#SAEHatesMe

This past year has been a big one for me and SAE.  After being initiated into Michigan Delta Omega’s chapter of ΣΑΕ last fall, I have been elected to the role of Member Educator. Within this role, I am responsible for understanding curriculum set by our National Educators and organizing different workshops and meetings that ensure every active brother of the chapter is meeting these national expectations.  It’s called the True Gentleman Initiative. This Initiative replaces a pledge process, a model used by many other greek organizations, and instead incorporates lifelong learning throughout each members time in the fraternity.  The curriculum varies depending on age of the brother, but for the most part it can be completed as an entire chapter.

In this position I work closely with our President, Vice President, Diversity Chair, Newly initiated class of brothers, and CMU’s Interfraternity Council Educator.

A big part of this position is ensuring that newly initiated brother classes acclimate to the fraternity and learn the basics so they can build a firm understanding of our values and operations. I do this through facilitating meetings where we talk about different aspects of the fraternity, including national and local history, leadership opportunities, and campus involvements.

Greek life at CMU is incredibly valuable. The way this University encourages each chapter to collaborate and do good for the community is outstanding. Greek Week, a competition between chapters that happens each spring, is one of CMU’s most impressive and constant philanthropic events ever.  Between each organization, our greek communities raised 50,000+ Dollars for “Angel Wings,” a nonprofit that raises awareness for and supports families that are battling breast cancer.  Being a part of a community that wants to make positive impact is incredibly empowering, and I hope to continue being an integral part of that here at CMU.  Our chapter came in second overall for Greek Week in 2015, was voted best chapter on campus in 2013 by our campus newspaper, “cmlife”, and has had one member spotlighted as “Greek of the Week” since that recognition piece began last fall (it was me!! I’m truly just a lucky guy).

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Me, Tess of Phi Sigma Sigma, and Austin, my Big Brother before a football game.

But it truly isn’t all fun and games.

#SAEHatesMe

The biggest challenge of being a part of Sigma Alpha Epsilon has been the negative attention brought on us by chapters across the nation. In less than a year of being an active brother, incidents like the Oklahoma Racist Chant and other stories became prevalent parts of my daily conversations. I had serious doubts about remaining a part of this organization, because I struggled to justify labeling myself amongst these men I never met. I struggled to justify being a part of something that, in some places, held racist beliefs. While I knew that the climate of ΣΑΕ at CMU was very different than that in Oklahoma, it pained me anyhow.  How do we appropriately react as a chapter? How do I explain this to my friends and coworkers who are a part of the black community? How do I live with myself knowing that the letters SAE will only ever be a synonym for racism to hundreds of thousands of people?

After lengthy conversations with our diversity chair, who is one of my best friends, brothers, and most reliable confidants, we concluded that we have to stay and fight for change.  We agreed to remain in the fraternity knowing that the best we could do is continue to encourage our brothers at CMU about how to enter an inclusive mindset. It’s been about a year since the incident, but I’m proud of what we’re accomplished so far.  We’ve incorporated diversity lessons into chapter meeting, encouraged involvement and support to the NPHC Inc., and most importantly, opened the conversation of race and privilege in a way that all of our brothers can participate in.  We didn’t want to just say that racism isn’t happening on our campus, we wanted to make sure it was obsolete.

So shout out to Bellal for being so encouraging and wise; your help has been so valued.  And thank you to our chapter, who has responded so well to our plans. This is an ongoing effort; one that can feel tiring and hopeless at times. It starts with acknowledging the problem for what it is. It tarts by having the conversations people typically avoid. And hopefully, with continued effort, it will end.

 

Spark Expanded

 

For the past three semesters, I have been blessed to coordinate the Spark Leadership Series at CMU.

Over the summer, Natalie, another one of the coordinators, and I collaborated with the LI Staff to revisit the the Alpha Leadership program’s curriculum and projected learning outcomes in hopes to create a more challenging and intensive but still baseline leadership experience.

We stripped Alpha of it’s fat, replaced a lot of old material with new, and called it Spark.  After one semester, it was evident how tremendously the program had evolved.

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But it wasn’t done yet.  After it’s first semester, Spark doubled in size, promising two session offerings instead of one for the Spring semester.  This meant double the facilitation staff, double the coordinator staff, a new location and a new night.

