article explores a framework for calculating the return on investment of educational programs.
Although this task might be revolutionary for student affairs, it is a routine function in the training and development industry, and in valuation of companies, intellectual property, product potential and more. With this capacity, student affairs professionals would be better equipped to compare programs for effectiveness, determine whether they produce a worthwhile return, and better articulate the connection between problem, intention, strategy, program design, rationale, and results. In order to limit the focus, this article addresses only synchronous, face-to-face educational events. Although it is possible to evaluate online tutorials, educational marketing campaigns, new policies and operating procedures, and other initiatives, these should be explored at a later time.
Preparing for Analysis
In educational programming, learning outcomes are a prerequisite. When written well, they not only inform curriculum design and assessment, they serve as an easy first test of whether a program will achieve the intended results. The former, “Students hold each other accountable” becomes something like, “Within the first three days following the program, attendees attempt one of the three confrontation options covered during the session to address the accountability gap they identified.” This subtle, but important shift makes it possible to eliminate irrelevant options and select other programs that show greater promise of effectiveness. If a program does pass the learning outcomes test, however, it still may not be the best approach. There are many methods available to achieve similar results, and determining which one is best requires a careful exploration of all the costs and benefits involved.
Perspectives Perspectives:: :: Fall 2013
Costs A programâ€™s cost includes more than the direct, observable cost of the event. It is also important to consider the time, energy and other resources invested in the program. Direct Event Costs The direct costs of an educational event are typically defined in budgets, follow a predetermined rate, and/or can be priced according to market rates. They involve all the variable costs of doing one additional event. Time Costs The value of time cannot be ignored, as it is often the largest investment in a program. This is a relatively simple exercise, but it requires diligent accounting of every single minute. Add the total number of hours involved in executing the program for any individual involved at each stage of the process. A more sophisticated analysis might also include the level of effort applied during the time invested or opportunity cost, the value of what you could have accomplished by investing your time in something more significant. Intangible Goodwill is an accounting term that refers to the value of an organizationâ€™s intangible assets such as reputation, intellectual property, professional skill, ability to serve customers, and operational efficiency. The student affairs equivalent to this would also include institutional culture, social capital, and programming track record. How much rapport do you lose by requiring one more program? What happens to social capital when officers hound people to attend? How is future attendance affected when students find programs to be irrelevant or unattractive? Without some level of goodwill, it would be impossible to accomplish the same outcomes, so this intangible does have real value that must be factored in.
Benefits When detailing the benefits of educational programs, the Kirkpatrick Four Level Evaluation Model serves as a useful framework (Kirkpatrick & Kirkpatrick, 2006). Refer to the infographic for examples of what variables are measured at each level. Level 1: Reaction Reaction-level outcomes target the immediate emotional response to an educational program. In calculating return, their individual results are not as important as how they affect other elements in the community. Additional steps are required for each measure. The level of pride in and affinity to the community affects the nature of alumni engagement, support, and giving over multiple decades. The sense of trust and strength of relationships in a community leads to less drama, fewer conduct issues, and increased productivity in the long run. Coming up with a value for satisfaction raises the question, how much better do things run when people are happy? Do
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you spend less time redoing your work because people who care make fewer mistakes? Do you spend more time putting out metaphorical fires created by people who are frustrated? When participants rate the likelihood of following through, confidence and relevance of the program, these serve as valid proxies for measuring transfer rates (whether participants put their learning into action), so they might be calculated as a multiplier effect of measures of transfer at level three. Level 2: Learning In quantum physics, whether light is considered a particle or wave can only be given as a potential, or the probability of what will happen when measured. At the moment of measurement, the answer appears and the potential collapses onto itself. In the same way, the knowledge, skills and attitudes retained from an educational experience have potential, but no confirmed value until a measurable action occurs. How do we value something that cannot be measured until it exists? The easiest method would be to calculate the value of increased capacity. As a result of the training experience, how many more people have accurate information about norms, know how to plan an event, can fill out forms correctly, are able to intervene earlier when an incident is escalating, or are able to use new software? Increasing the number of community members with accurate knowledge, stronger skills and appropriate attitudes generates value, but how much? Level 3: Transfer Level 3 measures the transfer of new knowledge, skills and attitudes into observable behavior. At this point, the potential created by increased capacity collapses, and action can be measured. To determine the value created from a program, calculate the number of people with more capacity times the probability they will put it into use. Behavior may also further increase capacity as skills are rehearsed. At this level, it is appropriate to measure website hits, the number of forms submitted, the number of mistakes on those forms, the accuracy of student budgets, and similar examples of learning. In situations like this, where students are better able to handle routine tasks in event management, interpret policy, or resolve situations before they escalate, the value of transfer might also be calculated as a change in the amount of hassle, rework and professional time. Level 4: Performance If a program is thoroughly successful, all the changes in knowledge, skill, attitude and behavior produce better operational results for the organization or community. New interpersonal skills lead to more people recruited. Stronger relationships and trust across organizations result in fewer disputes. When leaders more frequently put their intervention skills into action, the number of incidents that become conduct issues decreases. These outcomes can be translated into a variety of numbers: to what extent do future resource requirements decrease, how much time is freed up, and what spillover effects are created by the energy of being part of a winning team?
