Alumni Chapters vs. Alumni Clubs

This post is part of a larger series addressing alumni development. This series is designed to educate and inform brothers about best practices for alumni development.

Sigma Nu Leadership conference

By Ben Nye (Arkansas) and Todd Denson (Nicholls State)

For many Sigma Nu alumni and collegiate brothers, the distinction between an alumni chapter and an alumni club is rather blurry. Many chapters have some type of alumni group, but often these can be loosely organized or lack a clear focus. The alumni within these groups don’t understand if their role is to support the chapter, maintain their own organization, or have a good time and get to know other Sigma Nu brothers. When an alumni chapter or club is set up properly, it can create the needed infrastructure to support the collegiate chapter, increase involvement, and enhance the lifelong Sigma Nu experience for all.

Alumni Chapters

According to The Law of Sigma Nu, graduates from each collegiate chapter are entitled to form an official alumni chapter, and a special charter is granted by the General Fraternity to those alumni groups who qualify. The primary purpose of the alumni chapter is to offer assistance to the collegiate chapter, provide record-keeping and information exchange among its membership, and encourage active participation in the affairs of the General Fraternity.Nom Comm

To establish an alumni chapter, at least ten alumni members of Sigma Nu must petition the High Council to receive a charter. Alumni chapters are given the same designation of a collegiate chapter. All of the petitioners must be alumni of the collegiate chapter to which they are forming the alumni chapter. Thus, the Nu Beta Alumni Chapter was petitioned by alumni brothers of the Nu Beta Chapter at Huntingdon College. Subsequently, each alumni chapter is required to submit alumni chapter officer changes to the General Fraternity each year. Each alumni chapter is also entitled to vote at Grand Chapter– the fraternity’s biennial legislative convention.

Alumni chapters are not limited to operating where there is an open undergraduate chapter. Many alumni chapters exist where the college or university no longer has an active Sigma Nu collegiate chapter. Alumni chapters play a critical role in bringing back undergraduate chapters or in establishing new ones.

Alumni chapters are also bound by The Law, but it is also important that alumni chapters have their own bylaws. The Law recommends that alumni chapters elect officers annually but does not stipulate how dues should be collected or when the alumni chapter should hold formal meetings. In this respect, alumni chapters are similar to undergraduate chapters in that they have a system of governance and orderly meetings. The level of engagement and activity of the alumni chapter, however, is largely up to its membership.

Alumni Clubs

Alumni clubs are usually formed in metropolitan areas where there is a sufficient number of Sigma Nu alumni to celebrate the spirit of the Fraternity through organized activities. The membership of an alumni club may be composed of dedicated Sigma Nus from any chapter. Although the functions of the alumni clubs may be similar to alumni chapters, they are not entitled to a vote at Grand Chapter. Contrasted with alumni chapters, alumni clubs tend to focus on networking and social relationship building.

Dinner at Delta GammaSigma Nu alumni clubs exist to provide opportunities for Sigma Nus to meet new people, expand networking opportunities, and enjoy social outings. Sigma Nu alumni clubs can also participate in various service and philanthropic events to benefit groups in the local community. Most importantly, Sigma Nu alumni clubs allow members to maintain a connection to the Fraternity.

Typically, alumni clubs will plan regular or annual social outings for the members that make up the club. Some examples would include monthly luncheons, holiday gatherings, or hosting speakers at a semiannual gathering. Furthermore, alumni clubs usually do not have a formal dues structure but may cover costs for events by charging admission or assessing a fee for certain events.

Both organizations are designed for alumni to get involved and participate in Sigma Nu activities after graduation. Alumni clubs focus on giving alumni a social or networking opportunity while alumni chapters create ways for alumni to be involved in a more structured organization, especially in support of an undergraduate chapter.

A listing of active alumni chapters and active alumni clubs can be found on the Sigma Nu Fraternity website.

Alumni Spotlight: Justin Spooner’s Bid for State Legislature

Justin Spooner is a 23-year-old, recent graduate of the University of Nebraska and is currently seeking election into the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature. Justin is campaigning for election in Omaha, his lifelong home. He served his chapter as Alumni Relations Chairman and has also interned for U.S Senators Mike Johanns and Ben Nelson.