I shared the Wednesday night session with Jordyn, one of the new coordinators.  Our facilitation staff was 16 volunteers strong; all of which were trained by the coordination team and the Graduate Assistant, Vince.

I tried my best to capture what Spark is like for participants each Wednesday night in the videos below.

This semester was such an awesome learning experience for me and Spark.

My belief was vigorously tested when registration suggested we might have to cancel one of the sessions.  With Four days until the start date, we only saw 12 participant applications for our Wednesday night offering; for this program to work, we needed at least 60.

Right when I was ready to throw in the towel, registration soared, and we had a number of people show up on the spot to our Wednesday night offering; more than enough for the program!

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The audience we worked with in the Towers session was unlike any Spark or Alpha experience I have ever witnessed.  For a lot of these students, it was their first time ever participating in a Leadership Institute program. The material was new to them, which made it visibly more enjoyable and exciting for them; the energy in the towers session was so real and so positive it was impossible to ignore.

Our facilitation staff was mighty adaptable.  With the new location and the number of participants, a lot of the curricula changed as we went.  For many facilitators, this would be a daunting task; but not ours.  They handled each session with absolute poise and enthusiasm; our participants don’t even know how lucky they are.

It was a huge, wildly successful semester for Spark.  I cannot wait for the Fall so we can do it all over again!

 

Substitute Fun for Fame


“What makes Chance interesting—or at least what makes him especially interesting—are the moves he has chosen to make in the months since those dominos began to fall, and the moves he has chosen not to make. He’s remained oddly noncommittal about his future after Acid Rap. No announcing a million-dollar, major-label deal. No self-righteous, keep-it-indie counter-announcement about rejecting those deals either. And, much to the devastation of his still-budding fan base, not even the slightest hint of a new solo full-length.”

The Fader


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I started listening to Chance the Rapper’s music sometime earlier this year, and initially, I didn’t think too much of it. I heard it mostly when my friends were playing their music, it was never my choice. Until about a week ago, I was up north at a cabin with a bunch people I didn’t know albeit, maybe three or four friends from school; nevertheless, i’ve learned it’s impossible to feel uncomfortable in Northern Michigan. It’s your typical college party, complete with about twenty people, blaring music and blinding lazer-lights, people dancing, and to really bring it altogether, a group is huddled around either side of a game of pong in the kitchen. College looks like this a lot. I end up on the border of it all, talking with one of the few people I actually know here. We somehow get on the topic of music, and he recommended I take a listen to “Surf,” by Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment. He is a music student and has had a passion for music since pretty much forever, so I trust his suggestions. When he swore to me that this album would be getting award-attention, I demanded to hear it. So, he, I, and another friend of ours stepped outside to chill in his truck and listen to this “Surf,” business. He tried to explain why it would be appreciated, noting that it was a group performing a lot of spoken word poetry/rap over a full band.  It’s interesting. The first song of the album is building up as he’s explaining all of this, but then I recognize the voice. If you’ve listened to him before, you’d know Chance’s voice is incredibly unique. As I’m about to ask, he says “And yes, it’s Chance the Rapper. This is what he’s doing with his career.”

So naturally, I obsess over the album in its entirety for the next handful of weeks. I dig further back, end up listening to all three mix tapes by Chance the Rapper, and reading most every article ever written about him and the Social Experiment.  The music is incredible; and, it’s free. All of the music is made available for download on Soundcloud. You can download every Chance song right at no charge.  So like, you don’t have an excuse to not listen to it.

The story of a hopeful kid from Chicago is told over the first two releases, “10 Day” and “Acid Rap.”  The group’s release, which debuted this past May, is more of a collaboration of friends kind of celebrating life’s ups and downs.

And that! there! that is the most interesting part. You can read about it more in the article on Fader, but here it is simply: Chance the Rapper, after two hugely successful independent mixtapes, becomes more than just an up-an-coming artist, but an established one. And after incredible collaboration pieces, countless label offers, Chance releases a third album, but credits “Surf” to Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment, of which he is just a member.

I love this story. So much. It goes along with my Leadership Philosophy so well:

Love:

Where you are.

What you do.

and Those who love you.

