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Thoughts from the Road
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Phi Kappa Sigma's traveling staff and consultants are hard at work visiting chapters and colonies all across the country. Enjoy some of their experiences in this monthly blog.

 

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Texas, California, and some R&R

Posted By James Coffman, Monday, December 10, 2018

When I last wrote a Thoughts from the Road blog post, I was gearing up to take on Texas State expansion. The excitement was there, and I was ready to bring some great men into this organization. I was sure we were going to have a successful project. A few highlights were the great FSL staff and sunny San Marcos, Texas. You can’t argue with being 30 minutes away from Austin to the north and San Antonio to the south. I was going to get the most out of my stay in the area. Bob Dudolski and the rest of his FSL staff were my biggest supporters on campus. Much of the credit for our successful expansion is owed to that office.

With everything the university had just experienced in the last two years, I wanted to mold this group into what the Greek community, and ultimately the university, needed. With some of the changes they made, I could not bring on freshman until the first day of the spring semester. Bob and his staff helped me through everything, and I am happy to say we recruited 17 men with 15-20 additional freshmen interested in joining in the spring.

I ended this most recent trip with a visit to the University of California at Berkeley. I was very nervous about this visit but was pleasantly surprised by how productive the trip was. Aside from the unhealthy air quality due to the smoke in the air from the forest fires just north of Berkeley, I got the opportunity to stay with Beta Psi alumnus Daniel Heiss. Heiss gave me a tour of the campus and the surrounding San Francisco bay area. I had great conversations with the LEAD Center about how they are excited for us to come on campus, ate some authentic city food, and got to experience floor-side seats at the Cal basketball game!

This semester was a long one, but at the end of the day I know that this organization is moving forward in a great direction. Something I have learned while being on the road is that you get just as much out of something equivalent to the amount of effort you are willing to give in return.

James Coffman
Beta Eta, North Texas ‘15
Assistant Director of Growth and Engagement

Tags:  blog  consultant  expansion  recruitment  staff  thoughts from the road 

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It Was an Experience

Posted By Ben Fournier, Wednesday, December 5, 2018

“Hey Ben, how was your trip into town?”  This is the first question most undergrads ask us when we first arrive at a chapter for a visit. While most staff members will answer with something monotonous like “it was pretty good,” I always answer with, “it was an experience.” One of the best parts about this job is that we get to travel the country to work with our brothers at different chapters. While doing so, we get to see and experience some of the best things North America has to offer. I have been working for the Fraternity for almost five years now and have been able to see and experience some wonderful things…as well as some not so wonderful things. So, I want to give you some insight on what the best benefits of working for staff are, as well as where you can get some really cool experiences.

For starters, when you find yourself in Pullman, Washington, walk up the hill to the local Walmart at sunrise or sunset, and you’ll get a view overlooking the Palouse that can’t be described.  Next time you’re in Stephenville, Texas, head over to a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant called Hard Eight to get some of the best barbeque south of Kansas City. When you realize that there is nothing to do in Maine, consider hiking Acadia National Park (by far the best national park in the country). If you’re ever in Atlanta, stop by Mary Mac’s Tea Room and have a plate of the best fried chicken of your life. When you find yourself in Boston, make sure to plan your trip around the Red Sox winning the World Series, so you can go out and experience victory in one of the best sports towns in the country with the brothers of Alpha Mu.

With every chapter visit that staff goes on, every staff member has a great experience because we get to work with you and your chapters. We also get to experience what your city or college town has to offer. Over the past five years those two things have intertwined with every visit I make. So, whenever I am asked how my flight or drive was, I can say, “it was an experience.”

Ben Fournier
Alpha Delta, Maine '13
Director of Growth and Engagement

Tags:  blog  cerone  consultant  expansion  staff  thoughts from the road 

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It's Hard Being This Bad at Moving

Posted By Connor E. Skaggs, Tuesday, November 13, 2018

It had been about three weeks since Grand Chapter and two weeks after I put in my resignation from staff - a decision that would land me in Portland, Oregon, closer to friends, family, and the crunchier part of America. Once I got settled in Portland, I would stay working with HQ on a contractual basis, coordinating our brand ambassadors, managing our communications, and generally supporting the rest of staff.