What was your motivation for running for state legislature?

Spooner Photo 1

Justin Spooner is seeking election in Nebraska’s District 6, the community he has been involved with since his youth.

It started a few years back when I was 19 and a freshman in college. I started getting a passion for the political arena and government in general, and I told myself that when I have an opportunity to run for legislature to make it happen, so that’s where it began. But it’s a deeper motivation that relates to the community where I am running for office, District 6 in west central Omaha, Neb., where I was born and raised. It really stems from being involved in the community my whole life, my passion for public service, and seeing that I do have the ability to make a change.

What are some of your policy goals?

It’s important for local control and funding to be protected for schools. Parents and educators within the community are the best at educating their children. I’m for specialized curriculum when it comes to local schools. I also want to make sure we provide property tax relief. Nebraska has one of the highest property tax rates in the country and I want to alleviate the costs for hardworking Nebraskans.

What will it take to get elected?

The first election, the primary election, will happen May 13th, 2014, and then the general election is in November. Nebraska is the only state in the country with a unicameral legislature. This means that there is only one house; we don’t have a house, only a senate. Furthermore, the Nebraska state senate is non-partisan senate. Once in office the senators no longer put a ‘D’ or ‘R’ next to their names. Nebraska is the only state to do this.

In the primary I’m actually running against five other candidates. The two top vote earners in the primary regardless of party move on to the general election. It’s a unique election, but it works well.

How did Sigma Nu shape you and influence you to become the person you are today?

You gain a respect for other people; their beliefs, property, and personal space. It really opened my eyes to how people can disagree while remaining friends and brothers. Even though many of my brothers disagree with me politically, they’ve all supported me 100%. That’s what fraternity is about to me: it’s about the support system.

The fraternity shaped me as a leader and it opened my eyes to be able to understand different people from different places having completely different views, but knowing that they are still good people and still friends and brothers.

Spooner Photo 2

Justin Spooner pictured with his sister Sarah, and mother Gayle Milder.

A Fraternal Creed and Personal Conviction

The following is a reprinted essay written by David W. Stockmeier (Old Dominion). Brother Stockmeier wrote this essay as part of an educational leadership services class that was taught by past Sigma Nu Greek Advisor of the Year Mindy Sopher. Upon reading the essay, Sopher sent it to past Executive Director Mo Littlefield (Maine) for review and archiving. Stockmeier’s essay is an adaptation of The Creed of Sigma Nu and expounds upon his own personal convictions.

Love, Honor, & Truth

The Rock Spring

To Believe In The Life of Love.

This is the beginning of the rest of our life. The friends that are made now will be the most important and most influential of our lives. Although the roads we choose may be different, the friendships we start now will be with us through our last day on this earth. To realize that God our God is the stabilizing factor of our life and our world. We will strive to make a home, however simple and safe. In this home we shall strive to love the wife, and the family that we have made. HOH Creed

To remember with reverence the deed and the person that was our brother in this quest but has since left us behind. We shall remember him for the good man he was and forget the wrongs which he may have committed. To do unto our brother that which we would have him do unto us. This will be done without regard to his race, religion, or origin, as none of these diminish the person. To have our lives follow the ways of gentleness, justice and mercy. All of these being the true qualities which the Knight shall exalt. And so to be true to the Knighthood of Love.

To Walk In The Way of Honor.

To ennoble the basic ideals of right. To recognize the noble impulse and so to recognize the very heart of wrong. To so fully understand the wrong in ourselves that our honest word need be the only foundation worthy of building upon. It is upon this foundation that we will not fall prey to the evil lust for power but be satisfied with the knowledge that we lived as we should. This life being the manifestation of our oath to hold our honor dearer than our life.

HOF CreedIt is from this belief that we realize, without honor we are nothing and not worth the life we are given. With this ideal in our heart we shall judge our fellow man on his character and look away from his past. It is the man himself that we will deal with and not the bewildered ideas of some hateful prejudice. And so to be loyal to the Knighthood of Honor.

To Serve In Light of Truth.

