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CARLSON LEADERSHIP ACADEMY Going into CLA I felt unprepared and nervous about my ability to be successful as the Vice President of Finance of my chapter. However, by the end of the weekend I felt confident that I had been equipped with the education and skills necessary to effectively manage our chapter finances. I went back to my chapter feeling less apprehensive about the upcoming year, less nervous about my abilities as a leader, and empowered to make a difference within my chapter and community. I can honestly say that, without CLA, I would not have been as successful as the VP of Finance for my chapter. Thanks for transforming me from an ordinary leader to an extraordinary leader.” —Ryan Lindemann, Maine ‘12


his participant’s experience is not unique. Over 2,700 undergraduates and volunteers attended a Carlson Leadership Academy in 2014 and shared an experience just



like this one. But, why does this matter? What role does Carlson play in the overall success of SigEp? Furthermore, why is it important that SigEp’s undergraduate leaders and volunteers attend?

Fraternities face unique leadership challenges when compared to other business models. Most organizations thrive by limiting turnover and leveraging their employees’ experience to make a lasting impact. In fact, most estimates place the total replacement cost of one employee at 150% of that person’s salary. Our “business model” doesn’t afford us the luxury of reducing turnover as our leadership changes every year. Without the right preparation and support, this variable can hinder a chapter’s long-term success. To account for this, chapter leaders must be properly transitioned into their role and volunteers must provide continuity through day-to-day support. Carlson is designed to meet these needs. When you are hired for and begin a new job, the orientation process is a crucial element in your development as an employee as well as laying the foundation for your future success. In a study conducted by the International Data Corporation, U.S. and U.K. employees cost businesses an estimated $37 billion every year because they do not fully understand their jobs. Just like a business, it is imperative that our new officers receive the appropriate orientation to their

position. Carlson provides the education these young men need to ensure their success and the success of their chapters. Those officers who don’t attend miss an opportunity to understand their position’s responsibilities and how to avoid common pitfalls hindering their ability to improve their chapter in an already limited timeframe.

carlson exists to: • Properly transition officers • Educate and empower rising leaders • Equip volunteers to provide continuity through day-to-day support • Build pride and affinity for the National Fraternity • Recognize chapters and individuals that have gone above and beyond

Creating the perfect Carlson weekend takes countless hours of preparation and this process begins well before participants arrive onsite.

For 2014, the curriculum was changed to help attendees discover their personal leadership style through experiential activities. They walked away from the first half of the evening with an understanding of their natural strengths and weaknesses, and how to use that self-awareness to be a more successful leader.

Throughout the planning process, we consider many important logistical factors, like the schedule and venue, which greatly affect the overall experience. For attendees to have a meaningful Carlson experience, it is important that their travel to the program be as easy as possible. Since 2009, when Carlson consolidated from nine to five programs, we have continually assessed and refined the host cities to find a location with easy interstate access, multiple potential hotel venues (that meet both space and financial requirements), and a central location for chapters in that region to decrease average drive time. Past National Scholarship Chairman, Brother U.G. Dubach believed that a chapter’s environment directly affected our members’ behavior saying, “Sigma Phi Epsilon must provide an atmosphere that makes it difficult for a man to do wrong and easy for a man to do right.” This belief holds true today and guides the vision for the ideal Carlson environment. By selecting a high-quality hotel venue, a professional atmosphere is created that promotes learning. Utilizing such properties has also positively impacted the behavior of attendees as we have seen fewer incidents and more engaged participants. We have also

been able to leverage other SigEp events hosted at hotels, like Conclave, to land better deals with properties and maximize our limited financial resources. As previously stated, the Carlson Leadership Academy curriculum is, first and foremost, designed to serve as an orientation for newly elected chapter officers so they leave with a better understanding of the importance, impact and skills needed to be successful in their role. Secondly, it is also an opportunity to educate and empower rising chapter leaders, especially those serving on the recruitment or member development committees, who strive to hold an executive officer position in the future.

Here is an outline of the curriculum and progression of the program for participants:

Friday Night

Leadership Style & Career Development The Friday night programming at Carlson has evolved over the past few years based on participant feedback. From 2011-2013, the curriculum focused on identifying and developing general leadership skills and the dynamics of a team. Feedback continued to show that participants were already receiving much of this training elsewhere and they also wanted a more personalized experience.

