By: Resource and Expansion Consultant Jason Sweet, Saginaw Valley State ’09

Flying is nothing new for me. When I was younger my family would take one big vacation every year. On several occasions it required us to fly to our destination.

As I got older the chances to fly became less and less with a busier schedule, but thanks to taking this job with the Executive Offices I have now flown more in the past year than I have in the last 10 years. And still, all the same excitement hits me as soon as I step foot inside the airport to check my bags.

There is one difference though …

When I was a child, it wasn’t easy, or encouraged, to talk to strangers at an airport. I always sat next to one of my parents or my little brother on the flight.

Now, however, it adds to the experience to sit down and talk with someone new. I have found that the people I sit next to on the plane have resulted in some of the most interesting conversations I’ve ever experienced.

My most recent flight was no exception. The woman I sat next to politely took her seat and began making small talk. As per my usual routine I masked what I do (work for a fraternity) until I knew the time was right. It’s a fun game I like to play.

I generally say I am a consultant working with universities to help develop student groups across the nation that serve as an opportunity for students to do something extraordinary with their college experience. After a little more detail, people are generally very impressed and intrigued and tend to ask what group I work for. I give a small smile and answer that I actually work for my Fraternity, and we have made it our responsibility to provide groups on college campuses the opportunity to challenge the status quo of the stereotypical “frat” and live a life based on living our values and Ritual, not just talking about it.

This catches most people off guard, and this woman was no exception. She began to hammer me with questions that I happily answered. To spare all the details, by the time the flight landed in Dayton, Ohio, this woman looked at me and said:

“Thank you, young man, for doing what you do. You have given me a new hope that there are truly people in your generation who stand for the right things and want to have a positive impact on the world. You have opened my eyes to something new today and I feel I am a better person because of it.”

I use this story to emphasize two points.

1) Recruitment is meant to be done in this same fashion. It is OK to talk about being in a fraternity, but you sometimes need to find a way to present yourself and the values of the group before you say what exactly your group is. It will help people who hate “frats” see them in a slightly different light. It will also help them see the reality of what fraternity can be.

2) Inadvertently, I performed a certain level of community service through that conversation. It is nothing I could count toward the Borradaile Challenge or Founders Month of Service, but I did serve my community by opening someone up to a new perspective and inspiring them to learn more about it.

My point? Talk about your fraternity and your experience with pride. Also, live it. Your actions will always speak louder than words. You never know when you might be able to recruit an amazing new member or even just open someone’s eyes to the power of what fraternity can really be.

Resources:
Founders Month of Service
Purpose Statements