To open our minds to the glory of the world around us so that we may fully appreciate that which comes from our God. We shall avoid at all cost the blindness that afflicts the bigots and dishonorable in the world. It is only after we have freed ourselves of this disease that we can accept others for what they are and not what we think they should be.

We shall hold silent toward the brother who practices a religion that is not ours. The one God is deserved of the multitude of worshipers and it will not be our place to judge the form of worship. The brother that sees differently than us shall never be held in contempt but rather be looked upon as an equal. He shall be deserving of the same compassion and dignity that we feel we deserve. To look upon these differences as part of the divine whole. The perfect bliss and happiness that we strive toward is composed of these various parts.

To honor the institution at which we are enlightened. It is here that we find our true selves as well as gain a better understanding of the world. The world around us is opened to our blind eyes so that we may fully appreciate the wonders of life. To stand guard at the gate of humanity and act as protector. We shall assure that oppression falls upon no poor soul. The watch which we hold shall be for the good of all for it is our assumed duty to help mankind. Every man shall be entitled to a life full of joy and fulfillment, it is to this end that we shall fight. Reception Creed

For as long as we are capable of changing the plight of the downtrodden and yet do not act, we too shall be counted as down. There are present in the world the forces which will try to keep us from our mission, however we shall not be overcome. It is the duty of every Knight to help his fellow man to better not only by himself but the world around.

It is to this end that we fight, for it is the truth that we hold dear to our hearts that will save us from the evil that is present everywhere. And so to be faithful to the Knighthood of Truth.

To Believe In The Life of Love, To Walk In The Way of Honor, To Serve In The Light of Truth,  – This Is The Life, The Way, And Light of Sigma Nu – This Is The Creed For My Life.

David W. Stockmeier

January 31, 1990

Epsilon Xi Hosts 25th Annual Charity Bowl

Charity Bowl_Epsilon Xi_Robert Heard_Spring 2014

The Robinson family with officers of the Epsilon Xi Chapter.

Sigma Nu’s Epsilon Xi Chapter at University of Mississippi hosted last Friday its 25th annual Charity Bowl, the philanthropy football game held every March to raise funds for patients recovering from spinal cord injuries.

Epsilon Xi Chapter’s Charity Bowl was first held in 1990 and originally supported Chuckie Mullins, an Ole Miss Football player who was paralyzed after a violent on-field collision. The recipient of this year’s Charity Bowl proceeds, Stevelyn Robinson, was on hand to receive the $75,000 raised from the event.

The 19-year-old Stevelyn Robinson, a former three-sport athlete, has used a wheel chair since injuring his spinal cord in a 2011 school bus accident. Robinson has worked through two years of physical therapy and can now push a wheeled walker for short distances. Stevelyn, who attended the event with his family, was joined at mid-field with Epsilon Xi Chapter officers and Ole Miss football coach Matt Luke for the check presentation. Commenting about Stevelyn, event coordinator Paul DeForest noted, “Stevelyn is an incredible kid. It’s just a matter of time before he starts walking again.”

Charity Bowl_Epsilon Xi_Robert Heard_Spring 2014(5)

Stevelyn Robinson with his parents and sister.

The Charity Bowl featured a football game between members of the Epsilon Xi Chapter and the Alpha Upsilon Chapter of Kappa Alpha Order. KA gained its slot in the Charity Bowl by pledging the highest amount of money in an open bidding session between Ole Miss fraternities. The Ole Miss KA chapter pledged $7,100, outpacing Ole Miss’ Alpha Tau Omega chapter by $500. Previous Charity Bowls participants have included Phi Delta Theta and Sigma Chi.

Charity Bowl has become a longstanding tradition at the University of Mississippi, eventually expanding to include a cheerleading competition and a Charity Bowl “court” with a Charity Bowl Queen. While the chapter has donated $75,000 to Stevelyn and his family, additional proceeds from the event will go to the Friends of Children’s Hospital in Jackson, Miss. It is anticipated that an additional $25,000 will be donated to the Friends of Children’s Hospital.

The Charity Bowl is supported by a variety of Epsilon Xi alumni, current parents, and friends of the chapter. During the game, many parents and alumni volunteered by selling admission tickets and t-shirts, and working concession stands. With the help of parents and alumni, the chapter was able to raise $18,000 during the game.

