A time for preparation, not perfection.

*This blog was originally written as part of "The Road: The Journey to Excellence," Delta Tau Delta's comprehensive member education program.

Most men who will join the fraternity this year are 18 years old right now. On average, they will live to be 75.6 years old. This means they will be with Delta Tau Delta for approximately 57.6 years, or 2,995 weeks. They will be alumni for 53 years, or 2,756 weeks. They will be chapter members for approximately 3.5 years, or 182 weeks. And for the next 6 to 8 weeks, they will be your new members.

Your job as a new member educator is not to achieve the pinnacle of fraternity within 8 weeks. It is to help new members lay the foundation for a life of excellence. Consider what this means for your education program:

  • The goal is not to develop advanced leadership skills, but to ensure that new members have enough knowledge to navigate the basic operations of the chapter, the campus and the national organization, and to identify their own leadership path.
  • The goal is not to unite new members in a bond against adversity. It is to build relationships capable of exploring a deeper connection of brotherhood with every member past, present and future.
  • The goal is not for new members to swiftly recite every fact and figure. It is to understand how our founding story, important moments in our history, and the symbols of Delt are instructive in living a life of excellence.
  • The goal is not to test the commitment of our new members, but to help them determine for themselves whether they are ready to take and keep the oath of membership for 2,756 weeks beyond initiation.
  • The goal is not to demand compliance with our rules, but to help new members make decisions with Truth, Courage, Faith and Power.

These lives of excellence are in your hand for 1/500th of their total time as Delts. They are precious, for they carry the legacy of Delta Tau Delta, and therefore must be handled with extreme care. Please review your program to ensure that it is providing a safe, positive experience that meets the goals above.

  • You recruited properly, so these men come to you with values, motivation and a desire to lead. These things do not need to be trained, only reinforced. Please do not waste time re-teaching what is already there.
  • If you treat new member education as the defining moment of the Delt experience, our brotherhood will suffer from attrition and apathy. Members who put everything into new member education will have nothing left to invest or gain from their 671 remaining months of membership. Please do not put our future in jeopardy by setting unattainable standards.
  • A new member’s success at learning is indicative of your ability to teach. The onus is on you to ensure that the information is interesting, easy to absorb and meaningful to their lives. Please be intentional about how it is presented, and add small building blocks slowly over time rather than all at once.
  • Your brothers may attempt to sit back, fold their arms treat this as new members’ time to prove to us that they are worthy. These brothers are wrong. New members passed our test when we conferred upon them an invitation to join. This is our time to prove to them that we are worthy. Despite any resistance you may face, ensure that brothers are actively living their 182 weeks of undergraduate membership with character. Challenge them to be involved in the new member education process and to serve as the highest role models for at least the next 8 weeks.
  • You’ve spent the last 5 minutes investing in the legacy of Delta Tau Delta. It’s a small price to pay for 20,965 days of a future brother’s life. Multiply that by the number of new members, the impact they will have, and the legacy they leave behind, and you can certainly afford to invest a little more.

Spend some extra time reading Delta Tau Delta’s Life of Excellence manual. Re-read the Ritual and look for important lessons for new member education. Contact your leadership consultant, your volunteer advisor or your campus advisor to talk through the program. Gather as much as you can that would simplify, enhance and prepare new members for their life as a Delt. Remember, an 8 week experience can be powerful, but it’s nothing compared to feeling the pinnacle of fraternity repeatedly for 57 years.

What will you do to get the first 8 weeks right? Make sure you're on the list to learn about our newest initiative.

RISE Programs at #AFAAM 2016

Find our team members in the following programs at the #AFAAM Annual Meeting!

Preparing for the future: The evolving fraternity/sorority professional

Add to Calendar12/01/2016 10:1512/01/2016 11:30America/DetroitPreparing for the future: The evolving fraternity/sorority professionalDan Wrona, Justin Kirk, Jeremiah Shinn, Block 1, #114, December 1, 10:15 am - 11:30 am
The role of campus-based fraternity/sorority professionals has evolved over the past 40 years, and the markers of success are still changing. With increasing calls for accountability and shrinking resources in higher education, fraternity/sorority professionals will need to reposition themselves to remain relevant. Using recent research on the profession, this two-part session will ask participants to rethink the role of the campus-based fraternity/sorority professional, provide a framework for improving their impact, and guide them in integrating it into their work. We will examine the contribution of fraternity/sorority professionals to student outcomes, relationships with institutional partners, and how to better prioritize time and resources. This developmental experience will prepare participants to make sense of their responsibilities and develop strategies for improving their work. Participants will discover guiding ideas for professional practice, including serving institutional objectives, collaborating with other departments, simultaneously addressing micro and macro-level work, and continuous development and engagement. Participants will identify strategies and techniques for aligning and prioritizing time, energy, and resources according to the guiding ideas of the profession.
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Dan Wrona, Justin Kirk, Jeremiah Shinn

Block 1, #114, December 1, 10:15 am - 11:30 am, Stone

The role of campus-based fraternity/sorority professionals has evolved over the past 40 years, and the markers of success are still changing. With increasing calls for accountability and shrinking resources in higher education, fraternity/sorority professionals will need to reposition themselves to remain relevant. Using recent research on the profession, this two-part session will ask participants to rethink the role of the campus-based fraternity/sorority professional, provide a framework for improving their impact, and guide them in integrating it into their work. We will examine the contribution of fraternity/sorority professionals to student outcomes, relationships with institutional partners, and how to better prioritize time and resources. This developmental experience will prepare participants to make sense of their responsibilities and develop strategies for improving their work. Participants will discover guiding ideas for professional practice, including serving institutional objectives, collaborating with other departments, simultaneously addressing micro and macro-level work, and continuous development and engagement. Participants will identify strategies and techniques for aligning and prioritizing time, energy, and resources according to the guiding ideas of the profession.


Working well with others: Preparing yourself to manage out and up

Add to Calendar12/01/2016 13:3012/01/2016 14:45America/DetroitWorking well with others: Preparing yourself to manage out and upDan Wrona, Becky Druetzler, Block 2, #208, Thursday, December 1, 1:30 pm - 2:45 pm
Change in higher education is constant, whether it's a new initiative, strategic plan, boss, president, or realignment. More than ever, it is important for fraternity/sorority professionals to work effectively across departments and up the organization chart. You may be familiar with all the topics and issues, but are you prepared to navigate the interpersonal relationships involved in this type of work? This session will focus on developing strategies to work effectively with peers and administrators throughout the organization. Learn how to be a good partner, supervisee, and manager and how to develop the expertise you will need to contribute. If you’re ready for some introspection and personal growth, join us for a coaching session on how you can cultivate better interpersonal relationships. Participants will gain understanding of expectations, priorities, and staff roles within an organization from the perspective of peers and administrators, and they will identify strategies for being more effective in how they work with others. Participants will identify areas where fraternity/sorority life professionals can become experts within their institutions and identify strategies for cultivating expertise.
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Dan Wrona, Becky Druetzler

Block 2, #208, Thursday, December 1, 1:30 pm - 2:45 pm, Faneuil

Change in higher education is constant, whether it's a new initiative, strategic plan, boss, president, or realignment. More than ever, it is important for fraternity/sorority professionals to work effectively across departments and up the organization chart. You may be familiar with all the topics and issues, but are you prepared to navigate the interpersonal relationships involved in this type of work? This session will focus on developing strategies to work effectively with peers and administrators throughout the organization. Learn how to be a good partner, supervisee, and manager and how to develop the expertise you will need to contribute. If you’re ready for some introspection and personal growth, join us for a coaching session on how you can cultivate better interpersonal relationships. Participants will gain understanding of expectations, priorities, and staff roles within an organization from the perspective of peers and administrators, and they will identify strategies for being more effective in how they work with others. Participants will identify areas where fraternity/sorority life professionals can become experts within their institutions and identify strategies for cultivating expertise.