When detailing the benefits of educational programs, the Kirkpatrick Four Level Evaluation Model serves as a useful framework (Kirkpatrick & Kirkpatrick, 2006). Level 1: Reaction How will people react? • Satisfaction • • Excitement • • Perceptions • Confidence
Direct costs include: Relevance of info Likely follow through
Level 2: Learning What capacity is retained? • Recite/list/write • • Describe/explain • Demonstrate/ • present • Solve/calculate
A program’s cost includes more than the direct, observable cost of the event. It is also important to consider the time, energy and other resources invested in the program.
Related psychomotor abilities Related interpersonal skills
Level 3: Transfer
• • • • • • • •
Purchase, licensing or rental of the education program or content Transportation for facilitators and students Printing and production of materials Rental of space A/V equipment Activity supplies Food and giveaways Adminstrative supplies
Time includes investments by both individuals and project components. Individual costs to caluculate include:
What will they do afterward? • Contact/call • Intervene/confront • Apply/use • Create/design/ • Plan/execute construct • Attend/participate
• • • • • • •
Level 4: Performance
Project components to calculate include:
How will that help? • Measure organization statistics including recruitment, retention, GPA, service hours, attendance, etc. • Institution measures such as: incidence reports, response time, staff time, meetings
• • • • •
Speakers, facilitators and presenters Administrative staff Event and room reservation staff Building staff On-site support Each individual attendee Advisors Planning • Marketing FAQs about event • Set up and check-in Clean up
Assessment and reporting Attendance of each person
Putting it Together
Following a careful, methodical approach when calculating return on investment can prevent a lot of confusion. Start by listing all the variables under each category of costs and benefits. Until you have a complete list of all these variables, do not calculate their individual value. Only after you construct the formula should you begin plugging in numbers.
session cause a decrease in the number of calls you field about interpretation? How does this initiative change the probability of an incident, an insurance claim and a lawsuit? Set aside the fact that any incident is a tragedy. Identifying the overall risk to an organization or community can help prioritize decisions about prevention initiatives. Plotting each of these three events into a probability tree, it is possible to calculate the likelihood and dollar value of each one based on past incidents and claims. The results would indicate the appropriate value of investing in an initiative, and/or the level of change it must achieve in order to be worthwhile.
In the end, each variable must be translated into a dollar amount. Fortunately, with the exception of goodwill, most variables can be reduced to direct costs or hours spend and saved. Enter direct costs into your equation. For paid staff members and “Once it volunteers, translate a rough estimate of their total annual salary and benefits into becomes possible an hourly figure, and multiply to get the to develop the equation, total value of their time spend and saved for each variable. Students don’t have a imagine all the other salary, so assume they are skipping work questions that would to attend, and calculate their involvement in the same way.
The most fascinating question is, what is the dollar value of a positive new member experience? Add the gains in new member retention rates, dues revenue, student engagement and a multiplier effect for anyone recruited by that person. Because the chapter is not hazing, subtract the quickly find an cost required for ongoing chapter support, accountability and incident response. For intangible variables, enter an estimated answer.” Presumably, alumni who had a more positive value of what you believe it to be worth. How experience are also more loyal, successful and much do you believe people would donate to giving, so add a measure of affinity, graduation attend the program, or how much would they pay to rates, giving rates and average donation size. This is a not be hounded about it? It may feel uncomfortable, but long-term investment, so calculate the net present value to guessing is completely acceptable for now. This should serve determine what it means in today’s dollars. The end result as a placeholder that can be refined with time and further indicates the value of investing in improving the new member analysis. experiences on an annual basis. Add the benefits, subtract the costs, and divide the whole thing Toward Greater Competence by the costs. This provides a percentage return that can be Right now it is possible to get away with moderate results used to compare against other initiatives. Use this number for and a few changed lives. It is my dream that, 20 years from comparison according to the moral value, to other initiatives, now, fraternity/sorority professionals will be highly skilled at or to other departmental priorities. eliminating irrelevant programs and critically evaluating their It is likely some initiatives will be a complete waste of time, ability to reach more people in a more significant way with while others have a much further reach than you would have fewer resources. ever imagined. The path to this future is not about doing better programming Future Questions or doing lots of assessment. Instead, competent campus This process of determining the return on investment of professionals of the future will use these as tools to better an educational initiative is a theoretical concept in student articulate the connection between problem, intention, affairs, but to an instructional designer it is routine. Although strategy, program, rationale and results. Not only will they it seems like a Herculean feat, it is entirely within the realm gain credibility, relevance and perhaps even a higher paycheck, of possibility. It also becomes an exciting slippery slope. Once their fraternity/sorority communities will benefit from their it becomes possible to develop the equation, imagine all the careful and intentional use of resources. It’s coming, so get other questions that would quickly find an answer. ready. What is the net present value of future attendance? In other words, if students leave a program thinking it was irrelevant, it will be harder to get them to attend in the future. The event itself is a net loss, but it also changes the value of future programs by decreasing goodwill and increasing the cost of promotional efforts. How much time is gained from the time invested? Initiatives with the highest return not only achieve their own results, they free up time in the future. For example, does the time you invest in supporting students as they plan events drop after an event planning workshop? Does the policy training
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Kirkpatrick, D. L. & Kirkpatrick, J. D. (2006). Evaluating training programs: The four levels. (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Berret-Koehler Publishers, Inc. Dan Wrona is CEO and Project Leader of RISE Partnerships and currently serves as interim associate director in the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership at the University of Iowa. He has provided training and consulting on more than 200 campuses and regularly contributes his expertise in instructional design, strategy, systems-thinking, risk prevention, and culture change to advance fraternity/sorority life.