Putting a wrap on the event, Deforest said, “It was an excellent experience and we were excited to help Steveyln in his recovery effort. We’re honored to be able to celebrate the event’s 25th anniversary and look forward to the next 25 years of being the largest Greek philanthropy in the country.”

Charity Bowl_Epsilon Xi_Robert Heard_Spring 2014(2)

Epsilon Xi Chapter’s Charity Bowl football team with the Robinson family.

Alumni Spotlight: A Conversation with Chapter Advisor Mark Himmelein

Dr. Mark Himmelein has been the chapter advisor for the Beta Iota Chapter at Mount Union University since 1998. Following several years of outstanding service, Himmelein was initiated as a non-matriculate initiate in 2000 as Beta Iota #1766. On the faculty at Mount Union University, Dr. Himmelein has been a German Professor since 1995.

Dr. Mark HimmeleinWhat has been your favorite part about being chapter advisor?

I think the contact with the guys – watching them grow-up, take on new challenges, and enjoy a few successes. I find it helps me keep things in perspective. It is easy to live in the past and to get out of touch with what students need and how they learn, and if you are an educator, that can be a real problem. I learn more being with students and working with them than I would if I were just in the office or reading a textbook. We always ask our Commanders as they leave office “If you had it to do all over again, would you still want to be Commander?” If I were asked that question as chapter advisor, I can very honestly say my answer would be, “Yes, without a doubt!”

What makes a successful alumni volunteer?

The ability to listen is critical. That’s harder to do than most people think. It’s much easier to just give orders and set down rules, but in the end, that doesn’t really teach anyone anything and it certainly is not good for the chapter. You have to know what you believe in and what is right and wrong, but what is critical is getting the active members to make wise decisions on their own. Often times this means stepping back and allowing them to fail, and most of all being there to help them understand what went wrong and how it could have been better. It’s not about having all of the answers, but rather helping younger members find the answers for themselves. I think that is what makes a fraternity different than just a club: clubs are great for entertainment and for pleasure, but a fraternity ought to be about that and much more.

What are some of your “best practices” as chapter advisor that you can recommend to other Sigma Nu volunteers?

The thing I have learned the most and always try to be better at is to guide the chapter members, not lead them. It is easy to simply give instructions, and there are times when you have to draw the line, but it is far better to help them come to the right conclusions on their own. Without being too critical of current students, many have not had the opportunity to stand on their own or to make their own mistakes. Moreover, a lot of them lack the moral and familial support that they should have and will need as young man out on his own. I think you have to “show how,” and be there when mistakes are made not to point out the error, but to help figure out what the best next step is.

Beta Iota Chapter House_Beta Iota_1935

The Beta Iota chapter home in 1935.

I think you also have to listen to what the students are saying and try to find some value in the things they like. Once you have graduated and moved on you have to realize that the fraternity cannot forever exist the way you remember it. If you try to force that image you had of a great experience as an undergraduate on to the next generation, you’ll end up being very frustrated. I’m all for tradition, telling stories, passing on memories and building connections to the past. Realistically, though, advisors need to remember that the chapter is not a way to relive their own past. Expect that things will be different and focus on keeping the core principles the same. In the end, those are the things that connect the alumni to the active chapter.

Once you have graduated and moved on you have to realize that the fraternity cannot forever exist the way you remember it.

What do you think makes a great chapter leader?

A great chapter leader has the capacity to move beyond his own self-interests and needs, and to think instead of the greater good. I think it is a guy who is willing to examine his actions and ask if what he did he did for the right reason. If he has made a tough decision for the right reason, then he can stand by it, regardless of whether or not it is popular. He also has to learn to admit his mistakes and to make a genuine effort to do better the next time around. As a leader, In the end, it is not about yourself, but about the people you lead.

Doritos Locos Tacos and Sigma Nu

HOF Creed

By Alex Taylor (Huntingdon)

The best innovations are not always a creation of something new. Consider the following examples: the iPhone was not the first touchscreen phone, nor was the iPod the first MP3 player, and the Doritos Locos Taco was certainly not the first taco. However, the innovations that led to these products created a sense of “newness” that was virtually irresistible to consumers. These products created social capital.