Where have all the leaders gone? Helping students self-govern and increase their accountability

Add to Calendar12/02/2016 10:3012/02/2016 11:45America/DetroitWhere have all the leaders gone? Helping students self-govern and increase their accountabilityDan Wrona, Mike McRee, Block 5, #509, Friday, December 2, 10:30 am - 11:45 am
For many students, their muscle of self-governance is fully atrophied. This interactive session will focus on the why and how we find ourselves where students are seemingly unable to step up, hold each other accountable, and lead successfully. We will peel the onion back to reveal what cultural factors are at play, philosophical underpinnings and schemas used. This session will provide immediate strategies that campus and headquarters professionals can use to improve their work with students to allow them to self-govern and hold each other accountable. Implications for how we do our work, successful and unsuccessful theoretical constructs will be explored, and training and development opportunities will be discussed. Participants will be able to list core elements of a self-governance philosophy, describe how it is integral to the identity of fraternal organizations, and explain how it supports a healthy community. Participants will be able to identify situations where self-governance tends to be abandoned, often unintentionally, and they will be able to list behaviors and strategies for supporting self-governance.
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Dan Wrona, Mike McRee

Block 5, #509, Friday, December 2, 10:30 am - 11:45 am, Paine

For many students, their muscle of self-governance is fully atrophied. This interactive session will focus on the why and how we find ourselves where students are seemingly unable to step up, hold each other accountable, and lead successfully. We will peel the onion back to reveal what cultural factors are at play, philosophical underpinnings and schemas used. This session will provide immediate strategies that campus and headquarters professionals can use to improve their work with students to allow them to self-govern and hold each other accountable. Implications for how we do our work, successful and unsuccessful theoretical constructs will be explored, and training and development opportunities will be discussed. Participants will be able to list core elements of a self-governance philosophy, describe how it is integral to the identity of fraternal organizations, and explain how it supports a healthy community. Participants will be able to identify situations where self-governance tends to be abandoned, often unintentionally, and they will be able to list behaviors and strategies for supporting self-governance.


Toxic belongingness: When the want to be a part becomes problematic

Add to Calendar12/02/2016 10:3012/02/2016 11:45America/DetroitToxic belongingness: When the want to be a part becomes problematicBrittany Barnes, Erin McHale, Block 5, #517, Friday, December 2, 10:30 am - 11:45 am
Fraternal organizations pride themselves on creating a sense of belonging among members. What happens when the sense of belonging comes at moral and ethical costs to the members? At what point does the fear of isolation to address the concerns outweigh the need to belong, and how are professionals helping students navigate that internal struggle? This program examines literature on toxic organizations and feelings of belonging, steps to aid students to identify it from within, and ways to support students through addressing these environments. Participants will outline the ways sense of belonging contributes to organizational toxicity. Participants will detail steps to support students as they navigate complex social systems when addressing toxic groups.
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Brittany Barnes, Erin McHale

Block 5, #517, Friday, December 2, 10:30 am - 11:45 am, Revere

Fraternal organizations pride themselves on creating a sense of belonging among members. What happens when the sense of belonging comes at moral and ethical costs to the members? At what point does the fear of isolation to address the concerns outweigh the need to belong, and how are professionals helping students navigate that internal struggle? This program examines literature on toxic organizations and feelings of belonging, steps to aid students to identify it from within, and ways to support students through addressing these environments. Participants will outline the ways sense of belonging contributes to organizational toxicity. Participants will detail steps to support students as they navigate complex social systems when addressing toxic groups.


Using assessment to develop planning, infrastructure, and approaches to our work

Add to Calendar12/02/2016 14:3012/02/2016 15:45America/DetroitUsing assessment to develop planning, infrastructure, and approaches to our workDan Bureau, Dan Faill, Jason Bergeron, Kevin Bazner, Block 6, #614, Friday, December 2, 2:30 pm - 3:45 pm
Assessment has become increasingly valued within higher education, student affairs and the interfraternal community. Through assessment we learn about the experiences of students and stakeholders. However, what comes after is often not predetermined or unclear by those who have engaged in assessment processes: we must do more than collect data and let it sit on the shelf. Through this session, participants will engage in a discussion about how assessment data was used to inform planning processes, office/departmental infrastructure changes, and overall approaches to advising. Participants will identify strategies to use assessment data for the improvement of their programs. Participants will explain how assessment can be used as a framework for ongoing practice in fraternity and sorority life.
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Dan Bureau, Dan Faill, Jason Bergeron, Kevin Bazner