The second half of the evening focused on bridging the gap between chapter leadership and career development. Many undergraduates have a difficult time determining what they want to do upon graduation. Additionally, some undergraduates don’t understand how fraternity leadership experience translates to post-collegiate and career success. Consequently, some of our strongest leaders turn away from SigEp to seek leadership development while others miss an opportunity to leverage their newly acquired skills to secure a job after college. With nearly 70% of employers blaming inadequate training for the shortfall in skilled workers, SigEp has an opportunity to provide dynamic career education to ensure our men are not part of this statistic. In the second half of Friday night’s session, participants explored how the strengths and weaknesses they identified in the first half of the program can help them determine the best career field for them and how they can leverage and sell these talents, and their chapter leadership experience, through a resume and real-worldinspired interview process.



Saturday Morning & Early Afternoon

Understanding my Responsibilities as an Officer

Divided by officer track, participants engage in facilitated discussions and experiential activities specific to their leadership role in the chapter. This is truly the new job ‘orientation’. Time is also devoted to peer-to-peer learning through sharing best practices as well as the discussion of officer-specific goals for the upcoming year. This session consistently receives high marks from participants because they leave feeling equipped and empowered to fulfill their responsibilities. The process of identifying and recruiting the best men for our Fraternity is vital to its success. With successful recruitment, a chapter will have the resources, leadership and manpower to create a long-term positive and meaningful experience for its brothers. To this end, the recruitment track was added to the Carlson curriculum in 2011. This track is geared towards vice presidents of recruitment and members who serve on their chapter’s recruitment committee. Since every undergraduate member is also a recruiter, this track has become a great way for rising chapter leaders to experience Carlson even if they don’t currently serve on the executive board. The curriculum covers recruitment best practices while primarily concentrating on planning and implementing the



Balanced Man Scholarship (BMS). This year in Atlanta, a pilot track was tested where the vice presidents of recruitment (VPR) were separated from the committee members and rising leaders. The VPRs were given officer specific training (like how to manage a committee) and general recruitment methods, whereas the committee members could dive deeper into values-based recruitment and the BMS. Feedback from this pilot was very positive and serves as a model to emulate for 2015. The Balanced Man Program is the brand and centerpiece of the SigEp experience, yet it was largely ignored for years while time, money and energy were invested into other programs like Carlsons, EDGE and the Residential Learning Communities. SigEp built on its reputation as an innovator in the Greek world as these programs grew, but the Balanced Man Program was losing momentum and not positively evolving. Consequently, many chapters lost confidence in and an understanding of the program’s philosophical tenets and the process for program implementation. As one part of the solution, in 2013, the member development track was added to Carlson, focusing on educating vice presidents of member development and challenge coordinators. The curriculum focuses on teaching undergraduates the ideal member development program, gaining buyin to the BMP and working through major obstacles and best practices to help them improve their own chapter

experience. Participants leave with tangible action plans and resources for major improvements to their chapter’s continuous development program with the goal of improving BMP proficiency. Additional money is allocated from the fraternity’s grant to allow each chapter to send a second brother to this track for free. We will be making an even larger push in 2015 to increase the number of leaders who attend this valuable track.

Saturday Lunch

a lasting effect on both the chapter and themselves; and how to minimize or avoid high risk situations. Following this program, participants break off into their designated tracks to discuss case studies and how this topic applies to their area of chapter operations. One of the five areas of risk is focused upon every year: hazing, bystander behavior, sexual assault, alcohol abuse and assault & battery. For 2014, the training at each Carlson focused on sexual assault as both the fraternity and higher education in general have seen a dramatic rise in those incidents recently.

risk management Anyone following the national or local news can clearly see that fraternities are frequently spotlighted in a negative way. These negative perceptions of SigEp chapters persist because of poor decision-making that is inconsistent with SigEp’s values. One bad decision can cause irreparable damage to a chapter’s reputation and make it that much more difficult for the national Fraternity to challenge stereotypes that plague the fraternity world. More importantly, however, is the safety of every undergraduate and the duty of members to provide a healthy environment for their brothers. During the lunch program at Carlson, all participants (volunteers and undergraduates) attend a session focused on managing risk in their chapters. This large group presentation helps attendees understand the responsibility officers assume to create a safe and healthy environment; how their decisions have

Saturday Late Afternoon Building Our Vision Together as Leaders

For many years, the educational portion of Carlson concludes with a session on chapter goal setting and strategic plans. It provides an opportunity for each officer to see how they fit into the overall chapter success and how the executive board and rising leaders can work together to make improvements. This session offers an opportunity for chapter leaders to discuss wins and losses during the previous year, as well as their goals and how they align with the strategic priorities of the Grand Chapter. Although chapters aren’t usually able to complete their plans while on-site due to time constraints, the training, guidance and feedback they receive from faculty lay the foundation and

provide motivation to finish after returning home. Developing this clear direction for the chapter also allows volunteers and staff to provide tailored and focused service to each chapter.