But I had to get to Portland first.

After a stressful week of packing everything into my car (an ‘06 Charger named Rosita) and donating/tossing anything that didn’t fit in the backseat, I thought I was ready to go. When my alarm went off at 4:30 that morning, though, it was clear I was anything but.

Hoping to drop off my apartment furniture at Goodwill and get on the road by mid-morning at the latest, I reserved a U-Haul for 5 AM, but thanks to a mix-up on my reservation, the truck wasn’t ready until almost 7:30 - a stressful start to a stressful day.

After (finally) getting the keys to the U-Haul, I raced home to load my furniture into the truck. Dripping sweat and with two heavy pieces left to load, it started raining.

Drenched and frustrated, I drove to the closest Goodwill, knowing this was the last big step before I could start my exciting three-day drive to Portland. I pulled up to the loading dock and waited.

            ...and waited.

                        ...and waited.

After nearly an hour delay, I found someone who could accept my donation and write me a tax-deductible receipt, the “I voted” sticker of charitable donations.

Finally, receipt in hand and only a couple hours behind schedule, I raced to HQ to say goodbye to Libby and pick up a work computer. While I was there, I dropped off some last-minute “donations” of whatever TP, paper towels, and office supplies I didn’t think were worth bringing with me.

I wouldn’t realize until after Rosita broke down near the Minnesota-South Dakota line, stranding me in a godless place called Blue Earth (home of the Jolly Green Giant--who knew?), that I forgot to grab the work computer and that escaping the Midwest was a lot harder than I thought.

 

Connor Skaggs
Beta Psi, Washington State University 2017
Communications Specialist

Tags:  blog  consultant  staff  thoughts from the road 

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Long Drive = Lots of Time to Reflect

Posted By Darold Lee Bivens III, Monday, November 5, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, October 30, 2018

As of last week, I live 2,260 miles away from my home state of Washington and 20 minutes away from headquarters in Carmel, Indiana. I’ve never lived so far away before, trading in my evergreen trees for tulip trees, Seattle for Indianapolis, Dutch Brothers for Steak and Shake. I am beyond excited for this chapter of my life and the chance to represent my Fraternity on a professional level.

But that 35-hour drive is a monster.

I think a lot of us romanticize the idea of life on the road. I have always fantasized that it would be like those classic road-trip movies like Dumb and Dumber or Zombieland: I’d meet a cast of quirky characters, get involved with some wacky scenarios, and maybe learn something about myself. In reality, my road trip was just very, very long. I’m talking 10- to 12-hour days, staring at the plain blue skies of South Dakota, wondering how my heart hasn’t exploded from the 72 ounces of caffeine I drank.  Road trips force you to confront some raw truths about yourself and ask the question: what is the why to your journey? Why did I really travel so far away from home?

Within the first three days in Indianapolis, I began to feel a strange calm. This calm made me think “I think I am where I was meant to be; I think I will be okay.” The drive was long, highly caffeinated, and somewhat existential.  Long drives make you think about a lot, about what you’re driving towards. For me, I drove towards change. Right now, I think Indiana is just where I am supposed to be.

 

Darold Lee Bivens III
Beta Psi, Washington State '18
Communications & Events Coordinator

Tags:  blog  consultant  staff  thoughts from the road 

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Who Doesn't Love Football Season?

Posted By Andrew Amaya-Shaw, Tuesday, October 30, 2018

You never really can prepare for it, you know?

That interesting intersection when history and random coincidence collide.  After all, what are the chances that, as you’re traveling across the country and visiting campuses, you’ll just so happen to be there when something amazing happens?

There’s no accounting for it, no plan in place. The entire movie “Forrest Gump” was predicated on one man accidentally walking through history’s greatest events. And let’s be honest: it’s that spectacular, chaotic randomness that makes it so novel.