Chance the Rapper was on track to becoming a single-name celebrity. He instead brought on his best friends and still distributes his music, for free. Chance is following some other kind of leadership model that emphasizes doing what you love with those that love you for the sole reason that you love every bit of it.  He loves making music. He loves his friends. He’s a mad genius.

Please, check out the Fader article for more information. It really is an interesting story.

Here is all of his music: Chance Raps

Here’s the Fader article again (for those lazy to scroll up): The Fader

Warning: a lot of this music will cause you to feel nauseatingly happy.

Really though, read into the story, too. He’s all about doing what he loves and having a good time.

Make your point.

Debate: the art of rhetoric.  Using persuasive language hopefully win a formal argument was the focus of “Introduction to Debate;” however, so many more leadership lessons were taught throughout the course.

The first half of the course focused on developing our understanding of debate.  We read passages from famous published works, learned debate terminology, analyzed structure of professional arguments, and practiced how to utilize reliable sources of information as evidence.  As we progressed into the second half, we began to debate in front of the class.  My group consisted of Gabe Heidbreder, Megan McGillis, and Cassy Daoust. Our first debate was parliamentarian style.  Megan and Gabe served as the government, arguing that, “Firearms should be allowed on school campuses.”  Cassy and I, being the negative, stated reasons why the current policy, in which guns are banned, is safe and should not be tampered with.  Both sides fought brilliantly, and a tad sassily. Being the last of the parliamentarian debates to go, we truly went out with a bang.

This course taught me more than how to strategically use words in combat. Debate requires extensive research, and furthermore, requires close attention to detail of sources.  Also, debate happens in a public setting: therefore, my public speaking abilities were further tested in the course.  Lastly, being able to admit to a loss was a lesson I learned through my group’s Lincoln-Douglas Debate; Cassy and I again the negative, arguing in favor of animal testing, fought a weaker argument than our group mates, Megan and Gabe.

Being familiar with public speaking and growing up in a house where all I did was argue with my two older brothers, I entered this class assuming it would be a breeze; I quickly learned that, like most everything, it required time and dedication to find success.  I plan to take these lessons beyond the classroom and into every day life.  An attention to detail, strong public speaking abilities, and being a good-sport will propel anyone in any situation, not just debate class.  I am grateful for this experience and plan to continue growing in all of these areas.

A song to accompany this post:

The Alpha Experience

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Ten total hours of leadership training.  Endless benefits and leadership lessons.  Alpha Leadership.

Each week, we met with our same alpha lead group.  I was fortunate to be a part of the Blue “Om Nom Nommies.” Our mascot was Cookie Monster from the popular kids television show, Sesame Street. Alpha had a different theme every week, including “throwback” and day, “color” day.  The theme’s were just for fun- it was the activities planned for each day that made Alpha such a memorable experience. From an exciting day full of different team-bonding challenges to a simulation that illustrated the importance of breaking barriers, each day was packed full of useful leadership training activities. The day I drew the most from was when we defined our leadership styles.  Analyzing this information helped me understand what I excelled at, and furthermore, what I could work on to balance myself out as an effective leader.  I was categorized as “spirit,” with “systematic” as a close second.

A spirited leader, by our group’s definition, is vocal, encouraging, radiant, optimistic, and so much more.  I believe that I encompass these traits, so it’s no surprise that I was categorized this way.  Furthermore, systematic leaders were classified as analytical, planned-process reliant, and structural.  I usually identify myself as these traits above all else, so seeing that I almost fell under this category was not a shock.  According to the program Alpha used, my weakest leadership style, was “considerate.”  This caught me off guard, because I consider myself a considerate person.  The “considerate” group presented their style as patient, collected, and as the type of people who like to listen.

I plan to take the lessons I learned through Alpha under consideration every day from here on out.  I will continue to utilize my strengths as a spirited and systematic leader.  Furthermore, I am consciously making efforts to enhance my consideration leadership style attributes!

A song to accompany this post:

A Wild Welcome

I was at college.

wasn’t home. 

 

I had set up shop in my room, ate dinner with my roommate, and kissed my parents goodbye in a matter of hours; I felt painfully out of place as Gary and Luanne welcomed us to our new home. Sitting in the LI room, it hit me. There’s no turning back. I was excited. I was tired. I was ready. I was overwhelmed.  All of a sudden, and inexplicably, a sense of pride set in. In this moment, I experienced the extremes of “mixed-emotions.”

