Category Archives: new member education

Khan Academy and the LEAD Program

“Khan Academy is an educational website,” reports technology writer Clive Thompson, “that, as its tagline puts it, aims to let anyone “learn almost anything—for free.” Students, or anyone interested enough to surf by, can watch some 2,400 videos in which the site’s founder, Salman Khan, chattily discusses principles of math, science, and economics (with a smattering of social science topics thrown in).”

The core of Khan Academy’s approach sounds remarkably similar to the impetus behind moving the LEAD Program to an online format:

The idea is to invert the normal rhythms of school, so that lectures are viewed on the kids’ own time and homework is done at school. It sounds weird, Thordarson admits, but this flipping makes sense when you think about it.

Similarly, the LEAD Program transitioned to an online format so participants could learn the vital information on their own, freeing up time for interactive discussion during group meetings.

Read the full story here and browse Khan Academy’s impressive collection of video lessons here.



3 Quick Tips for LEAD Facilitators

A successful LEAD program relies on members, particularly the LEAD chairman, understanding the difference between presenting and facilitating.

Presenting is one-way, it’s boring and it doesn’t lend itself to engaging LEAD sessions.

Facilitating, on the other hand, takes participants through a process. It’s fosters participation and conversation in place of a traditional lecture.

In this short post, Harvard Business Review offers 3 simple ways to increase participation at your next meeting (or LEAD session):

  1. Don’t dominate. This not only gives others less time to speak up but also conveys that only your ideas are important. Let at least three people speak before you
    talk again.
  2. Be positive. Demonstrate that all ideas are valuable by restating important points. Thank people who are usually reticent for their comments.
  3. Ask directly. To get input from everyone, ask each person for their thoughts. Don’t do it in a confrontational way. Try, “Do you have anything to share?”

Four Reasons Ritual is Important to Sigma Nu

By Director of Communications Nathaniel Clarkson

1. Renewal of purpose.

There are plenty of practical reasons to begin every chapter meeting with The Ritual. Most chapters only convene for 1-2 hours per week so opening with The Ritual sets a serious tone for the meeting. The Ritual asks participants to wear coat and tie, which contributes to an atmosphere conducive to accomplishing the business of the fraternity.

Beyond fostering a professional atmosphere and providing other tangible benefits, The Ritual serves a much deeper function, namely, to remind us of Sigma Nu’s purpose. Between the hectic day-to-day activities of running the chapter, sometimes it’s easy to forget why we’re all doing this fraternity thing in the first place. The Ritual serves as a reminder of Sigma Nu’s purpose and a weekly renewal of the oath each Knight swore to uphold.

2. Articulates honorable action.

Without publishing any secrets of the ceremony, the opening of The Ritual essentially asks each Knight to renew the oath he took as a candidate. Moreover, the closing reminds us all that the passages recited each week are not just words; rather, they are a call to action.

While The Ritual is secret, non-initiates should be able to decipher our Ritual by observing our actions. The Ritual serves as a guide for honorable behavior.

3. Distinguishes us from other organizations; unifies all Sigma Nu chapters.

Sigma Nu maintains nearly 180 collegiate chapters throughout North America. Naturally, each chapter develops its own unique culture over time. Some chapters boast 200+ members, each involved in a bevy of other campus organizations, while other chapters maintain a smaller brotherhood all recruited from the football team.

Despite the menagerie of interests among different chapters and even members within the same chapter, each Knight is united by the same oath to live an honorable life.  It’s a moving experience to watch Brothers from Boston, Macon and Santa Barbara stand side-by-side reciting the same ritual during conclave.

While The Ritual unites tens of thousands of Sigma Nu Brothers who’ve never met, the fraternity ritual also distinguishes us from other (inter)national fraternities.  However, the differences are much smaller than most realize. In fact, a confidential study administered by the North-American Interfraternity Conference concluded that ritual ceremonies for the prominent social fraternities showed strong similarities.

4. Teaches us to eliminate hazing.

In a subtle way, The Ritual also presents a problem for the typical hazing logic. According to the hazing narrative, candidates must complete a series of arbitrary tasks to prove they are worthy of initiation.

As the opening to ritual shows us, however, we don’t earn our membership in Sigma Nu by submitting to activities that have nothing to do with ethical leadership. Rather, we “earn our badge” each and every day by remaining faithful to our Knightly vows.

Ritual Ceremonies Exclude Hazing For a Reason

By Leadership Consultant Adam Bremmeyer

“There are no offensive or hazing practices involved in a fraternity initiation.”

For the last couple of nights, I have sat and pondered what this statement means to me. As I have worked with various chapters, I realized the best resource is the actual collegiate members I talk with day-to-day.

I read this statement to members of Beta Beta Chapter during a recent Ritual workshop. Almost unanimously their response was “well we know OUR initiation does not involve any hazing practices but there is no way to know for sure if other fraternities follow this practice.”

This was the same thing that I thought about after reading the statement the first time. I started researching online what society thought of fraternity initiations and rituals and, not surprisingly, it wasn’t too favorable.

Many times when fraternities and sororities are in the public light, it is for reasons that the Greek community are ashamed of. A small percentage of misguided individuals make things a lot harder for those who do the right thing.