Are We Keeping Up With the Times? By Matt Deeg
He has been quoted many times, but Bob Dylan’s words “the times, they are a-changing” ring true regarding higher education. In fraternity and sorority life, we must ask ourselves, are we changing with the times? Are we even aware of the changes occurring around us? No matter where you are—headquarters, campus or consulting—you have probably heard the efficacy of higher education is under increased scrutiny. Entrepreneurs like Peter Thiel, cofounder of PayPal, are offering thousands of dollars to students to skip college and jump right into industry (McCullagh, 2013). Texas colleges and universities have been challenged by the governor to offer degrees that cost less than $10,000; the focus centralizes around the need to increase access to higher education as a means for preparing more individuals to enter the workforce. A school in New Hampshire is shifting to touting students’ skills rather than their degree. There is a coming shift where what a student learns will not matter as much as what he or she can do. Career preparation, student retention and graduation rates continue to become greater priorities in higher education as college and university presidents are challenged to demonstrate the institution’s contributions to the economy in their state, all while receiving less public funding each year. Massive open online courseware (MOOCs) are springing up and becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to traditional brick and mortar institutions. Several prominent
universities, including Harvard and MIT, are forming joint partnerships to offer MOOCs themselves, providing access to elements of Ivy League education on a global scale. As these factors progress, the landscape of higher education will continue to shift. What has been experienced for hundreds of years in higher education will slowly become less the norm. As our colleges and universities develop innovations in course delivery, student matriculation and accreditation, we should be inspired to innovate and offer new ways of approaching fraternity education and involvement. Yet, we are not talking about innovation, or at least not as much as we ought to be. Are we keeping up with the times, or are we continuing to believe we will not have to change or only need small tweaks to mitigate risk and enhance student engagement? We should be wary of institutional and organizational traditions that prevent us from recognizing the developing landscape in higher education.
It is very tempting for us to approach our work from a managerial point of view. As such, we host weekly or monthly meetings with officers, run recruitment, run grade reports and provide some education to manage student risk. We might go through the checklist of things to cover or use the same examples and stories whenever we visit a chapter or campus. The danger in this is we become complacent in our role—we maintain. This is the opposite of what we advise students to do. “Be creative, challenge the process and break from the status quo,” we preach. So, why are we not? We cannot afford to get stuck in a creative rut. We owe it to our institutions and organizations to revisit and update our programs, processes and procedures with new information and approaches from the knowledge being discovered every day. Students are changing, and our programs must shift to continue to meet their evolving needs as individuals. We must be the innovators we hope our students will be; we must bring new ideas, methods and energy to the table. How can we do this? What steps can we as professionals take to embrace creativity and innovation? In thinking about this, here are three ways to increase your creative flow.
Probably the easiest way to become more creative is to increase your creative arsenal. If you have more places to draw inspiration from, innovation becomes easier. You could take a class, but why do that when a multitude of books and articles await you in your local or college library and online? The amount of new scholarship being produced in higher education is staggering. Numerous journals provide articles that relate to our work, we just have to read them. Set aside time in your daily work for professional development; 30 minutes spent reading an article may lead to a new program or approach to a problem. Do not get bogged down in reading about our field of work. It is so easy to fixate on one area, but this again narrows your focus and decreases sources for inspiration. Read and learn from areas outside of higher education—read biographies, check out some pop psychology books, watch a documentary on something that fascinates you, check out the Food Network, or dive into a novel or two. Everything you read can be used to inspire your thinking; everything you take in provides more arrows for your creative quiver. As a side bonus, everything you read or watch provides one more avenue for connection with your students.
I’m not arguing to do more work or put in longer hours. Do more outside of your job. I am as terrible as the next higher education professional at balancing work and life, but I try to take time to pursue outside interests. That soccer league you want to participate in—go score a goal! The spinning class, cooking lesson, hot air balloon ride, or cave excursion you have been eyeing—knock yourself out. Not only is this good for your wellbeing, it also helps you innovate. These outside experiences can enhance your work tenfold. Think about the lessons you can learn from being on a team or
taking a chance outside your comfort zone. These are lessons you want to offer to your students, and now you have even more ideas and ways to communicate them. New experiences also help us see things from different lenses, creating a larger breadth to draw from in our work.
Take more time
Finally, take more time to be creative, but also to be still. Many of the top innovators in the world take downtime to let their thoughts settle. Clearing your brain can actually create capacity for a new level of mindfulness. If your brain is always going, focused on one task or the task after it, you will never be able to think outside the box. Slow down. Take a walk after lunch or pause your afternoon for 15 minutes to sit outside and breathe the fresh air. When we pause, we allow connections to form. When we are still, our brain ruminates on the problems posed to it. Many solutions come after a good night’s sleep. Why? Because while sleeping, our brain has uninterrupted time to process. So, give your brain a break, let your creativity recharge, and solve more problems on a rested mind.