That night, we walked to the S.A.C to see the comedians. I clung to my friend, Eliza, the entire walk there. Eliza and I are on a college group together called the College Volunteer Facilitator Corps. We work to promote student leadership through camps and workshops yearlong. Eliza and I talked about how excited we were, how nervous we were, and tried to meet new people along our hike across campus; we even tried convincing people that we were related..

Noting can compare to how thrilling it was to stand in the gymnasium where the comedians performed. I had heard that the Safari program was large, but as I stood in the sea of people that flooded the gymnasium, I could feel an aura of importance. There were participants from wall-to-wall. There were over one hundred volunteer staff members. The numbers were crazy. I was bewildered. I cannot sufficiently stress in words the empowerment I felt, solely due to me standing in a room whipping with excitement and nerves. There were easily a hundred other people in that room experiencing the same sensation I had been experiencing, and knowing that is what really got me.

After the comedians performed, we broke off into our safari groups. I was a weasel. Yup. A weasel. We met briefly outside to meet each other and then headed right home.

I walked back to Barnes hall with a girl I had met in my Weasel group. We chatted about where we were from and what we were studying. We discovered we shared a friend, and then separated to our different Halls. The streetlights and moon illuminated the campus the entire way back. It was almost a magical feeling, campus at night. There was a light bustle, but an overall mystic quietness remained; the kind of quietness that warms your heart.

The week progressed at a rapid rate, and the weasel’s melded together almost as rapidly. I became rather close with two of the guys in my group. We came from similar places of Michigan, and knew a handful of the same people. Our group handled most of the challenges thrown our way with a certain weasel-finesse. We rarely were stumped, because we took challenges head on and with pride. Particularly, the trust fall activity had pretty high attention all week. People were worried and nervous, but not a single person in the weasel group even stuttered when it was our turn to catch each other.

Hearing the term “servant leadership” brings my principal to mind. Dave Jackson preached servant leadership in our high school. He set his example be being personable, reaching out to students in order to help them find success, and made an effort to personally aid and commend each student in a building of 2,000. Furthermore, he always volunteered to pick up after the Horses in our homecoming parade. So to me, leadership is service; which is exactly why I enjoyed the service projects employed by Safari. Turning leadership into service, whether it is cleaning up trash on a part of campus, or stuffing boxes for the military, is an effective way to help the greater good. I was part of a team whose duty was to clean the disc-golf course. Not only did it feel good to be helping out around campus, but it was also a time to just casually talk with people from all different groups we worked to better our new community, we built better connections between each other.

One speaker I truly gained knowledge from was Ed Gerety. He was in the breakout sessions, and actually spoke in Powers Hall, which gave me a sense of familiarity and comfort. Ed Gerety spoke on the importance of visualization and gratitude. These are two concepts that I believe in and love learning new tactics about. He suggested that we make dream-boards, which essentially are posters, that map out every big goal and dream you’ve ever had on them through photographs and texts. He also taught us how to emphasize the importance of our goals through our wording. Instead of saying, “I want to be a successful Computer Engineer,” it is more powerful to say something along the lines of “I will be an experienced computer engineer with background knowledge from internships across the country and the globe, and finally work for Apple Inc. as a lead Software and Computer developer by the time I’m thirty.” By being detailed, I am enabled to think critically about what it is exactly that I want. And by knowing the specifics, I am compelled to take the proper steps to make it to mygoals.

Every night of Safari, I came back to Barnes Hall. In Barnes, I am surrounded by some of the state’s best leaders, who also share in my experience as a Leadership Advancement Scholar. Honestly, my favorite part of safari was getting to know my LAS cohort by talking to them all each night. I feel comfortable and safe around this group of people, and in fact, I can’t imagine my life without most of them, already!

Safari came to an end, but the feeling I felt that first day still burns: I’m still overwhelmed by this truly welcoming and friendly campus.  I still feel ready for new obstacles.  I’m still easily excited by classes, campus, friends, and everything else.  Finally, I still feel that sense of pride… but now I know where that sensation set in: it was the moment I realized I am now a Chippewa.

I’m at college.

I’m at Central.

I’m home.

A song to accompany my feelings while writing this post: