October 5, 2012: Oxford, Ohio—In 2010, Phi Kappa Tau held it first Volunteer Development Institute (VDI) in Lexington, Ky. Since its creation, the program has evolved and been changed as needed, but one thing that has remained the same is that Les Fugate, Centre ’99, has severed as dean.

Following the birth of his child, Fugate had to re-evaluate his various commitments, but his role with VDI was one he never thought about giving up.

“The reason why is because I think the Fraternity made the right move on focusing on training alumni and this next step really changes our advisors for the better,” Fugate said.

Phi Kappa Tau: What is it about volunteering that makes it a rewarding experience for you?

Fugate: I appreciate the opportunity to get to see the young men grow throughout their lives and see them take it to the next level, whether that is with leadership, education or whatever it is that they are seeking to achieve. One of the things that Phi Tau does really well is provide alumni support in those areas and our volunteer model now rests on training alumni. How that pays off for us is that the alumni are typically involved for more than four or five years. By getting to work with alumni, I get to hear these stories about the continual development of individuals and chapters. Since we have switched to this model we have seen the achievement of our chapters increase.

Phi Kappa Tau: What is the purpose of VDI?

Fugate: VDI is meant to work with chapter advisors and Domain Directors to educate them about the Fraternity’s leadership structures and then it takes them to the next step beyond their online volunteer certification. We will really go in depth on risk management issues and on how to work with today’s students, which even if a volunteer graduated six or seven years, today’s students are very different. We also get them certified in programming that they can take back to their chapters, which this time we will work particularly on Men of Character retreats. That way we are not only helping them in their day-to-day operation of a chapter, but also helping with the overall vision of the chapter.

Phi Kappa Tau: How has VDI evolved since the first one?

Fugate: We have seen things that don’t work and that we can tell alumni would rather not focus on. Then we have found areas that alumni have wanted to talk about each year. For example, the risk management session and working with today’s Phi Tau were originally one hour each. Now they are each longer than two hours, because there are so many questions and so much engagement from alumni on those two particular issues. We have had one major constant and that is our risk management simulation and that is by far the most talked about part of VDI. It really allows alumni to play the role of other’s in a risk management scenario. It is my belief that when they have had the chance to be in these roles and discuss it, that they will be better has advisors.

Phi Kappa Tau: What can a volunteer expect to walk away with from VDI?

Fugate: Well first, they will have a better understanding of the Fraternity and its operations. Second, they will meet individuals that they will work with to obtain their goals, such as Director of Chapter Services Tim Hudson, Truman State ’97. For advisors who don’t have the chance to attend a lot of national events, it’s a good opportunity to interact with them when they are the ones leading the operations of the Fraternity. Third, is the experience of getting to meet other advisors and hear what they do on their campuses. There are so many great ideas that are “borrowed” at this conference that other people take back. And lastly, I think an advisor with have a better understating of how to interact with today’s students.

This year’s program will be Oct. 26-27 in Irvine, Calif. Registration closes on Oct. 12.