AFA has assigned eight core competencies to guide our work. The one I think gets overlooked most often is innovator. We can get so bogged down in day-to-day tasks, administration, values-clarification, and general advising, that we do not take the time to innovate. In the changing landscape of higher education, however, innovation is exactly what we need. Take time to think, take time to do more outside your work, and take time to learn more. These simple things not only model well-rounded lives for our students, they also provide food for innovative thought.
Get Inspired to Innovate Have we piqued your interest in zeroing in on your innate creativity? Here is some additional reading that might prompt innovating thinking. • • • • • • •
Seth Godin’s blog, sethgodin.typepad.com Leading Effectively, leadingeffectively.com Fast Company magazine, fastcompany.com Brainpickings, brainpickings.org Harvard Business Review blog, blogs.hbr.org Inc, inc.com The New Yorker
A continual asker-of-why, Matt Deeg currently serves as the Assistant Director for Fraternity/Sorority Life at Hanover College. The greatest part of his work is building relationships with students to challenge them to be more and do more. He believes fraternity can be an unstoppable vehicle for creativity, innovation and change if we allow ourselves to get out of ourselves.
Creating Commitment Through Choice by Noah Borton & Dan Bureau
any fantasy football competitors know the sinking feeling that occurs every fall when they realize they drafted the worst quarterback in the National Football League and their star player is hurt. Alas, this will not be their year. It will be a long wait until next season for redemption. Then, hope arrivesâ€”a second chance! The NFL playoffs are approaching and they will get to try again. For those not familiar with fantasy football, essentially this is an opportunity to redraft all new players and play a fresh game. Thus, rather than checking out and wishing the season would end, they are back in the game with fervor and intensity.
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The example from fantasy football can serve as a metaphor for exploring the fraternity/sorority experience. Could we improve fraternity/sorority life by implementing our own version of a redraft? Many alumni let their experience fade and do not engage with the organization after graduation. Like the fantasy football player, many alumni check out from involvement when the organization no longer meets their needs in one way or another. An opportunity for a restart may motivate them to get back in the game. In our hypothetical, every member of a fraternity or sorority who joins as an undergraduate has the option to leave their current organization to join an organization of their choosing after five years of alumni membership or participate in a process to recommit to their current organization. The new or reaffirmed membership becomes their lifelong alumni experience. As members reflect upon their membership, they can intentionally select an affiliation they believe in. Just as the fantasy football player can be energized by a second chance, perhaps fraternity and sorority alumni can find energy in the option for a second chance as well. As a result, members are likely to remain more committed and engaged as alumni members. In addition, this will prompt organizations to work to uphold their commitments to their members. To be clear, both authors come from experiences in social fraternities. They have also worked with culturally based organizations, which typically are not dealing with difficulty engaging alumni in the same manner. This idea could be applied beyond organizations within the National Panhellenic Conference and North American Interfraternity Conference, but we do not perceive the issues it aims to solve to be similar. While the implementation of this idea would be controversial, the potential benefits deserve examination because it could shed light on why fraternities and sororities have a problem with perpetuating ongoing engagement among alumni members. Engagement could look different for different people, but the ultimate goal is to increase involvement levels across the board. Four primary benefits emerge from this hypothetical, with each responding to a different aspect of the issue of alumni engagement.
Choosing an Organization that Aligns with Current Priorities
For fraternities and sororities, joining during the first year of a traditional college experience remains the predominant membership pattern. These young adults are asked to make a lifelong commitment to an affiliation based on a purpose and values set outlined through its ritual. However, rather than basing their decision on an understanding of organizational values and priorities, students most frequently identify an interpersonal connection as the primary factor in their decision to join. They may certainly be equipped to select a peer group which will provide a positive impact on their lives, but they may not understand how this could impact their future lifelong involvement. Their commitment to the organization is rooted in a commitment to individual relationships. They are joining a specific group of people at a specific time. The values, norms and priorities of that group of individuals on a college campus may or may not align with the enacted mission and culture of the inter/national organization. There is a high degree of randomness in the organizations people join, limited by a number of factors: the institution attended, the residence hall floor they live on, and even the people they sit next to in class. These factors can influence the likelihood of joining a specific group. Thus, it becomes entirely possible someone could meet a person they connect with, join a fraternity, have a positive undergraduate experience, then after graduation realize they have no connection with the inter/national organization based on the opportunities available or the actions of the organization. As an adult who has reflected on the experience and organizationâ€™s purpose, a member would be better equipped to assess stated values of the organization, its culture and to determine their alignment with them.