Block 6, #614, Friday, December 2, 2:30 pm - 3:45 pm, Faneuil

Assessment has become increasingly valued within higher education, student affairs and the interfraternal community. Through assessment we learn about the experiences of students and stakeholders. However, what comes after is often not predetermined or unclear by those who have engaged in assessment processes: we must do more than collect data and let it sit on the shelf. Through this session, participants will engage in a discussion about how assessment data was used to inform planning processes, office/departmental infrastructure changes, and overall approaches to advising. Participants will identify strategies to use assessment data for the improvement of their programs. Participants will explain how assessment can be used as a framework for ongoing practice in fraternity and sorority life.


How to: Use curriculum mapping to enhance student learning

Add to Calendar12/03/2016 14:0012/03/2016 15:00America/DetroitHow to: Use curriculum mapping to enhance student learningDan Wrona, Kathleen Tucker, Block 8, #801, Saturday, December 3, 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Curriculum mapping is an instructional design technique used as part of a needs assessment to evaluate existing educational efforts. Institutions and organizations use it to identify gaps, overlaps, and other problems with the programs they provide and to develop strategies for aligning programs with intended outcomes and their larger educational strategy. Join us for a step-by-step introduction to the curriculum mapping process. Because this is structured as a how-to session, we will share real life examples of how it is being used to enhance student learning and provide you with a framework for putting it into practice it in your own community or organization. Describe the features of curriculum maps and the basic steps to develop them Use a curriculum map to identify learning needs and develop strategies for improving outcomes and experiences.
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Dan Wrona, Kathleen Tucker

Block 8, #801, Saturday, December 3, 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm, Harbor 3

Curriculum mapping is an instructional design technique used as part of a needs assessment to evaluate existing educational efforts. Institutions and organizations use it to identify gaps, overlaps, and other problems with the programs they provide and to develop strategies for aligning programs with intended outcomes and their larger educational strategy. Join us for a step-by-step introduction to the curriculum mapping process. Because this is structured as a how-to session, we will share real life examples of how it is being used to enhance student learning and provide you with a framework for putting it into practice it in your own community or organization. Describe the features of curriculum maps and the basic steps to develop them Use a curriculum map to identify learning needs and develop strategies for improving outcomes and experiences.

In hazing, context matters.

Attempting to define hazing by listing behaviors is futile and misguided. Hazing is not a behavior. It cannot be diagnosed simply by comparing observable acts with a list.

  • Walking in a line or wearing similar clothing.
  • Carrying prescribed materials.
  • Drinking alcohol.
  • Studying obscure information.
  • Doing a group scavenger hunt.
  • Buying gifts for one another.

Some of these behaviors are problematic, but without more information, it is impossible to determine whether they involve hazing.

Hazing is a social situation. It is an interpersonal phenomenon defined by the nature of relationships between individuals and the context of their interactions. To identify it, we need to look past the observable behavior to explore the pattern of interactions among those involved.

  • Is there a pattern of psychological manipulation?
  • Are there signs of deceit or intentionally withholding information?
  • Is there a pattern of social influence that discourages people from refusing to participate (i.e., coerced consent)?
  • Are there patterns of unreasonably constraining or controlling someone’s behavior?
  • Are there signs of social isolation or manipulation?
  • Is there a pattern of abusing power at the expense of new members?

To date, efforts to address the problem have focused on a small set of behaviors commonly associated with hazing situations. Behaviors are easier to observe and address through legal and conduct systems, so this makes sense. But this perspective overlooks the true social-psychological nature of the problem. As we learn more about hazing, it is important to acknowledge that context matters – we must address the situation, not simply the behaviors.

Discussing Hazing from the Outside-In

Most conversations about hazing are inside out:

  • They start with a narrow set of behaviors banned by state law.
  • Then they expand to include additional behaviors outlawed by university and organization policies.
  • From there, they can extend indefinitely in multiple directions to include things that are potentially harmful, ethically questionable, impractical, or more.

