Written by Andy Huston (Minnesota, ’01), Executive Director
I know the profound impact Sigma Alpha Mu has had on my life. Because of the fraternity, I met my wife, Amber, and we now have two wonderful children. Less tangible is the growth I experienced as a student leader navigating difficult situations between members. These life milestones and learning opportunities have shaped who I am today. In Sigma Alpha Mu, we know the power of our personal experiences and stories. And yet, we worry and wonder if these still hold true for the next generation of fraternity men.
As Executive Director, I’m often asked, “How’s the fraternity doing? What’s happening with my chapter? What’s the real story of what’s happening on campus?” This issue of The Octagonian highlights how organizational resources are wisely invested in our strategic priorities. This academic year, 464 men accepted bids to join our chapters which is our best fall recruitment since 2018. The vast majority of our chapters have met or exceeded last fall’s recruitment results.
The Around the Chapters article highlights the good news that many chapters continue to rebound well from the pandemic – some chapters and their respective campuses more so than others. The sense of belonging that is forged through the fraternity is what we are hearing from students as a core reason for this growth. Better yet, new industry research is beginning to provide qualitative and quantitative data about the benefits of fraternity membership.
“It is our responsibility to share the impact of the fraternity.”Andy Huston, Executive Director of Sigma Alpha Mu Fraternity
Ultimately, it is our responsibility to share the impact of the fraternity. If you aren’t following us on social media, if your chapter is dormant, or if they are not as communicative as you would like, you are likely not hearing the good news. And let’s be honest, most media coverage of fraternity life isn’t ideal.
The continuation of this story was written by Jackie Hackett, Assistant Executive Director
Googling the word fraternity can send someone down a dark rabbit hole. Searching recent news articles, it is not challenging to find a plethora of negativity and disturbing stories about alleged fraternity members’ behavior and conduct. In 2020, the fraternal industry saw a rise in anti-fraternity activity on college campuses, known as the Abolish Greek Life Movement, which directly called for the end of fraternity and sorority life on campus and largely questioned the value of the fraternity experience. With all this negativity, you may also be asking, why should we continue to have fraternity life on campuses? More importantly, why is Sigma Alpha Mu important or relevant for the next generation?
The North American Interfraternity Conference (NIC), the trade association that represents many of the inter/national men’s fraternities, invested in discovering the answer to these questions through a research initiative.
Studying active fraternity men across the country, the researchers learned remarkable facts about the experience and the value-add our organizations bring to the collegiate experience. At Sigma Alpha Mu, we are hopeful this research will drive our data-driven decision-making and help us improve the services, programs, and resources provided to chapters and members, and drive us closer to our ΣAM 2030 strategic plan, and ultimately, the vision for Sigma Alpha Mu.
Young adults report higher levels of anxiety and depression at an alarming rate. According to the Mayo Clinic, one in three college students reports high levels of anxiety and depression, and up to 44% report having some symptoms. Thankfully, the fraternity experience provides an opportunity for men to find their home away from home. More importantly, the research shows that fraternity men are more likely to seek help when they are in need than non-fraternity members. At Sigma Alpha Mu, we are committed to providing members with additional resources and support. Each Chapter Coach knows the resources available on every campus and can recommend options to leaders. In discussions with chapter leadership, they have described personally reaching out to licensed mental health counselors during stressful times because of their brothers’ recommendations and how they felt supported, rather than judged.
Now more than ever, the fraternity experience needs to demonstrate its value for a member’s future and a strong return on investment. Sigma Alpha Mu members develop leadership, interpersonal and life skills that help them accelerate after college. For example, as an exchequer, a member will operate a large budget, articulate the ROI for the chapter experience, and demonstrate leadership through the collection process.
Michigan State Exchequer Adam Budiansky (Mu Chi, ’22) shared, “From my experience as exchequer, I learned how to balance a budget, collect dues, listen to and help members with financial concerns, and address our needs as a chapter. I have embraced my leadership opportunity and become more coachable as I am rewarded with new responsibilities.”
“From my experience as exchequer, I learned how to balance a budget, collect dues, listen to and help members with financial concerns, and address our needs as a chapter. I have embraced my leadership opportunity and become more coachable as I am rewarded with new responsibilities.”Adam Budiansky, Mu Chi Chapter’s (Michigan State) Exchequer
As a candidate educator, members learn facilitation skills, practice positive peer mentorship, and lead a group of peers through the expectations of membership and adjusting to a new environment.
For example, the Candidate Educator at the Omicron Chapter at the University of Cincinnati described how even as a finance major serving in this role helped him with his organizational skills, public speaking, leadership, and adaptability.
According to the NIC research, 83% of members say their confidence in their leadership skills increased because of their membership. Following graduation, fraternity members are more likely to be thriving in every aspect of well-being – career, community, financial, physical, and social well-being.
There is value in Sigma Alpha Mu. There is a research-backed return on investment in the fraternity experience and the members of Sammy are proof of that. Their stories of the bonds of brotherhood and leadership skills help demonstrate that joining Sigma Alpha Mu is a life-changing decision and will help them thrive in college and beyond.
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