I could not write this article without reflecting upon my relationship with Sigma Nu, the fraternity I joined as a freshman at Southern Utah University. My experience was enriching and enjoyable. The fraternity helped shape my identity at a critical time. I learned to believe in fraternity. If given the option now, I would retain my membership in Sigma Nu. My involvement ebbs and flows, and at times I have significant disagreements with decisions and actions of the international organization. However, I have never had a desire to relinquish my membership. The reason is simple; through it all I still believe in Sigma Nu. I feel very fortunate to have joined an organization that continues to live up to its stated values. Unfortunately, I have known some amazing men and women who could not say the same. These are good people who believe in fraternity and sorority and in the impact these organizations can have on someone's life. However, they cannot say they believe in their organization. They cannot say their organization enriches their life beyond the group of men or women they joined at a particular campus. While the cases might be limited, it saddens me greatly every time a friend tells me their affiliation will not extend beyond college—not because they don't care, but because their organization does not enact the values it espouses.
When I joined Phi Kappa Theta at the University of New Hampshire in 1991, I made the most of my undergraduate experience. I chose to be involved in all aspects of the organization and the fraternity/ sorority community. By engaging with people in and out of Phi Kappa Theta, I came to value the well-rounded fraternal experience. It was also where I was able to develop a strong sense of love for the fraternity while also seeing value in the experiences of others. Phi Kappa Theta worked for me then, and 20 years later it remains the right fit. I believe in the ideals. While it is not one of the “big names” in the fraternal movement, it is an organization that does good things. I care greatly for Phi Kappa Theta. Probably more than Phi Kappa Theta though, I care about the movement. I care that we have real issues to address, including providing experiences that meet the developmental needs of our undergraduate and alumni members. If Phi Kappa Theta did not give me that, I would not choose to be involved. For many I know, including most of my chapter brothers, they have chosen to no longer demonstrate a commitment to the organization. —Dan Bureau
So, the question is, if I don't want to join another fraternity, why would I write this article? I wrote this for the men and women who deserve an organization in which they can believe. —Noah Borton
Recommitment is Powerful
The opportunity to actively recommit to one’s organization can be a powerful statement. The fraternity or sorority does not become something an individual chose to do in college. Rather, it becomes an affiliation someone actively commits to in adulthood. The opportunity to leave makes the decision to stay much more powerful. Members are prompted to reflect upon their relationship with their organization. If they choose to stay they can identify why they believe in this organization. Lifelong membership becomes an act of choice, not an obligation.
Negotiating the Lifelong Commitment
Making a lifelong commitment in the late teens runs counter to trends around major life decisions. Life patterns for emerging adults are shifting; people are delaying lifelong commitments. According to a poll by Clark University, more individuals aged 18 to 29 live with their parents than live with a spouse. Emerging adults are delaying marriage: In 1967 the average age for an American woman’s first marriage was 20.6, in 2011 it was 26.9 (Stein, 2013). In addition, more graduates are entering graduate school to delay entry into career. It is evident from the literature that during this “quarter life crisis” young adults are assessing many important decisions (Robbins & Wilner, 2001).
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Young people are becoming much less tied to organizations as they enter adulthood. They have a desire to make an impact. Through this desire they develop a commitment to a cause; however, they are less tied to the organization through which they work toward the cause. “Fewer people are willing to take it on faith that they are making a positive difference; they want tangible evidence of the difference they are making,” (Hannum, et. al., 2011, p. 14). While emerging adults are interested in making an impact, they are not interested in developing long-term associations. Therefore, offering a postgraduate opportunity for lifelong commitment to an organization may align more closely with developing life patterns.
Competing for Time
To understand the redraft hypothetical one must identify who fraternities and sororities are competing against for involved adult members. On the surface it appears that if a redraft option was available, fraternities and sororities would be thrown into a tumultuous battle for alumni members. However, the alumni who are already engaged in their organization would be unlikely to choose a different affiliation; they are engaged for a reason. The true competition for members lies among the numerous organizations and community groups adults
join for networking, fellowship, support, service and social outlets. This includes organizations like the Jaycees, Rotary, the Masons, churches, Junior League, school groups, and Kiwanis, or even book clubs, running clubs or parents’ groups. “Fostering an People are joining these organizations because understanding of they fulfill a current how the undergraduate need or meet a current experience ends and a new interest. The reality is the redraft is already alumni experience begins is happening and many important for membership members are choosing a new experience outside development the fraternity/sorority programs.” community to give their time, talent and treasure.
The concept of a redraft does come with necessary caveats. Most fraternities and sororities have rituals known only to members. If individuals joined another organization it would require an expectation they will not reveal secrets from any previous affiliations. This concept also necessitates a reframing of the lifelong relationship between member and organization. Through the pledging and initiation process members are asked to make a commitment to an organization. It is important to encourage individuals to uphold these commitments. However, it is difficult to justify a system which forces someone to remain affiliated with something in which they do not believe. In this new paradigm, members must continue to maintain their commitments in a manner which strengthens their membership. The responsibility is also with the organizations and national leadership: organizations must demonstrate commitment to their members through action. Lifelong commitment should be a mutual relationship. Just as men and women should earn their membership every day of their lives, organizations should earn their members every day. It is likely that few men and women would opt to pursue a different affiliation. In a survey administered by the authors in July 2013 through a convenience sample disseminated via Facebook, 398 participants provided their thoughts on whether or not they would pursue the option to join another organization—84 percent said they would not. However, 16 percent said they would or they might. When asked if they would support a reaffirmation or a rethinking/departure option, 55 percent said “yes” or “maybe”—though many offered comments indicating support for the reaffirmation but not the rethinking/departing option. While the vast majority would not to action, 16 percent of individuals indicating an interest in reconsidering their membership should be enough to prompt additional conversation around alumni engagement. There are alumni members who are not feeling a connection to their organizational affiliation. Therefore, what should be done to address the alumni engagement? Here are three recommendations:
1. Disengagement can start before graduation, which is possibly influenced by changing needs of members as they grow, learn and develop in college. Fostering an understanding of how the undergraduate experience ends and a new alumni experience begins is important for membership development programs. 2. Organizations must provide a product that merits continued engagement by expanding alumni programming and opportunities for members engage in personal and professional developmental. By extending beyond volunteer advising roles, alumni associations can provide educational, leadership, service and social opportunities. 3. At some point post-college, members have made decisions about their involvement. Some are disengaged with no interest in continued commitment. Some want to stay informed. Some seek active involvement. A formalized recommitment could come with an option to select various levels of involvement along with membership fees to obtain additional levels of benefits and service from the organization.