According to a simple Google search, most think of initiation as the completion of certain degrading, physical, and mental tasks throughout a semester or a week to eventually earn your membership without any reason or purpose.

It was difficult to find a factual description of what I feel is the definition of a fraternity initiation. The majority of fraternity initiations are sacred within that organization and it is something that is unique to the fraternity and that connects them with thousands of other people over the course of one hundred or so years depending on the organization. It defines the fraternity based on a set of values and principles and gives those members purpose as a part of something greater than each individual.

Because of the secrecy, the idea of initiation is that of Animal House, what we see in similar movies, and what we read in books and magazines. Richard H. Robbins, the author of Cultural Anthropology: A Problem-Based Approach, stated the following in his 2008 book:

The fraternity initiation ritual on most college campuses is the culmination of a period of pledging in which initiates are required to perform various demeaning acts. Particulars may vary from fraternity to fraternity and campus to campus, but in general the ritual stigmatizes the initiates as infants, children, or girls and then proceeds to cleanse them of this negative identity before incorporating them into the fraternity as full-fledged brothers.

I don’t remember any of this happening when I was initiated in the fall of 2006 and, sadly, this is the idea that even many of my friends who didn’t attend college always seem to mention upon learning of my fraternity membership.

I can’t speak for every fraternity but I am sure they will appreciate it when I say the official initiation ceremony of a fraternity is a momentous occasion that was a culmination of hard work, dedication, and strong brotherhood over the course of the semester, none of which was demeaning or made me feel like less of a person.

As many already know, Sigma Nu was founded in direct opposition to hazing and the act itself is not suggested anywhere in the ceremonies or The Ritual of Sigma Nu.

As with many fraternities, the Founders of Sigma Nu specifically made the initiation ceremony without acts of hazing. For those chapters and fraternities that choose to alter these ceremonies, they are not living up to the values they committed themselves to, and are in fact not actually performing the ceremony the way it is meant to be, thus stripping those individuals of a valuable experience.

Your Initiation Ceremony is Only the Beginning

By Drew Logsdon (Western Kentucky)

This was it. Twelve long weeks had culminated into this exact moment. I had passed the tests. I knew the history. I was familiar with risk reduction, time management, community service, and leadership concepts. I was also still very naïve.

I knew I was about to go through a ritual that had been passed down through the years but I didn’t really understand the significance of the event until much later.

I remember that morning very distinctly. My candidate brothers and I were waiting with strong anticipation for this moment. However, internally, I was thinking of so much more.

I was about to become a member of not just a chapter with over 40 years of history on campus but also a fraternity of international membership.

I remembered what my father had told me during a phone conversation the night before. “Don’t waste this experience. Don’t be an empty seat. The easy part is over, now the hard part begins. You have nothing to prove to anyone else but you do have something to prove to yourself. Prove to yourself that this commitment wasn’t a half-assed one. Prove to yourself that you’re going to actually do something.”

Honor candidate ritual robe.

He was absolutely right.

When I finally walked into the room for the ceremony I remember feeling extremely excited. So excited I wanted to almost skip the ceremony and go straight to my first meeting. That’s when it dawned on me: This wasn’t the culmination of twelve weeks. This was the beginning of change. I now had a voice. I now had an obligation. There were no more “but I’m just a candidate” excuses. Now I had an obligation to stand for the values of the Fraternity. When the door shut behind us I felt the weight of the silence in the room. In roughly one hour I would be an initiate.

To this day I can’t accurately recreate in my memory what followed because it seemed to happen so fast (it didn’t). But I will never forget those first few moments and my father’s words to me the night before. I believe it is a charge we are all obligated to uphold.

As initiates we have nothing to prove to anyone else, but we do have to prove something to ourselves.

We all have to prove that we will carry through with the vows we took. We all have to prove that our decisions were not made in vain and that we will all leave our active chapters better than when we came into them.

So throughout this week of celebration for our Ritual I encourage every active member and candidate alike to think about what they have done or plan to do. Don’t be an empty seat. Do something.

Replace Dull LEAD Facilitators with Rock Stars

So you finally organized that LEAD committee.  Maybe you even created a LEAD calendar to plan sessions for the semester.  Yet after all of this careful planning, members lose interest after the first meeting?  Maybe it’s time to take a look at your facilitators.

Remember: The LEAD chairman and members of his committee should not be expected to actually facilitate the sessions.  Members of the committee are merely organizers who choose sessions based on the chapter’s preferences/needs, pick the time, reserve the room, and…identify and recruit the guest facilitator.

Guest lecturers are common among college courses and even top graduate programs.  The UGA student newspaper Red and Black reports:

It’s getting crowded in Terry College’s Music Business Program office. Yet another internationally renowned, nationally proven and locally beloved music figure has joined the staff this semester, and he’s no slouch next to the other big names already there.

David Lowery, lead singer of bands Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker, mathematician, and long-time music businessman is teaching Fundamental Concepts in Music Business this semester, in which he will share information he’s collected throughout 26 years in the biz.


