By Sean Wagner, Executive Vice President and CEO
The past year taught us much about ourselves as individuals, as a society, and as Phi Delta Theta. A socially distanced fraternity experience caused both undergraduate and alumni leaders to be resilient, creative, and most importantly, to focus on what is most critical.
When you strip the superfluous aspects away, at its core, the Phi Delt experience has always been about two things throughout its long history. First, the desire to help each other meet our full potential, and second, to impact the community that surrounds us.
As the world continues to reopen and campuses work to energize the college experience once again this fall, Phi Delta Theta has an immense opportunity to re-introduce itself in a proud, visible, and responsible way. With this renewed focus as campus leaders, Phi Delts have the chance to redefine what it means to be a fraternity man and be the example as responsible advocates for their campus communities.
So, as we ramp up for the start of the school year, the General Fraternity is prepared to assist our chapters and volunteers in taking full advantage of this moment and further etching our rightful place as the premier fraternal leadership development society. But as we do this together, we must be thoughtful of who we are as Phi Delts.
This happens in many forms to resist the status quo. We are committed to ensuring that every Phi can contribute to our great brotherhood while working to become the greatest version of himself. This occurs through the chapter leadership experience as a foundation and continues through the Pursuit of Greatness, our credentialed membership development program. The program features a personal and professional development badge as it helps participants build the interpersonal skills and career attributes desired by employers.
We are also committed to lifting others around us and broadening our perspective. Meeting this goal will happen this year, focusing on first-generation recruitment and diversity and inclusion education at the chapter level. We have this fantastic experience that helps make good men great and improves their trajectory. Now, we’ll intentionally broaden access to this experience.
The adage “failing to plan is planning to fail” is true. This is especially the case when many talented undergraduate leaders preparing for the upcoming, in-person academic year have mostly had a virtual experience thus far in their Phi Delt career.
General Headquarters hosted the Summer Leadership Series from August 9–12, 2021, focusing on operations, health and safety, and growth. This conference provided chapter and volunteer leaders a chance to restore and improve the “nuts and bolts” of chapter operations and safely plan social events as our members reconnect with one another and the rest of their campus.
What does a family do? Takes care of one another. Fraternity historically does not occur at a distance, and the inability to connect with one another and the world rapidly took its toll on our members. For this reason, we’re creating a six-point personal wellness program to help Phis proactively address their mental health and find professional assistance if needed.
While we have a significant focus on planning for the known, the skill set of knowing what to do when the unknown occurs is just as critical. The Fraternity’s bystander education program, To Do What Ought to Be Done, will be further used and implemented to ensure Phis know what to do and how to find assistance in episodes of alcohol or drug abuse, hazing, mental health, or sexual assault.
Every Phi Delt is first and foremost a student at their institution, and through their commitment to the Fraternity, takes an oath to better themselves through Sound Learning. This journey starts as a Phikeia through the Fraternity’s standardized new member program that emphasizes initiative, responsibility, teamwork, and accountability. It then builds into the Pursuit of Greatness program and various modules and offerings for officers through PDT U, our online education platform.
While we’ve all enjoyed online education for expanding our ability to educate, we’re looking forward to the return of our hallmark educational programs with an in-person 2022 McKenzie Family Presidents Leadership Conference, January 6-9 and the largest Kleberg Emerging Leaders Institute to-date next summer, July 30-August 2.
When colleges and universities were uncertain of how many students would return in the fall of 2020 and how they would engage students in new ways, they looked to fraternities and sororities. Phi Delta Theta responded in a big way, with 98 percent of its enrolled members returning to its host institutions.
Continuing as champions for their schools and providing an experience that not only retains current students but attracts new ones, Phi Delta Theta offers a strong value proposition focused on principles, engagement, and leadership. To help chapters communicate and share this value proposition on their campuses, the General Headquarters will host a number of Recruitment Workshops throughout the year and offer coaching assistance to those who were significantly impacted by COVID-19 and have large graduating classes in the upcoming two years.
One of the most impressive feats that occurred during the 2020–21 academic year was the success of the Iron Phi program. The program had its best fundraising year of all time, and LiveLikeLou rallied more volunteers to support ALS families than ever before. Phi Delts from around the United States and Canada found purpose in supporting a cause greater than themselves—to battle ALS and support the ALS warriors facing it.
This June, we had the opportunity to create awareness and advocacy for ALS and join forces with other ALS organizations for the inaugural Lou Gehrig Day throughout Major League Baseball. This special day will provide momentum for our cause and bring funding towards research and the support of ALS families. As fraternity is redefined, it will be measured by the impact we make on the world, and Phi Delta Theta is poised to help end ALS.
Phi Delta Theta is very proud of who we are, what we offer, and the impact that we make on the world. As we approach the 2021–22 academic year, we hope you will help us lead the way and show the world that We Are Phi Delt.