In 2010, Apple released an ad for the iPhone 4 that demonstrates the idea of social capital. The ad features the iPhone 4 and demonstrates the new phone’s features. The message behind the ad: if you don’t have an iPhone, you’ll be missing out. A quote towards the end of the ad summarizes, “If you don’t have an iPhone, well, you don’t have an iPhone.” Social Capital. You must have an iPhone because it is an everyday essential, like having your keys and wallet.

The innovation that drove the success of the iPhone was not that it was the first cell phone; rather it was the first cell phone that was totally indispensable. A similar principle can be found with the introduction of the Doritos Locos Taco. The innovation is not that the Doritos Locos Taco is the first taco, but that to be someone, you at least needed to try it. Some people reportedly drove 800 miles just to sample this new taco. The DLT (Doritos Locos Taco) even has its own Huffington Post portal. What has created such popularity among products such as the iPhone and the DLT? The answer lies within the story of the DLT and presents an interesting analogy to fraternities.

TacoIn 2009, Taco Bell was looking for a fun and exciting way to celebrate its upcoming 50th anniversary in 2012. CEO Greg Creed gave his staff until March 2012 to create an idea that would catch headlines and garner interest for the company. The idea for the DLT came from an odd source. A loyal customer of Taco Bell began promoting the idea that the company should use Doritos to make taco shells. The creative team recognized the huge potential for this idea, but the question remained: how? Frito Lays had a specific way of making Doritos, including size, thickness, crunch, and its “famous” Doritos dust. The team decided it would first try to sprinkle the Doritos dust on its own taco shells. The team made a quick trip to Home Depot and bought a paint gun to spray Doritos dust onto the corn shells.

A sample group of 200 people finally got the opportunity to taste the DLT, and what did they think? It was terrible! Taco Bell employees were blown away that it tasted so awful. Why? Taco Bell had assumed that the secret to Doritos lay in its dust. But the team had to learn an important lesson: if you are going to do something, do it 100%. Taco Bell was still holding on to its old corn shell taco, but it needed to switch its formula to include every part of a Doritos chip.

How many times has your chapter’s innovation stalled because it tried to put Doritos dust on an old corn shell? For innovation to be successful, the transformation has to be complete: a mere “dusting” of a new idea cannot create lasting change. Taco Bell’s Doritos Locos Taco example illustrates three steps to creating innovation that lasts.

1. Start with a finish date that isn’t too far in the future. This is important as your chapter will have completely new officers in a year. Giving your chapter specific deadlines creates a sense of urgency to get its goal completed. Conversely, the chapter needs an ample amount of time to accomplish its goal. It is tough to plan the “best philanthropy ever” two weeks before the event is to occur. Pick a deadline that will give brothers enough time to work on their project before they graduate or leave office.

2. Many times, trying to take a good idea (Doritos dust) and applying it to your taco shell (chapter) merely gives it a Doritos flavor. For Taco Bell, it took a complete formula change to make the taco shell a Dorito. Several of the company’s shell production plants had to be devoted to DLT shells. In your own chapter, be careful of gimmicky ideas. Members may see some validity in them, but they do not last. The chapter will have to devote many resources to make ideas work.Sigma Nu Leadership conference

3. How do you handle initial failure? Do you give up on your vision because the first attempt was a flop? Do you fail to take feedback and learn why the ideal was a failure? Taco Bell didn’t. Taco Bell didn’t waiver in its conviction that the DLT would work, even though the first attempt was a failure. The company used the failure to learn and grow its product. Likewise, your chapter needs you to have conviction in your vision. If you are convinced that your idea will be transformational, then members will still follow you even when the first attempt was a failure.

The DLT’s success and popularity is palpable (literally): the company sold over $1 billion worth as of October 2013. Consider using the process that Taco Bell took to create lasting and successful innovation for your chapter. Remember: big ideas take big commitment and time to implement.