This approach inevitably leads to a dead-end conversation with students asking, “What else can’t we do?”

Hazing is bigger than what is codified in law and policy, so when they serve as the reference point, there will always be more to add. No wonder students complain that everything is considered hazing!

More productive conversations about hazing start from the outside and work in:

  • Hazing is a problematic social-psychological phenomenon that can emerge when people join groups.
  • A situation can be problematic for many reasons.
  • It might be unethical or irrelevant to membership. If this is the case, leaders will take issue with it.
  • It could be impractical or ineffective. If so, a good advisor will call you on it.
  • If it is potentially harmful, any observer should question it.
  • And sometimes it is problematic because it violates laws and policies, and any authority will challenge it.

This approach leads to a different conversation: if a situation or activity is unethical, irrelevant, impractical, harmful, or otherwise problematic, how can we make it better?

 

The next time you find yourself talking about hazing, ask yourself:

  • What might be problematic about the situation?
  • Why might it be problematic?
  • How do we make it better?

The Elusive Predecessor

 

Yesterday I led an officer transition coaching session with the new council officers at Nebraska Wesleyan University. One of the new leaders asked how to get information from their predecessor, especially when a former officer is elusive and hard to pin down. This may come up for many new leaders, so here are the four things I shared with them:

 

Take them out

 

When outgoing officers are elusive, try meeting on their terms – connect after class or talk with them during an event. Rather than trying to schedule a special time to share transition notes, offer to buy their lunch or dinner. Use their time more productively by transitioning during a time they already have blocked for meals.

 

Show up

If your predecessor owes you a manual, their notes, the organization’s checkbook, or other materials, show up where they are. Don’t rely on them to remember to bring everything or on the random chance that you will cross paths. You might also ask advisors to schedule a joint meeting with both of you present.

 

Ask pointed questions

Although you might have general questions, pick two or three specific details you are struggling with most. Make it easier for your predecessor by asking pointed questions about those specific details. It will be easier for your predecessor to answer quickly, and you will get exactly the information you really need.

 

Just-in-Time

Don’t try to download every piece of information from your predecessor all at once in a single conversation. It’s exhausting, it’s impossible to capture everything, and you won’t remember it all. Instead, check in occasionally with a few specific questions about the issues and activities you will be addressing in the coming months.

 

Fraternity/sorority leaders often become overwhelmed with their responsibilities and burn out at the end of their term. After handing over the reins to you, the last thing they want to do is think about the job again. Although you shouldn’t have to work this hard to transition the role, making it easy for them will get you the information you need to be successful.

 

Want more tips on how to be successful in your new position? Check out our New Officer Checklist here.

Recommended Readings for New Fraternity/Sorority Professionals

When we're working with new fraternity/sorority professionals, they often ask us what they should be reading or studying. Our team reads A LOT, so we have a lot of recommendations. It was difficult, but we compiled all list of our favorites. These are the top 25 books we recommend most often. If we had it our way, they would be required reading for everyone working with fraternities and sororities. Enjoy! The New Fraternity/Sorority Professional's Reading List

Why 'Change the Person' Strategies Fail

This sounds reasonable, but why do these strategies fall short (when used alone)?

There is more oxygen in the air in Vegas, we have increased exposure to risky situations in college, and there are social taboos against calling out a friend. Environment is a powerful enabler, and despite our best attempts to be the one to do things differently, the world around us always has a trump card.

It's tempting to invest all our efforts into changing the person (using educational programs to affect knowledge, skill, and attitude). But decisions are based on more than what lies inside the skin. Without also addressing the environmental causes of behavior, we are destined to spin our wheels.

Changing the environment can have a greater, more permanent impact for all students. But it's not sexy. It involves work. And it doesn't always feel good. And it takes a long time. So instead, well-intentioned decision-makers put butts-in-seats for sixty minutes of flare.

  • If only people knew what you know, they would make different choices.
  • If we start when they're young, before the problem starts, they won't get wrapped up in it.
  • If we teach critical thinking skills, students will make better decisions.