Friday, March 25, 2011

Strong Foundation, Bright Future

There are many people not involved in collegiate Greek Life that don't accurately capture or understand the true motives and missions of some of the Fraternities out there. The general consensus of people not involved in collegiate Greek Life is that fraternities only come together to distract their members with parties, excessive drinking and social events. This stems not only from the realities of several active Fraternities but also our media's portrayal of your typical Fraternity. At our recent Alumni Association workshops, during the Founding Fathers panel discussion, Michael Sanchez brought up a good point that distinguishes our Fraternity from your typical social Fraternities: “we did not need a fraternity to party.” Some of the stories they shared with us about their undergraduate life before Nu Alpha Kappa described just how fun college-life can be with the people you care about.

But Nu Alpha Kappa at the University of California, San Diego does not just attract freshmen looking to make friends.  We have a history of active members joining our fraternity well into their undergraduate careers as 3rd, 4th, or even 5th years.  I can list a couple of bros that joined the frat in their last year as a UCSD undergraduate, and then went to on to contribute to the growth of the chapter, well after they left San Diego.

Nu Alpha Kappa’s benefits go beyond offering a social experience for younger students.  To agree with Founding Father Michael, any student can find parties, or even brotherhood, anywhere.  What the Lambda Chapter of Nu Alpha Kappa at UCSD offers is something more profound.  Founding Father Abel Gutierrez stated that the fraternity’s original statement of purpose for a UCSD chapter was to produce leaders that would give back to their cultural origins, their community and be role models for future individuals.  NAK was built on a foundation of offering opportunities and growth for our Latino community and anyone else interested in our values and goals. 

When we look at the structure of the Lambda Chapter and scrutinize how we recruit new members and how we retain active bros, we can see hints of our Chapter's original mission statement in their operations.  Pledging encourages the little bros to start their own organization and host their own events; the active body has bi-laws and positions of leadership within the chapter to promote a sense of status and responsibility; and even the alumni association offers programs to aid the undergraduates in developing skills that will help them succeed at leading and giving back.  The founding fathers’ vision is still existent at UCSD, just not at a level we can settle for.

But that’s not to say that tradition is the most important thing in maintaining a strong organization that specializes in offering more than your average Fraternity.  Founding Father Abel commented on how “tradition only serves to stop creativity.”  It’s a controversial statement because of the different ways people can interpret its words, but whether or not we believe that creativity is greater than tradition, or vice versa, there is some virtue to adapting or changing and the Lambda Chapter is always looking for ways to take risks with what has been established to continue moving forward.

Before the Alumni Workshops, a panel of bros met to discuss the future of pledging and just how we can change the pledging process to improve not only the quality of bros recruited, but also solve some long-standing Chapter problems that stem from our traditional pledging structure.  Ultimately, making some crucial changes to our core foundation, our pledging process, is essential in our effort to continue improving Lambda Chapter as a whole.

Slowly but surely, our newly crossed brothers, almost all first years, are giving the Lambda Chapter new faces to put forth.  Amongst collegiate, leadership developers across the nation, the belief that the members of an organization sell a brand more than the name of the group is a cornerstone of many popular presentations.  With new brothers that carry new hobbies, new ideals, new perspectives, and new values, Nu Alpha Kappa is not the same Lambda Chapter it was 5 years ago, 2 years ago, or even 1 year ago.  So with this fresh perspective, how can we build on our momentum?  What can we do to keep moving forward?

Ironically, the answer to my last previous questions on how to continue moving forward is by staying true to our roots and living up to the mission statement set forth by our founders.  Developing leaders is more than just giving our new brothers letters and expecting them to live up to a mantra, but rather, empowering them to take their own personal strengths and passions and sharing who they are with us to make our group stronger.  At a previous job that focused on developing leadership amongst its employees, I learned that leadership is not a process or a tool used to make others do things for you, but rather, it’s a sort of self-love and open-minded compassion towards like-minded individuals that motivates everyone to get things done – from a simple taco sale to state-wide bone marrow drive.

While it’s important to use the past as a way of affirming to ourselves that anything is possible with the right attitude, the lessons of the alumni were not meant to place pressure on the chapter to change for the sake of escaping tradition, but rather to encourage us to grow as a group, and not just in terms of number, but rather by influence and personal strength .

Written by Marco Salazar de Leon

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