Implementing the redraft hypothetical would require a massive shift in membership policies for inter/national organizations and umbrella groups. However, the point is in the conversation, not the policy. This concept hits at the fundamental definition of fraternity and sorority membership. It prompts everyone to rethink their relationship with their organization. The hope of the authors is not that organizations implement new membership policies. Rather, the authors hope by asking this question, those passionate about fraternity/ sorority life will challenge themselves to create a lifelong membership experience which would render this proposal irrelevant. Through this conversation it is imperative for organizations to realize the depth of their commitment to their alumni members. Fraternities and sororities must be the organizations—through their actions and decisions— that their members can continue to believe in while providing relevant experiences for members at all stages of life.
Hannum, K. et. al. (2011). Emerging Leadership in Nonprofit Organizations: Myths, Meaning, and Motivations. (Greensboro, NC: Center for Creative Leadership). Robbins, A & Wilner, A. (2001) Quarterlife crisis: The unique challenges of life in your twenties. New York: Putnam. Stein, J. (2013) The new greatest generation: Why millenials will save us all. Time, 181 (19), p. 26-34. Noah Borton is the Senior Director for Educational Programs at Delta Upsilon Fraternity. He has worked for more than 10 years in higher education at multiple fraternity headquarters and campuses. Noah is a member of Sigma Nu Fraternity and has served as a volunteer in various capacities. Dan Bureau is the Director for Student Affairs Learning and Assessment at University of Memphis. He has served the fraternal movement through involvement in AFA and other associations since 1996. He was the 2004 AFA President and currently serves as CAS Liaison.
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Generation on a Tightrope A Book Review By Mari Ann Callais & Alison Griffin
“Today’s college students feel as though they are crossing an abyss between their dream and the reality of an uncertain future.” – Dr. Arthur Levine and Dr. Diane Dean In his third book exploring the characteristics of college students, Dr. Arthur Levine partners with Dr. Diane Dean to give practitioners, researchers and policy makers a glimpse into the life of college students today. In “Generation on a Tightrope: A Portrait of Today’s College Student,” Levine and Dean examine how college students balance unbelievable demands and sometimes unreasonable expectations (their own and others’) against the known challenges of being 18 to 24 years old and part of a campus community. The authors examine what it means to be a “digital native,” and a member of one of the most diverse generations in history. They reveal students are both more connected and more isolated at the same time. Against the backdrop of an unstable economy, they highlight that today’s college student has unrealistic expectations when it comes to jobs and careers. They share shocking anecdotes of students who are immature, dependent, coddled and entitled. Moreover, they leave us wanting to know more about a generation of students who live in a time when the pace and scale of change has never been more rapid.
Levine and Dean illuminate that this generation of students comprise the first true generation of digital natives. Three of the top six key events in their lives were new technologies (the advent of the World Wide Web, cell phones and Yahoo). One student told the authors, “It’s only technology if it happened after you were born.” As practitioners, we find it easy to believe 85 percent of students reported using Facebook and other types of social media an average of 4.5 hours a week and we are not surprised at the escalating number of technologybased infractions and incivility taking place across our student body.
Students in the tightrope generation have grown up in a nation where many glass ceilings have cracked. They find the
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multicultural divide less deep and the gap between diverse groups less wide. As practitioners, we know and recognize many students on our campuses are part of multiracial families, which directly impacts how comfortable they and their peers are with issues of multiculturalism and diversity. Levine and Dean found, however, that hate incidents involving race, sexual orientation or religion have held steady at most institutions. Tensions and incidents that do occur are exacerbated by a lack of historical context, such as the use of words or phrases that have historically been demeaning and offensive are now more prevalent and made popular in song lyrics and television.
More Connected and More Isolated
While technology has been able to bring social life into the classroom, it has virtually replaced social life on campus. Students now gather in “virtual tribes” and the authors have coined the term “diaphobe” as one who has a fear of being without a digital device. We witness in our own fraternal organizations situations brought on by students’ inability to talk with one another. They do less well at face-to-face confrontation and things best done in-person (like conduct or discipline meetings) are now relegated to social media and text messages. There has become an apparent lack of comprehension between public vs. private in digital media and the discretion of what is inappropriate hardly exists anymore.
