By Benny Kuo
Prior to college, I had been a student leader for the Bellevue Youth Council – an organization that empowers the youth of Bellevue, WA and its surrounding areas to vocalize community concerns and act. This organization has offered me the opportunities to inspire changes and create a legacy in my local community. As I left this organization for college, I did not fully realize its impact on my life and how I would crave for an organization that I could similarly “inspire changes and create a legacy.” That is where the Fraternity comes into the lens.
As a first generation college student, it is hard to find your niche. Heck, it is hard to find your niche as any occupation. But coming to Willamette and joining the brotherhood of Phi Delta Theta’s Oregon Gamma Chapter was the best choice I could have made. As a second generation Asian-American and first-generation college student, it is easy to become lost in the sea of higher education because my parents cannot offer support in the confusion of the infrastructure of college. The transition was not as tough as some suggest: Instead of being swept by uncertainty, the morals of Phi Delta Theta became a pillar and foundation for me.
When trying out many of the different clubs and organizations throughout the first semester, I realized that these organizations did not have the same organizational structure that I sought, except for fraternities. Because my chapter was smaller in size, I saw how each member contributed through their respective leadership positions to propel the fraternity forward. Everyone mattered. It was a group mentality. That was what I really enjoyed about the Phi Delts, so I signed the board to pledge that very weekend during rush week.
At the beginning of my sophomore year, I was interested in becoming involved with the college admission process. During a dinner with staff and faculty at a freshmen orientation camp that I was a leader of, I posed the question to an admission officer in attendance and was presented with a music internship opportunity a week later via email. I was asked to build and rework the music internship in progress as it fit my needs and the current needs of the Music Department. During this process, I learned that I enjoyed creating – a trait that I exploited. While stemming from my entrepreneurial parents, I owned this trait of creation through marketing. Even as a young boy, I recall shamelessly selling candy to my mom’s clients.
In addition, I learned a lot about myself and my interests through this process. At the time, I had my doubts about studying music, specifically which career path I wanted to take. Moreover, I was not ready to commit myself to such a focused major. I wanted to utilize my extracurricular activities as my classroom. Therefore, it was beneficial to have taken some higher level courses early on in addition to finding some field work. A couple years later, I realized that the things about this internship are the things I would want out of a career – organizing students, helping students find their passion, answering questions about a topic I have extensive knowledge in, providing new ideas for marketing and outreach, and traveling. Of course, this is only one option of many to pursue but thus far it seems to provide the most “bang for my buck.”
The supportive atmosphere here at Willamette by the faculty and staff encouraged me to explore and stay involved. I work two jobs, sing in three vocal ensembles (Chamber Choir, Willamette Singers, and Tandem) and am the President of the Phi Delt chapter. I am taking these opportunities to lead and learn through real-world experience and applications. That is where I truly thrive academically.
I’ve learned fast that initiative matters. As they say, “The early bird gets the worm.” It is how it works in the real world as well. Within the fraternity, people want to see folks that rise above the norm. People that do not wait on the sideline until all becomes chaotic before acting. People want a leader; someone to take initiative. Professors want students to visit during office hours. Bosses want workers to create a workflow that boosts productivity. Organizations want leaders to provide direction. Owning your enthusiasm is key in many facets of life especially in leadership roles.
In conclusion, as a first generation student, I realize that college offers many different resources for you: academics, a social life, networking opportunities, independence, etc. What I have found in Phi Delta Theta in regards to this, though, is that I am able to share these experiences with other brothers, specifically first generation brothers. We strive to live and exemplify the three cardinal principles with grace. I hope my personal experiences in college provide an interesting roadmap and help others to see how fraternities (specifically Phi Delta Theta) help us “become the greatest versions of ourselves.
Benny Kuo is a junior at Willamette University studying Music with an emphasis in Vocal Performance and Music Administration. He currently serves as the Chapter President; previously as Treasurer, Alumni Secretary, Chorister, and Webmaster. He works as a student technician at Willamette Integrated Technology Services (WITS), the University’s IT department. In addition, he works for the Admission Office handling music student inquiries and creating advertising materials for the Music Department. In his spare time (if any), he plays video games, watches movies and television shows with friends, and refurbishes computers to sell on Craigslist. He hopes to share the benefits of music performance by utilizing your passions in an untapped manner.