You made it. Within a few days, most of you will hand in your last assignments, take your last exams and breathe just a little deeper than perhaps you have in several months. At the end of the semester, something seems to physically lift off of you when a semester or an academic year comes to a close. Ideas perhaps rooted from childhood, remind us that summer is the season to enjoy longer days with people you care about, to play more, to rest more and to restore yourself. For some in our community, you will be graduating and launching into the next chapter of your life. Before you go, I have 3 questions for all of our graduate/alumni members:
- Has being a member of a sorority or a fraternity made you better?
- What are you taking with you?
- What contributions did you make while you were here?
Has being a member made you better?
At the heart of every fraternity and sorority experience there is the idea that our organizations are designed to make people a little better than the day they joined. These are the central ideas written into the elements of our rituals. Not that our experience is designed to remove the individuality out of a person. Quite the opposite is true. Our experiences when done well takes the best of a person, and make them better. I hope that has happened for you. Believe it or not, that is what drives me to do the work I do every day. Fundamentally, our organizations have a transformative power to make people into a better version of themselves. Not only does that impact life in college, but it potentially creates a trajectory that has a lifelong impact.
We build stronger people, stronger communities through all fraternities and sororities do….. connection and mentoring, events and service, education and personal development, leadership and scholarship, etc. When we bring our best to our organizations, we begin to sharpen our skills, and refine our gifts and hone our talents. If you think that sounds dry and boring, stop and think again. That can all happen through a lot fun. If we are doing it right, members will experience the rare opportunity to reveal a more authentic version of themselves in a strong connection with people who genuinely care about you. Was that a part of your story? Self-discovery is a life-long process. At the end of this college experience, do you have a stronger sense of self, or a clearer picture of your values and what characteristics make you distinct?
What are you taking with you?
So as you leave the Hill as a student for the last time, what are you packing up and taking with you that came from your fraternity or your sorority? My hope is there are a number of things you can point to as an outcome of your experience….Friendships, good times certainly, but far more like new skills as a leader, new knowledge about working in a team, or a new awareness of the world and who you are in it and potentially the power to change it. Some much happens in the context of a college education and only a certain portion of it happens inside a classroom. What has been your experience?
What contributions did you make?
What are you leaving us? College is a short but powerful season of life. While on the most fundamental level you all came to UTK for something… a degree, and an education… did you invest something of yourself in this place for those that follow you? Did you make a contribution to this University or to your fraternity or sorority? Are we better because of the work you did in some way? Did you lead? Did you serve? Did you mentor someone as a big brother or sister or help someone navigate a challenge they were facing?
Recently, I attended the Chancellor’s Banquet as the guest of our own Hunter Jones, immediate past IFC president who was among those recognized with the University’s highest honor, the UT Torchbearer Award. I have always loved the Torchbearer Creed,
One that beareth a torch shadoweth oneself to give light to others.
If we are doing fraternity and sorority right, I might argue that the number of true torchbearers found throughout our community could not fit on a single stage. Being a torchbearer, in its simplest sense, should be a natural byproduct of a sorority or a fraternity.
To our graduates, we wish you well and we thank you for all you have given to us. Remember to tell your story. If you are willing and want to share it with me, I would love to hear it. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We encourage you to keep making an impact on the world. Stay connected, and when you are able, visit. We look forward to seeing you. We hope some of you will play a role supporting others through even better experiences than what you were afforded. Perhaps that will be getting involved in an alumni or graduate chapter, or at some point serving as a volunteer advisor. As you are able, make financial donation to support the organization or the initiatives it promotes. Remember, even when the t-shirts and line jackets are not something your wear everyday, you still reflect us. Sorority and fraternity is not just for “Four years, but for life.” We wish you all the best in your next chapter.