Saturday Meal Programs

Celebrating Accomplishments Throughout each meal function, awards are presented to undergraduate brothers, chapters and volunteers, highlighting their accomplishments over the past year. Hearing these stories of success are inspiring for all in the room. For undergraduates, they learn what other chapters do to improve their local experience and how to take it back to their own chapter. For volunteers and donors, it provides an opportunity to reaffirm why they invest their time and hard-earned money to help these undergraduate men. In 2014, an extra emphasis was placed on refining the meal scripts so they better communicated the fraternity’s history, values, and expectations, building pride and motivating the audience to go back and improve their chapter experience. For many attendees, especially firsttime undergraduate participants, Carlson is their first interaction with the national organization, outside of EDGE. In turn, many attendees begin to associate the national Fraternity with their experience at Carlson.

By increasing the investment into the production of meal functions, which includes videos, dual screens, additional lighting, and banner hanging, participants are captivated and inspired. They see SigEp as more than just their local chapter experience and begin to understand that they are part of a much larger and incredibly impressive organization. Additionally, the Hoop of Steel Society, our undergraduate giving group, was revamped this year. In the past, several giveaways were provided to undergraduates who donated $19.01 to the society. Feedback showed that many participants didn’t even realize they were donating; they simply thought they were paying for the giveaways. For 2014, a campaign began to “honor a brother”. The gift could be made in honor of a mentor to thank them for the difference they made in their life. Those mentors received a special acknowledgement from the Educational Foundation and the undergraduate donors started to better understand the concept of giving back to the organization financially. As a result, undergraduate donors and their honorees felt the true power of giving.

Volunteer Training Carlson also features training for volunteers on both Friday night and throughout the day on Saturday. Past Carlson feedback showed participants wanted a greater focus on undergraduate mentoring and more

opportunities to learn from successful and experienced volunteers. In 2014, Volunteer Services Director Archie Messersmith revamped the curriculum to meet these needs. The majority of sessions focused on mentoring relationships and strategies filling an important void in AVCs across the country. To foster peer-to-peer learning and showcase SigEp’s best volunteers, staff added a new session, “SigEp Speaks”, to Saturday morning of volunteer training. Prior to each Carlson, volunteers competed for

30-minute time blocks by submitting presentation proposals that highlighted their passions, best practices, wins, and lessons learned in a specific area of interest. The top seven proposals were chosen for each Carlson giving participants a variety of educational opportunities from peer subject matter experts. Survey feedback and anecdotal evidence shows that this year’s training was the best in years and it will continue to be enhanced for 2015.







overall enrollment

undergraduates trained

volunteers traIned

In 2014, five programs were held across the country with varying enrollment numbers: 2700





2558 600



555 389






2100 2000 2011




To achieve program objectives, dynamic facilitators are needed that can bring the curriculum to life. This year, 169 men and women served on the Carlson faculty. Of those volunteers, 26 were higher education professionals, 6 were non-SigEps and 4 were females.

10 simply didn’t want to go or didn’t see the value based on their explanation to their regional director (note: 6 of these chapters were on University sanctions); 2 were either suspended by the school or were in the process of surrendering their charter;



In 2014, we reached 12% of all engaged volunteers. There was also a 28% increase from 2013 to 2014 in volunteer participation.

Fifteen chapters did not send anyone to the 2014 Carlson Leadership Academies. Out of those fifteen:


2400 2300




Carlson’s target audience is chapter leaders, which represent 12% of our undergraduate population. Additionally, because Carlson features a training track for engaged volunteers, a secondary target audience is formed.






2 experienced heavy snow storms that prevented them from traveling; and 1 had a brother pass away and chapter leaders were attending the funeral.



impact The 2014 Carlson season created an army of over 2,700 educated and motivated undergraduates and volunteers prepared to leave their legacy on the chapter. Our post-program survey captured a portion of this impact:




rated faculty as good or excellent

what area to devote more time to at carlsons?