Economy and Unrealistic Expectations
Even as the economy begins to regain strength, students of the tightrope generation believe the economy is the most important issue facing the country. More students are working and they are working longer hours. As a result, they are taking fewer credits at a time, requiring more time to graduate and causing student debt to soar. More than two-thirds of college students will graduate with debt that will cause them to move
back into their parents’ house and ultimately contribute to economic growth problems in generations to come. Against this backdrop, however, the overwhelming majority of students expect to be as well off financially as their parents.
Immature, Dependent, Coddled and Entitled
As campus professionals, we all know the helicopter parents, but have we met the lawnmowers, snowplows, stealth bombers or umbrella parents? Each of these categories of parent has taken a far greater interest in the lives of their tightrope students than in generations past. In fact, their interest in student life is so great that many campuses hold “parents week” rather than just a weekend and have created new offices and departments focusing on parent relations to address the volume of correspondence.
Pace and Scale of Change
The tightrope generation is the first to transition from an analog, national and industrial economy to a mature global, digital and information-based economy. Students today will experience and observe new applications of technology not yet on the horizon—and they will have to learn to live in both the 1.0 and the 2.0 generation while they are creating the 3.0 experience. As a result, institutions of higher education are quickly learning that many are ill equipped to offer the education that students demand today. Students are beginning to seek out their own ways to learn, earn credits and build a degree—all of which has an impact on the way they will forever interact with their alma mater.
Why is this portrait of the tightrope generation so important to understand?
As technology savvy as they are, their interpersonal skills are often lacking. It is critical to spend time face to face with the tightrope generation. Retreats, one-on-one meetings, speaking to them in passing on campus, are all a part of what they are not getting from one another. Even if they have headphones on, smile, and make some of kind of contact. More than ever they need that special touch from each one of us. We are working with the “everyone receives a blue ribbon” generation and their expectations of the availability of jobs, salaries and independence are often unrealistic. It is important to have candid and caring conversations to discuss how to accomplish goals as opposed to just criticizing them. They want to know their investment in their education and in our organizations is going to make a difference in their future.
“It is critical to spend time face to face with the tightrope generation.”
Many graduate programs and higher education practitioners discuss the concept of theory to practice. Each generation is defined by specific characteristics. It is one thing to theorize and study a generation, but to understand the importance of our work with them and to put this information into practice is another story entirely. As professionals and/or volunteers who work with fraternity men and sorority women, we care about this “generation on a tightrope.” There is much uncertainty in our world’s economy, leadership and the future of higher education. This generation is right in the middle of a very uncertain world and if we care about who they are becoming, we must understand the landscape around them.
Potential Impact for Our Field
Diversity has various meanings for them. Diversity is socioeconomic as well as cultural and lifestyle to this generation. Opportunities for more engagement where diversity can be encouraged should be an intentional part of our work as professionals with this generation. As organizations and institutions, it is critical to carefully and intentionally include the concept of diversity in all that we do. In programming, language we publish and even pictures on our social media sites, it is not enough to say we are diverse; we must be diverse if we want to stay relevant.
As digital natives, they expect our organizations and institutions to be able to keep up. For many of us, that is a challenge due to resources available. They do not care nor do they really understand that concept; all they know is if they are expected to submit reports and respond to our requests for information, then the manner in which they do so needs to be the most convenient for them and current in technological tools. We must continue to stay up-to-date on what is available and ways for us to connect with our students/members.
Life around our students changes rapidly. Whether it is a new app on smartphones, global changes or world events, life is changing and changing quickly. These students are super smart and are not only using technology in whatever format, but they are creating it. Sometimes our job is to help them slow down and have a conversation instead of sitting in front of a screen looking for the answers. They are missing out on the basic aspects of life and we have to help them fill in the gaps. The opportunity to help this “generation on a tightrope” find balance is exciting. It might not be an easy task, but our world is depending on us to make the effort.
Dr. Mari Ann Callais has been a member of AFA for more than 20 years. Currently she serves as the director of development for The Center for Living, Learning and Leading for Delta Delta Delta and is a speaker/consultant for CAMPUSPEAK. Mari Ann is a former national president of Theta Phi Alpha Fraternity Alison Griffin has presented at the AFA Annual Meeting and in AdvanceU webinar series on the intersection of higher education public policy issues and fraternity and sorority life. She is the founder of Miles Above Strategies, a public policy and government relations practice in Denver. Alison is a director on the Executive Board of Delta Delta Delta Fraternity.
Advising Top Down: Why we need to let the bottom go and focus on the top Several years ago while I was at the University of Oregon, my then supervisor John Duncan proposed an idea to me during a one-on-one meeting. He shared some thoughts with me that friends and fellow colleagues of his had been tossing around for years—why not advise fraternities and sororities the opposite way to which we are accustomed? Why not give all of our attention and devotion to the best of our groups on campus? John argued that if we are not getting the results we want, shouldn’t we change something? Why are we instead, rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, as he said. If the ship is going down, why are we trying so hard to make it look good? A Band-Aid® will not fix a hemorrhage.
supported the positive activities happening in those chapters. They stormed, they normed and were better as a result. In my current role at Wake Forest University, I am establishing the foundation to implement a top down advising approach. Like I did the first time, I am learning new strategies and navigating institutional politics for the system to be successful. Just like John did years ago, I encourage you to live in the possibility, to challenge your own long held assumptions and to dive into the idea that we do not have to do what we have always done.