Alex Taylor is a 2012 graduate of Huntingdon College. Alex joined the staff team following his graduation and currently works as a leadership consultant. He consults chapters in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. You can follow his travels on his blog http://travelingamericasarm.blogspot.com/

5 Ways to Take Ritual to the Next Level

By Christopher Brenton (NC State)

The Ritual; the most sacred tradition of our Fraternity. For our brothers, The Ritual serves an important role of reminding each one of us of our oath and obligations to our fraternal brotherhood. When recited, The Ritual renews our sense of purpose and calls us to action, to carry out the values of Love, Honor, and Truth. As this week is National Ritual Celebration Week, think about how you and your chapter can elevate the reverence of our Ritual. Below are 5 examples of ways you can take Ritual to the next level.

1. Clean and Maintain Ritual Items

Contrary to popular belief, the items most strongly associated with our fraternity’s ritual ceremonies – - the sword, the bible, and robes – - are not secret. These items require spoken words of The Ritual ceremonies to provide their significance and give context. That being said, it is important to make sure that The Ritual materials are properly stored and maintained. Replacement of items when they have become tattered, worn, or rusted is recommended. When necessary, robes, linens, and station covers should be dry cleaned. All items should be stored in a manner that protects the items from damage and preserves their reverence.

Sigma Nu 65th Grand Chapter

2. Keep Inventory of All Important Ritual Items

Chapters should be mindful of completing ritual inventories before and after each ceremony to ensure preparation for next use. Ritual sets a tone for our meetings and should exist as a sacred and special time for our members. Distractions such as poor preparation, missing items, and neglect take away from our ability to focus on the message The Ritual offers us about the purpose of our organization. The responsibility for taking inventory of ritual items should be left with the chapter’s Chaplain.

3. Respect Your Ritual Books

According to Article Five, Section 3.1 of The Law of Sigma Nu Fraternity Inc. –“(3.1) All copies of The Ritual shall remain the property of the Grand Chapter. Making or having unauthorized copy of The Ritual shall be an offense punishable by Expulsion from the Fraternity.”

Every chapter has been provided five copies of The Ritual, one for each ceremonial officer position; Commander, Lt. Commander, Chaplain, Marshal, and Sentinel. No chapter is provided with more than five copies and the copies are considered on loan from the Grand Chapter. This means that copies of The Ritual were issued to your chapter and only to your chapter. Unless special permission is granted from the Regent, chapters are not permitted to loan or makes copies of The Ritual.

If your chapter has less than five copies, the books have been damaged, or the formula cards are missing, notify the General Fraternity and request replacements. Additionally, avoid writing in or making alterations to the text. The words of The Ritual have been written with great purpose and meaning; alterations lessen the message and take away from the consistency of our message. Words from the formula card should not be added to the book. The Ritual and key remain separate for a reason; to preserve what matters most to our Fraternity.

4. Practice and Perform the Affirmation of Knighthood and Funeral Ritual

Two of the Fraternity’s most underappreciated and often forgotten traditions are the Affirmation of Knighthood and Funeral Ritual ceremonies. Affirmation of Knighthood is a bridge between the collegiate and alumni chapter and is a graduation ceremony for brothers completing their undergraduate careers. During the ceremony, graduating brothers can be presented with an alumni lapel pin as a memento commemorating their time in the undergraduate chapter. The ceremony creates an opportunity for discussion with your senior members about how they can remain engaged and loyal alumni even after they have entered the next phase of their lives.

The Funeral Ritual is the Fraternity’s only public ritual. This ritual is used in memoriam of the passing of a brother into Chapter Eternal. The Law gives special permission to brothers to drape their badges with black ribbon during this time.

NRCW_2013

5. Dig Deeper Into Our Ritual with the Five Objects of Sigma Nu

One of the threads that connects all of The Ritual’s ceremonies together are the Five Objects of Sigma Nu. Introduced during the Candidate Ceremony, these objects are foundational to our organization and speak with great instruction about how each member (candidates, brothers, and Knights) is expected to act in alignment with the values of our Fraternity.

If your chapter hasn’t already started making this a part of your conversation about ritual and member accountability, begin immediately. You will be glad you did.

Christopher Brenton is a 2012 graduate of North Carolina State University where he majored in marketing. He is currently serving as a leadership consultant for the General Fraternity Staff.

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