So I’m walking back to the Skull House on Purdue’s campus on a night a few nights ago that’s a little colder than you’d expect for Halloween season, and I wasn’t expecting anything to happen. Sure, I knew the Boilermakers had their big tilt against Ohio State that night at Ross-Ade Stadium. And yeah, I was vaguely aware enough of the CFB standings to know that it would be a huge win if they succeeded. Hell, I was even aware of Joey Bosa’s departure from Ohio State, Purdue’s recent 3 game win streak since switching QBs, and all the other ingredients that smelled of the perfect upset special. But what are the odds?

Well, the odds didn’t really matter much as time would tell.

On that walk back to the house, I heard a roar coming from the stadium that nearly saw me drop my sandwich—an impressive feat considering stadium was a mile away.  I would later come to find out that the sound was of the Boilermaker’s fake field goal that would later go turn into a touchdown, cementing a lead that Purdue would never lose.

Down goes Ohio State, up goes the energy, and out go the students of Purdue, taking to the streets to celebrate an upset that will be retold in Indiana bars in a “Where were you when it happened?” kind of lore.

And there I was, a New Orleanian from a small school with no football team, experiencing the same energy and fun just by sheer, dumb coincidence. It’s the kind of stuff you hop on the road hoping to experience but never once think it’s really going to happen.

And while the police sirens, screaming students, and the aching anxiety of “please if you’re going to riot and flip a car do not wear your letters,” would prove to cost me a good night’s sleep, what could I do?

I mean, there was no way to prepare for it, you know?

 

Andrew Amaya-Shaw
Beta Xi, New Orleans '17
Leadership Consultant

Tags:  blog  consultant  expansion  staff  thoughts from the road 

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Coning? Sounds Like a Risk Management Nightmare but OK

Posted By Kevin Adams, Monday, October 22, 2018
Updated: Thursday, October 18, 2018

Those of you who were in New Orleans this summer may remember meeting me or at least seeing me running around. The first day of Grand Chapter was actually my first day on staff – talk about being pushed into the deep end!

While I’m no longer the new guy on staff (thanks, Andrew!), I’ve found that there’s still so much to learn about how the Fraternity runs, how it’s changing, and what we can do to stay relevant in the Greek community as well as on our campuses and in our communities. It’s a perspective that, I think, any consultant or remote staff member will tell you is unique to people in our roles. Traveling around the country and seeing how the strengths, weaknesses, and needs of each chapter vary, it gives us a special kind of big-picture perspective that you just can’t get anywhere else.

But beside all that, my experiences so far have been shaped by interactions with brothers with whom I’ve been able to visit and work. One of those experiences, in fact, happened during my recent trip to the Beta Mu Chapter at South Alabama.

I was pulling up to the house at night, and as I made my way into the driveway, something caught my eye. One of the trucks parked out front was covered in four or five of those giant traffic cones.

“Okay…” I thought. “I guess this is just what we do at South Alabama?”

Turns out that was something they’d just decided to do that day. Neat.

Over the course of my visit, every car got coned. When the day came to leave, of course it was my car that had been coned.

It might sound weird, but I miss that kind of stuff. I’m not saying I’m going to well up any time one of my chapters messes with me, but letting me (or any consultant) in on the fun stuff you guys are up to isn’t going to get you in trouble. We were undergraduates once too. We like to joke around, and honestly, we miss stuff like that. And any time I leave a chapter feeling like a real person and not just “nationals,” I feel like the gap between alumni and undergraduate or between staff member and active member fades a little bit.

Kevin Adams
Tau, Randolph-Macon '17
Leadership Consultant

****

Connor Skaggs here. I edit the Fraternity blogs and wanted to shed some light on why we chose this story for this week’s Thoughts from the Road blog post: This blog is less about patting ourselves on the back as staff members as it is about giving you all a snapshot into life as a traveling consultant/remote staff member. When Kevin told me this story, it reminded me of the things I used to do with my chapter brothers at Washington State (Go Cougs!). I urge you guys to get to know your consultants. They’re more than “nationals.” They’re brothers who want what’s best for you and your chapter. Hang out with them. Take the time to share your story with them as well as learn theirs. You never know: You could one day wake up and realize you want to be a Phi Kap consultant.

