September 10, 2014: Oxford, Ohio—Tristan Hilpert, Cal State-Fullerton ’03, didn’t grow up dreaming of being a fraternity and sorority professional. In fact, he didn’t even initially go to college to become one.
Even without lifelong aspirations he has started on a new career path and is now three week’s into his role as the University of Wyoming coordinator of fraternity and sorority life.
As an undergraduate, he fell in love with Phi Kappa Tau. He served Gamma Omicron as treasurer, and represented it at a West Coast Road Trip Regional Conference and the Centennial Celebration in 2006.
“At Convention in Oxford, I was able to visit to the Executives Offices, celebrate the 100th birthday of Phi Tau and be around brothers from all the other chapters like Old Dominion University and Clemson University,” Hilpert said. “That is where it really sunk in that this is more than Gamma Omicron and more than just Golden Bear South [Domain]. That is where I realized this was bigger.”
After graduating from Cal State-Fullerton, he still didn’t know that he wanted be a fraternity and sorority life professional, but he took an important step with the help of John Resurreccion, Chapman ’02, and Ray Carlos, Cal State-Fullerton ’01. The pair recruited Hilpert to help Epsilon Sigma at Chapman as the recruitment advisor.
When Resurreccion had to move for work, Hilpert took over as Board of Governors chairman. He eventually became chapter advisor, which earned him the Outstanding Advisor Award in 2012 from the Fraternity.
The experience was pivotal. It was then Hilpert realized what he wanted to do and began pursuing his master’s degree in higher education from the University of Louisville.
Throughout the process Hilpert attended each National Convention and stayed involved as a facilitator for Building Men of Character Retreats, Good to Great Retreats, Regional Conferences and Leadership Academy.
“Anytime that I can get away to go to a Regional Conference or Leadership Academy to meet more of our brothers across the country, whether it be undergraduates or alumni, is exciting because it builds the bigger brotherhood that we are all about.”
Hilpert credits the facilitation and advising experience, along with his mentors, for preparing him to be a fraternity and sorority life professional.
“When I interviewed here most of the things I talked about were experiences I had being a volunteer for Phi Kappa Tau,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here without that experience. Even though the education provides a foundation, there is only so much you can learn without experience in the field and working with students.”
Going from advising one chapter to 12, Hilpert has the opportunity to use those experiences on a whole new level.
He took some time before Wyoming greek recruitment begins to discuss his passion for the Fraternity.
Foundation: Reflecting on your association with Phi Kappa Tau, what is the one thing that stands out as a point of pride?
Hilpert: The relationships I have built by being a part of this amazing organization. I have been able to make friends with many undergraduate members, alumni members and Phriends of Phi Tau throughout my 11 years in Phi Kappa Tau. Some I see every day and others only every few years. It doesn’t matter how much time has passed, I always know they are there for me as I am for them. As an example, I know that Convention every two years is most likely the only time I will see my friends and brothers from Old Dominion University. It is like no time has passed, and we are able to reconnect, reflect on the past and look forward to the future.
Foundation: As a generous supporter of the Foundation, why is your continued support significant to you?
Hilpert: I continue to support the Phi Kappa Tau Foundation because of the exceptional opportunities it helps maintain. Our educational and leadership development programs are an investment in our members academically, personally and professionally. I can clearly attribute my personal success to Phi Kappa Tau, and I continue to see dividends from my investment in our undergraduate members. I believe it is important to give back financially and as a volunteer to provide the life-changing experience I received as an undergraduate member.
Foundation: What encouragement would you offer to a graduate brother who has not yet engaged the Fraternity as an alumnus?
Hilpert: It’s never too late to become an active alumnus. Whether it is once a month or once a year, you will feel that same spirit of brotherhood that you did as an undergraduate. Phi Tau is an immediate connection and family that is always growing. You will have the chance to meet people from all walks of life and around the world with that same connection. Brotherhood begins in the undergraduate years at our respective chapters and expands when we become active alumni; it’s awesome!
Foundation: As you look at the young men on campus today, what challenges do you perceive that they face and how might Phi Kappa Tau play a role in equipping them to meet those challenges?
Hilpert: Asking for assistance or advice. It is important for our undergraduate members to know who to ask for help, when to ask for help, and why they should ask for help. This could be for personal, academic, or chapter issues. Phi Kappa Tau provides alumni advisors, faculty advisors, mentors, and professional staff who are all willing to assist any undergraduate member in need of assistance or advice. None of us are perfect and we all need support to succeed.
Foundation: Do you have a particular Phi Tau memory that stands out the most?
Hilpert: It’s tough to pick just one, so I will pick two. My two years living in The Barn (Gamma Omicron chapter house) and being chapter advisor for Epsilon Sigma definitely stand out.
The next opportunity to get involved as a facilitator is Presidents Academy on Jan. 9-11, 2015 in Houston. All alumni and Phriends of Phi Tau with facilitation or teaching experience are encouraged to apply online by Sept. 26.