I have never told a lot of people this, but in the fall of 2010 I was invited to interview at two college campus for similar fraternity/sorority advisor positions. The interviews were about a week apart and both schools subsequently offered me positions within a few days of each other. I had a hard decision to make because both schools were fantastic and would offer me a great first step into the professional realm of higher education. I stressed over which offer to accept for days, calling virtually every person I had ever known to obtain their position, and mulling over the smallest of details before finally reaching a decision. When I had finally made my mind up, the deciding factor was not pay, benefits, or even the national rankings of the fraternity/sorority community. The deciding factors for me were the growth potential the school offered to me as a young professional and the people I would share an office with each day. Rather than accepting the position that would have kept me closer to home and provided me with an opportunity to work with a top-ranked fraternity/sorority community, I moved to a state where I had no friends, family, or alumni chapters within hundreds of miles. I wanted the challenge and I knew that accepting the offer from the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) would provide me with experiences that would mold me for my future professional career.
Moving down to Arkansas was a pain, but I found myself welcomed into an office that functioned like a family. Most people outside of the office were wary of me because I was a young Yankee that had an earring. I knew little of the South beyond what I read in books (I love Southern history), so I did my best to take it all in and listen more than I spoke. I was a stranger in a strange land, but I had an office family to help guide me along the way. My first few months were literally a trial by fire because of spring recruitment, investigations, hearings, and step show. Even so, I survived and prospered. Time flew by and before I knew it one semester was down, then another, and then one more. Pretty soon semesters turned into years and the state that I had cautiously moved to in 2011 became a second home. Bonds grew with coworkers, students, alumni, and members of the community to the extent that I began feeling like a regular member of the UCA and Conway communities. By 2014, I had faced my fear of the unknown and triumphed as a person and a professional. I had accomplished what many thought was impossible for a young man from the Midwest in the South.
That same year, I found that I was finally ready to explore and pursue new job opportunities. I had kicked around the idea before and even taken some interviews, but nothing seemed to click. Things were different this time around though because I had many years of experience under my belt and the love and support of an amazing young woman. In 2014 I reconnected with a young woman from my college days, named Smita. We knew each other somewhat in the past, but for some reason things just clicked this time around. As the year progressed things became increasingly serious between us and our discussions progressed to planning for the future. As fun as long distance may be, we both decided that one of us would need to move in order for our relationship to take that next step, so I volunteered as tribute. I knew this would potentially mean a lot of personal and professional changes for me, but my gut told me to do whatever was necessary to be closer to her, so I let my supervisor know I was looking and hopped head first into a Chicago job search.
After many months of searching, things finally started to click towards the end of 2014 and into the new year. Around the beginning of February I was offered an opportunity with a great company in Chicago and I went into the panic mode I mentioned in the first paragraph. After phoning all of my friends and consulting with my incredibly patient and kind girlfriend, I accepted the offer. It was a hard thing to do, especially given the timing in the semester, but after accepting I felt relieved. I was sad that I would be leaving a wonderful place I have called home for over four years, but I had the opportunity of a lifetime in front of me. Not only did I have a great job lined up, but I would also have the opportunity to take my relationship with Smita to the next level. For the first time in a long while, I felt genuinely happy, which lets me know that I made the correct decision.
So where does that leave the IFC/IGC men and our office? Well, it means that our office will be opening up a national search for my position and the men will have an interim advisor until the new person starts. No, things will not fall apart and the fraternity system will not turn into Animal House 2015. Everything will continue on as normal and the current executive boards of IFC and IGC will continue to do fantastic things. Both are led by amazing individuals that want to make serious improvements and impacts, so be on the lookout for serious advancements by the end of the year. The only thing that will be different is that I will not be around to offer insights, support, and constructive feedback. I would not have left if I did not think either council or the Office of Student Life could handle things without me, so please do not be concerned or lose interest in creating positive change. There is still so much that can be done, so our leaders need the help and support of our entire community, especially during this time of transition.
As my days left at UCA wind down, I am sure that some are sad that I am leaving, others are happy, and the vast majority will probably not notice much difference in their lives. I am not trying to downplay my impact at UCA, but I am also not going to claim that I moved mountains. It is not my place to comment on how good or bad of a job I did while in my position because those comments are left for individual opinions and history texts. I could end this and say that I changed a lot within IFC and IGC, but I know that is not the truth. Why? Because I did not do anything alone while I have been at UCA. I have worked tirelessly alongside amazing staff, students, alumni, national representatives, and local stakeholders to enact change in the UCA fraternity/sorority community since 2011. Together we have accomplished a great deal and set the community up for incredible future successes. We kept each other accountable, adjusted plans as needed, and supported one another during those dark days. The journey has never been, nor ever will be, easy. In fact, our work has been a pain in the ass most days, but we kept at it because our goal has always been to offer one of the best values-based, developmental, and enjoyable fraternity/sorority experiences in the state of Arkansas and the region. Without a doubt, I know that we have succeeded and will continue to improve over the coming years.
The work we have done has been amazing, but it is not even close to being over. Our councils are continuing to grow and diversify, leadership opportunities are more prevalent than ever, new member education services and programs are improving, and Greek Village will open just in time for the fall 2015 semester. Big things are on the horizon for UCA fraternity/sorority life, so please keep modernizing, innovating, and improving. Now, more than ever before, is the time to step up and take that leadership role or be the voice of reason in a chapter or council meeting. Our community is 100 year old and on the precipice of another century, so please make sure that you are helping to push the community forward in a positive direction rather than hold everyone back by being uninformed, negative, or resistant. As individuals we are weak; as chapters we are strong; and as a community we are powerful. Without the help of all community members, the UCA fraternity/sorority community cannot create a shared vision and achieve excellence. Remember that as you help create and shape the vision for the next 100 years of the UCA fraternity/sorority community.
Thank you to everyone that has helped and challenged me along the way since I came to Arkansas in 2011. There are too many of you to thank individually, but please know that each of you has a special place in my heart. Without all of you, I would not be the person I am today.