46% 42%

how to better utilize the SigEp network of alumni, volunteers and staff

But survey statistics don’t tell the full story…

“CLA is a transformative

experience for young undergraduate chapter officers to come learn the nuts and bolts of what it takes to not only be a fraternity man but to learn skills that are going to carry over into their everyday life.” —David Calderon, CalPolyPomona ‘88

“The facilitators at

Carlson are highly motivated and passionate about everything they do. When they teach, energy levels peak and everyone is so engaged. I couldn’t ask for better mentors than the alumni who come to Carlson.” —Russell Rosenkranz, Rochester ‘15

how to create culture change and build morale



CLA is more than just training and an opportunity to meet people. It really is setting up the future of the fraternity. This is an opportunity for students and alumni to come together and really talk about where is this fraternity going, preparing them with the resources and encouragement to really change what SigEp is and really provide a strong foundation of the future of the member. —Brandon Tsubaki, CalPolyPomona ‘06



This success has raised the bar and highlighted opportunities for improvement. After completing the 2014 programs, your suggestions, the survey results, anecdotes from participants, and feedback from staff who played integral roles in the program experience were processed and analyzed. We are focused on continuously improving Carlson and are considering not only how the program addresses the major challenges facing the fraternity, but also how this experience can extend past the weekend. Some major areas for improvement for 2015 include:

Friday night undergraduate sessions Historically, undergraduate attendance at Friday night sessions has been low. In diving into why, it seems that many chapters just didn’t know that it was important. To help improve attendance, e-marketing that focuses on the value of Friday night sessions will be sent to registrants, educating them on the importance of Friday night. This will be followed up by calls from regional directors the week of the program to ensure they understand when to arrive and to troubleshoot any obstacles to arriving on time. Also, tweaks will be made to the Friday night curriculum based on feedback from participants and the faculty who presented these sessions. Revisions include: finding a new assessment to

identify one’s leadership style; refining the professional development portion to better align with the Life After College curriculum; how to better utilize the SigEp network and improving the section on how being a chapter officer can shine on a professional resume.

District Governors One of the responsibilities of the district governor role is to “support and represent the Fraternity at local, regional, and national events.” Improvements are being implemented to help them fulfill this task. For the past few years, district governors have expressed concern that they are not able to meet with their chapters during Carlson because there isn’t a time when attendees are not in session. In 2015, district governors will be asked to pick three AVCs in advance to meet with during the program – one for each meal function. Staff will reserve one table for each district governor during every meal for them to meet; DG’s will set up the actual meetings in advance. District Governors have also expressed a desire to know who, from their district, has registered for Carlson to ensure adequate participation from each AVC. Staff will set up real-time reports so they will have access to this information leading up to the program.

Faculty meeting Some negative feedback was received

about the faculty meeting/dinner not being an open and welcoming environment and facilitator pairs not having adequate preparation time together onsite. The faculty are crucial to the success of Carlson and having a positive start to their program experience is vital. To help ensure this, and to allow facilitator teams to get to know one another better, staff will create a seating chart placing teams at the same table.

Risk Management officer track curriculum Historically, a risk management expert speaks at the end of lunch which is followed by a 30 minute debrief and discussion in the officer tracks. Feedback was received that officer track facilitators who are a bit more inexperienced or uncomfortable with the subject have a hard time effectively delivering the key risk management messages. For 2015, one faculty member will be identified and trained prior to the program and assigned to each officer track to facilitate this conversation. Scenariobased conversations will be added so undergraduates can put into practice what they learned as part of the large group presentation. Additionally, following lunch, the risk management expert will facilitate a session for all volunteer participants focused on effectively working with undergraduate leaders in the specific area of risk management.

Volunteer Training Even though time was provided in 2014 for peer-to-peer learning through “SigEp Soeaks”, volunteers continue to ask for more opportunities to share best practices with other AVCs and receive tailored advice from subject matter experts. For 2015, time will be provided on Friday night for facilitated conversations and idea sharing in addition to “SigEp Speaks” sessions that will remain on Saturday morning. Additionally, staff is investigating the interest in and ability to hold a ‘precon’ session for volunteers on Friday (before the start of Carlson). Topics could include, but are not limited to: ‘Volunteer 101’ for new volunteers, undergraduate mentoring, Balanced Man Steward training, risk management and/or BMP implementation. In 2014, we provided all volunteer attendees with the undergraduate curriculum guides as both a way to follow-up with the topics covered in each of the undergrad sessions; but, also to serve as a resource guide for our volunteers throughout the coming year. This was met with great enthusiasm and will be continued for the 2015 Carlson season. Staff will also be looking for areas where our volunteers need more support or additional training and will provide follow-up ‘Training in 10’ videos or create additional resources post program. For example, we learned during a 2014 “SigEp Speaks” program that AVCs are struggling with understanding income tax filing

requirements and how to ensure they retain their non-profit status. A resource is currently being vetted to provide this information for our volunteers.