P.S. If you read this far, make sure to ask Ben and James about their rooms during their first visit to Beta Psi.

Tags:  blog  consultant  expansion  thoughts from the road 

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What Chapters can Learn from Alpha Delta

Posted By Christian Springer, Monday, October 15, 2018

This is my first year on the road, and I’m on the road a little less than the average consultant. As the live-in advisor for our Beta Theta Colony at TCU, Fort Worth is my home for the time being. I could write a book about my time here at TCU, but I’ll save that for later.

My most fulfilling visit so far has been my week with Alpha Delta Chapter at Maine. I’m convinced there’s no better time to visit Maine than the beginning of September—the weather was perfect. Since I’ve lived my whole life in New Jersey, getting to be back in the northeast after being gone so long felt fantastic: I could breathe more deeply, the green hilly landscape was familiar, and I met several people from Jersey. Within hours of landing in Bangor, I knew it would be a good visit.

Everything about Alpha Delta is what you’d expect in a fraternity experience. The house was built not too long after the chapter’s founding in 1898, and it’s exploding with history. With so many composites, there’s no need for wall art, and it felt like there were artifacts and archives in every room.

Above all else, it was heartening that the significance of the chapter’s longevity and tradition isn’t lost on the undergraduate members—they know they have a lot to live up to.

The point of my visit was to refresh what the guys already knew about recruitment, managing risk, and our ritual. With every conversation and presentation, I stressed how implicitly linked these things are and how it’s every member’s responsibility to ensure a fulfilling, worthwhile experience. No chapter can exist for 120 years without effective recruiting, risk management, and pride in the history and traditions of the chapter and greater fraternity.

Visiting this chapter was encouraging and energizing, and I look forward to similarly successful visits in the future. I can say with little reservation that the Alpha Delta Chapter comprises some of the most thoughtful menI’ve encountered, and their sincere engagement and receptiveness made my job incredibly enjoyable. 

Christian Springer
Delta Gamma, Rowan '17
Leadership Consultant

Tags:  blog  Expansion  thoughts from the road 

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TCU to Texas State - Life on Texas Expansion

Posted By James Coffman, Monday, October 8, 2018

Everyone is on their projects and hitting the road to make this fraternity better. I’m stoked to see where we will go this year. For me (and every Phi Kap consultant), life on the road is a non-stop journey. Going into my third year has had its ups and downs, but I think I am finding the niche in which I can be the most successful.

After the Texas Christian University recolonization last semester, Christian and I were energized going into our other assignments. Coming into my new role as the assistant director of growth and engagement, I spent a lot of time getting used to my new responsibilities, including new expansion projects and growth coaching with our current chapters.

I am now working to bring back our Gamma Mu chapter at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas, right outside Austin. I have been here for about a month, and to say I have been busy is an understatement. Going from TCU to Texas State has been a change in pace. Working late nights has become normal and expected to make sure we are doing this project right.

Right now, we’re at 12 founding fathers. We have had to jump over some hurdles because of deferred recruitment and only being able to sign upperclassmen. That isn’t stopping us though. I have given 6 presentations to the sororities and word is going around campus that we are coming back as the “gentleman’s fraternity,” and I am completely okay with that. Still have a long but exciting road ahead for the Gamma Mu Colony.

Life on the road is busy, and every day is a new adventure with new people. Our lives as consultants are full of motivation and momentum, and I couldn’t be more excited for the future.

James Coffman
Beta Eta, North Texas ‘15
Assistant Director of Growth and Engagement

Tags:  blog  expansion  recruitment  thoughts from the road 

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Staff Whereabouts - August 2016

Posted By Patrick Schlomas, Friday, September 2, 2016

With the new academic year upon us, Phi Kappa Sigma HQ Staff are already hard at work with chapters across the continent! Here's a glimpse at where our Education and Expansion Consultants will be this Fall.