Advising top down means you give of your advising, support, I thought about John’s suggestion for a long time. As advocacy and overall time relative to the group’s success in professionals who often share in the personal experience offering a quality experience for its members. Therefore, of fraternity, we have an innate drive to prove its worth the strongest groups receive the most attention and the and relevance. While newer to the profession of advising weakest groups receive the least. The traditional advising fraternities and sororities, I was already finding myself model is typically the opposite—spend most of your time getting stuck in a rut, bogged down by judicial issues working with the worst trying to salvage what is and a community that seemed unwilling to be left while those at the top potentially get sucked different. And worst of all, I was blaming them downward. for not wanting to be different rather than recognizing that they did not know what What top down advising means for the different could be. What did I have to lose? “Advising top down is chapters offering the weakest experiences At this pivotal juncture, I fundamentally a commitment. It is not is that you are managing their needs, changed my advising style. not fostering them. You will do what something you toss out as a is necessary (i.e. have conversations Advising top down is a commitment. possibility and implement pieces with HQs/campuses and alumni, It is not something you toss out as a here and there. You have to go attend judicial hearings, follow up on possibility and implement pieces here sanctions, etc.), but you will not spend and there. You have to go all in all of the all in all of the time to be an entire day trying to figure out how you time to be successful. What I can assure successful.” influence the organization’s culture. is that you will find incredible results whether you are on a campus or working What top down advising means for the within an inter/national organization. At chapters offering quality experiences for their University of Oregon, the community made a members is added attention. You attend their 180 degree turn within a year and began having real meetings, participate in their events, appreciate the conversations. They began challenging themselves on what areas in which they are excellent, send extra staff support for fraternity meant and formed coalitions. While that may seem visits and invite them to engage in deep conversations about divisive, so is allowing organizations in a community to exist leadership and social change. You help them move beyond when they do not share the values of others. The coalitions the fraternity/sorority experience and expand further into making a difference in the world. These types of conversations are what strong organizations seek! Spotlight highlights best practices and work well done. Is there an initiative working well in your organization? Email Perspectives editor Heather Kirk at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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chapters offering excellent experiences, we encourage them to continue. When we connect these chapters Understanding what defines a “strong with others offering similarly strong experiences, group” is a significant part of this we empower them. And when we give voice process. You cannot arbitrarily select “Having measurable to those whose experience was previously those groups, even though years voiceless, we create a system where a information about each of experience may give you great positive, deep and meaningful experience perspective. If you do this, you will group, both quantitative and becomes the expectation. destroy your credibility. Having qualitative, provides you with the measurable information about Excellence does not have a glass ceiling. each group, both quantitative and backing you will need to say, There is not a peak to reach and nowhere to qualitative, provides you with the ‘This is why they deserve my go after. backing you will need to say, “This attention.’” is why they deserve my attention.” Our best organizations are ready for a While undergraduates will initially be new conversation that does not have to be shocked and alumni will be angered, they through the lens of fraternity. On the scale of will not be able to walk away from the facts. knowing—applying, evaluating and creating—these
So what does qualitative and quantitative measurement look like? That will vary from campus to campus and organization to organization in the type of assessment that works best for the culture. I have strongly advocated for standards programs to evaluate the experience chapters are providing rather than the implementation of effective chapter operations (although creating a baseline of expectations for how chapters will operate can be an important component). I continue to use this philosophy at Wake Forest University, where we are preparing to roll out our new “expectations for excellence,” influenced by great programs from University of Houston and Rochester University among others. By measuring the experience, we are looking at the whole pie rather than a slice of it that may be missing some key ingredients. Regardless of the assessment type, you need to ensure it is measuring accurately. If your top chapter according to your standards program is also hazing, then that is going to work against you. Your assessment needs to be solid. Once you have implemented a thorough and measurable assessment plan that looks at the experience your chapters are offering, show them the results. Results need to be public for accountability to take hold. I am not suggesting to unleash the demons a chapter may be hiding, but rather to offer up the current state of the community or organization through measurable criteria.
Make It What You Do
Advising top down is a commitment that will make a significant difference in your community. When we reward
organizations are ready to create. They are ready to shape our world. When we rethink how we advise, our organizations and our undergraduate members will excel as a result.
Top Down Advising Is ... An advising strategy where your time and energy is given to chapters relative to the experience they are providing their members. Chapters with stronger experiences receive a greater amount of positive attention whereas chapters with weaker experiences receive less attention and instead are managed.
Annie Carlson Welch is the Associate Director of Student Leadership and Organizations at Wake Forest University. Prior to this role, she served as the Assistant Director for Fraternity and Sorority Life at University of Oregon where she received the AFA Gayle Webb New Professional Award. Annie holds an M.S. in higher education from Florida State University and a B.A. in history and anthropology from University of Illinois where she joined Pi Beta Phi.
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