Curriculum The officer guides, which are a large part of each track’s curriculum, are out of date. Staff is currently overhauling these resources significantly to create officer guides with specific duties and a skills guide with basic leadership and organization skills. Through consulting with volunteers and undergraduate officers and volunteers, staff will determine what chapter leaders want and need to know to be successful in their position. The finished products will communicate the ideal in each area of chapter operations; improving important chapter processes and milestones— elections, officer transition, strategic planning and goal setting. This project extends the Carlson experience beyond a 48 hour program maximizing the significant investment made in this leadership event annually. Chapter leaders will arrive at Carlson better prepared to digest the material and walk away with a guide to continue their leadership growth and development and execute their assigned responsibilities. Upon completion, the new officer guides will drive the refinement of each track’s curriculum to ensure alignment between the two. Additionally, the skills guide will help determine what general leadership skills all officers need for

success and what activities can best accomplish those goals while on-site.

• Decrease Chicago’s overall attendance by an estimated 100 people making it a more manageable and affordable program

Registration fees

• Reduce the travel time for chapters previously slated for Chicago but moving to Oklahoma City because it is a shorter drive

Quite a bit of feedback was received regarding the difficulty in understanding the various registration fees – who is covered, what is covered, etc. – because it is currently a very complex and confusing structure. Staff is committed to examining the fees so that it is easier to present and understand. This should also make it easier for chapters and AVCs to budget for the program. The per person cost for Carlson is approximately $195. Registration fees for alumni and volunteers have held steady at $150 for over 5 years. To help decrease the gap between actual costs versus registration fees, the cost will increase to $175 in 2015 for alumni and volunteers only. The fees for undergraduates will remain the same.

Locations As evident in the impressive per program attendance numbers, the Chicago Carlson continues to grow and it is becoming more and more difficult to find an affordable venue that will fit our increased meeting specifications. Conversely, the Dallas academy is our smallest with plenty of room to grow. For 2015, we are moving the Dallas program north to Oklahoma City, which will:

• Allow our many large chapters in and around Oklahoma City to have a shorter drive to Carlson since that program has been in Dallas for over 5 years

Assessment Although we are diligent about collecting feedback from our stakeholders and through post-program surveys, we still do not have the necessary information to objectively evolve the curriculum to more consistently achieve the desired learning outcomes and objectives of the program. We are working with higher education professionals with experience in program assessment and evaluation to build a comprehensive assessment plan for the Carlson experience, including redefined learning outcomes. This assessment will launch with the 2015 Carlson season. As a key stakeholder, your feedback has driven the evolution and success of this program. Each year you inspire new ideas and provide staff the resolve and determination to enhance the Carlson experience.



providing them the building blocks to maximize their limited time as an executive board officer. Imagine that Carlson is the culmination of the transition process rather than the beginning. The program is preceded by a standardized transition process where officers learn the responsibilities and importance of their role, how it fits into the overall leadership of the chapter, and they have a draft of their chapter goals for the year. Carlson becomes the place where officers revise their five-year strategic plan and year-long tactics and receive feedback from other undergraduate leaders and expert facilitators. Imagine that same weekend where you could also find tailored educational tracks for all volunteers:

What Does the Future Look Like? Although Carlson has grown and developed tremendously since its inception, we believe we are only scratching the surface when it comes to the programs’ full potential.

• Rising leaders would learn the fundamentals of dynamic leadership, laying the foundation for these men to hold officer positions in the future. • Committee chairmen would receive content specific training, like valuesbased recruitment, risk management and four year continuous development, so they become experts in that area and can educate others; • Executive board officers would receive job-specific training, learn how to manage a team, and share best practices with other leaders.

Imagine a weekend where you could find tailored educational tracks for all levels Carlson would become a multi-year continuum cultivating leaders and of undergraduates:



• Chapter counselors • AVC members • Balanced Man Stewards • Resident scholars and faculty fellows • Facilitators (with specific training for our volunteers who are part of leadership events faculty so they can hone their facilitation skills) • Graduating seniors (with specific training so they understand why they should volunteer after graduation, how to get involved, and how to make that major transition)

Imagine sitting at a meal function in a room filled with undergraduate leaders and volunteers and knowing that every one of those men and women were able to attend for free – no registration fee, fully funded travel and hotel costs – all because our donors believed in Carlson and endowed the program to ensure its long term success. With your help, we can get there. Every year we take another step towards this future – and we take that step together.

Thank you, again.

Because of you, chapter leaders and volunteers return to their campus equipped and motivated to take their chapter to new heights. Your investment in this program plays a larger role in the overall success of our Fraternity. This substantial impact would not be possible without your commitment. As we look towards 2015, we hope you will continue your support. We truly believe, with your help, the Carlson Leadership Academy’s best days are ahead…



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SigEp Stakeholders Report: Carlson Leadership Academy 2013-14  
SigEp Stakeholders Report: Carlson Leadership Academy 2013-14