The Education team will be making visits to nearly every Phi Kap chapter this semester, getting time on the ground to assist brothers in planning for the year ahead.  James Coffman, Educational Consultant, has just completed his first visit to Oklahoma State and will be working with Chapters across the Southern US and West Coast. Maxwell Fugere, Assistant Director of Member Services, will be joining James on visits to Oklahoma State and the University of Oklahoma, and will be working with a handful of East Coast groups this Fall. Patrick Schlomas will be touring the Midwest once more as a second year Educational Consultant, and will be working with a handful of Northeast chapters for the first time.

Our two Expansion Consultants, Johnathan Pham and Ross Neumann, will be making longer stays as they help our Fraternity grow. Johnathan will be working on projects at the Delta Upsilon (VCU) Chapter and Alpha Iota (Vanderbilt) colony. Ross is currently helping to build up the Alpha Xi (Purdue) Chapter and will spend the rest of the semester expanding the interest group at Texas Tech. Safe travels to all our staff as they begin another fantastic year with Phi Kap! 

 

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My Big Crazy Idea

Posted By Mathew Schlehuber - Expansion Consultant , Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Well, today marks one week before I am scheduled to take the GMAT. If you have any motivation for graduate school, then you know these graduate tests can tend to be a little stressful. So brothers, wish me luck as I prepare this last week. Do you think that a test such as the GMAT, or any other graduate test, has such a profound impact on our ability to make ourselves more competitive after college? Idk, but that is all that I am thinking of at the moment.

My plans are to get into a mid-range MBA program preferably on campus, but I am also entertaining the idea of online classes. After I get my graduate degree; I plan on immersing myself into the homeless non-profit market; assuredly not to stay there. It is a personal belief of mine that non-profits will never see their version of social awareness, nor solve the social predicaments they look to tackle. If you know me on a personal level, you know why I believe this, and have probably had to sit through my rants on the subject. A socially aware mindset is fantastic, and working for a nonprofit shows that you probably care more than others, but by using a nonprofit as the medium of change you are committing to a venture that is less funded and more likely to get bogged down by stereotypes and holier than thou mindsets, and while I have been told I tend to talk in absolutes, my personal experience have led me to believe the former to be true.

Every nonprofit is confined to a limited amount of capital. They receive money from the federal government through donations, so a local homeless shelter only has a set budget e to provide their service to the homeless. When the shelters run out of money they have no more services to render, though they also have access to time, that is donated by volunteers. Volunteers have been the backbone of the nonprofit sector ever since its inception, but unfortunately that is a limited resource as well. These limitations stem from the reasons mentioned earlier, the bottom line is that they cannot scale their product making for a very linear mindset.

Ever since I was a small child I never understood why people lived in alleys and on the sides of streets and highway off ramps. I mean I understood WHY, but I never understood why it was allowed to happen. The homeless are plagued by much more than addiction, they are plagued stereotypes, much like how certain students on our campuses stereotype the Greek community. Regardless of what reason they are homeless I believe that homeless nonprofits will never truly solve the problem and that is why my plan is to get rid of the nonprofit sector. I say we change the way we solve our social problems, I believe it is time for a for profit company that tackles social issues. Yes, I know those supposedly exist, but I am not talking about socially aware companies such as Tom’s Shoes or Ben and Jerry’s. Many of those companies just donate to nonprofits or foundations, what if we created a for profit company that had an IPO, executive boards, shareholder meetings etc.?

Let’s say that this system does exist, take homeless Joe for example. What if we were able to take homeless Joe and introduce him to this new company? We could put homeless Joe through a program, and while he is in the program he not only works for the company (making it money obviously), but now he is able to get an apartment, eventually better healthcare/addiction help as well as an “education” all while gaining work experience. Now I realize there are other factors that play into why people become homeless, each case would need to be analyzed and a different course of action would come into play. It would be a slow start, but once you start making money you just take your profits and put it towards helping homeless Susie and then homeless Jimmy. Then it scales and homelessness is solved, the fun and interesting part would be transforming the company once you actually solved the original social issue.

If you want to know more information, please shoot me an email. mathewschlehuber@gmail.com is my personal email. I have a diagram set up and a lot of ideas. This has become my obsession the last few years and I would love to talk with anyone that is interested.

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