Organize that LEAD committee, choose sessions, pick a date and get creative with the guest facilitators.  Chapter members will take more interest in a LEAD program that keeps it fresh, relevant and innovative.

Here are a few examples of guest facilitators to consider for particular LEAD sessions:

Phase I, Session 5: Risk Reduction -> University attorney or insurance rep

Phase I, Session 6: Values and Ethics -> Philosophy professor

Phase I, Session 7: Alcohol Misuse Prevention -> Health and wellness professor or health center staff

Phase IV, Sessions 1, 2, 4 or 6 -> Student career center rep or local recruiter/head hunter

All Chapter, Module A, Session 2: Etiquette -> Find a local etiquette coach and host dinner with a sorority

All Chapter, Module B, Session 4: Strategic Planning -> Business professor

Update: Dallas Cowboys Rookie Hazing Didn’t Work

Remember the hullabaloo from last summer’s Dallas Cowboys training camp when  rookie Dez Bryant refused to carry Roy Williams’ shoulder pads?

“I’m not doing it,” Bryant said. “I feel like I was drafted to play football, not carry another player’s pads.”

“If I was a free agent, it would still be the same thing. I just feel like I’m here to play football. I’m here to try to help win a championship, not carry someone’s pads. I’m saying that out of no disrespect to [anyone].”

The story made national news and ESPN analysts were quick to criticize Dez Bryant for neglecting the time-honored tradition of rookie hazing.  “Shut up and carry the pads,” said Mike Golic, co-host of ESPN’s ‘Mike and Mike in the Morning.’  Golic went on to brag about holding rookies down to perform unpleasant haircuts and throwing uncooperative rookies’ clothes into the shower.

Posting the story to the Sigma Nu fan page received an outpouring of criticism even from some of our own members:

Dislike, pay your dues Dez…humbling rookies out of college is definitely necessary for new ego-centric players like him. This post is most disheartening.

This post doesn’t exactly make me proud to be a Sigma Nu. That tradition isn’t arbitrary at all. It would be arbitrary if only certain rookies had to do it. It might teach Dez to appreciate where he is and what he has.

where I come from when someone older more experienced tells you what to do….you say yes sir!

There’s nothing about carrying somebody’s pads that even remotely resembles hazing. It’s a simple way to show respect for guys that have been there before you.

Nothing wrong with Hazing. Thank you Sigma Nu Nationals for adding to the continual feminization of America. I know you have to do it for liability purposes but it doesn’t mean I have to agree with it.

Proponents of Tim Tebow’s infamous haircut and Dez Bryant’s personal servitude promised to create “team chemistry” and “a fun time for the rookies,” which would in turn produce a successful season.  But with both teams sitting at last place in their respective divisions, and a Dallas Cowboys record envied only by the Buffalo Bills, we can safely conclude now that this failed experiment in rookie hazing didn’t result in a team chemistry that wins football games.

Hazing’s “true believers” will be quick to blame the coaches, or a lack of talented players, or Tony Romo’s fractured clavicle or anything other than the training camp antics.  There’s no doubt that a team can fail for any number of reasons and no one–not even the ESPN analysts–can say why with certainty.  The point is not necessarily that rookie hazing caused their bad season but, rather, that rookie hazing failed to fulfill its promises, namely, that personal servitude would create a team culture conducive to winning football games.

In any case, this story sheds some light on the true nature of hazing: Though always justified with the best of intentions, hazing is not much more than a form of entertainment for veterans who take pleasure in embarrassing their teammates.

Does carrying a veteran player’s shoulder pads risk personal injury?  Doubtful.  What about the potential for psychological harm?  Probably not.  So what’s the big deal in a little harmless rookie hazing?  It’s an utter waste of time and a distraction from the team’s core purpose.

The time spent duct-taping a rookie to the goal post, giving embarrassing haircuts and bickering over who should carry the veteran’s shoulder pads could have been spent on activities that are actually relevant to winning football games, like practicing audibles, studying film or even reviewing blocking assignments to protect the quarterback from injury.  (Too soon?)

Rookie hazing may seem harmless on the surface because most of it probably is harmless.  But the unseen harm comes in the form of distracting a team from its mission to win a championship (or in our case, teaching ethical leadership).  Hazing is harmful because it’s insidious.

Hazing is often perpetuated by the Brothers who contribute nothing to the chapter, leaving coerced respect as their only way to feel relevant.  Similarly, it’s not uncommon for the third and fourth stringers to be the loudest proponents of hazing.  They can’t earn respect on the field, or by embracing their role as a valuable backup teammate, so they’re compelled to demand respect by bossing around the rookies.  If you want respect from the new members, earn it the right way by holding a leadership position and moving your chapter forward.

Thankfully, sensible Brothers who want to lead their chapter to excellence are taking a stand against arbitrary tradition as evidenced by one of the more uplifting Facebook comments:

I’ve never felt admiration or respect for someone while being their servant. Listening to advice and learning from the elder is a better way to show respect. Saying, “no thanks, I can carry my own pads” is a better way to get respect from the rookies. The rookie who works hard and learns is going to get more playing time than the rookie who carries shoulder pads the best. It is a pointless tradition with little to no benefit and much bigger risks such as resentment and spite.