Scholarship is more than grades

Every new semester provides a fresh start and an opportunity to ‘get back to basics.’  For Greeks, basics are usually summarized by four or five pillars.  These pillars are the foundations upon which every Greek community is built.  This list almost universally includes: Brotherhood (or Sisterhood), Service, Leadership and Scholarship.

In the past three semesters I have spoken with “scholarship chairmen” from Alphas across America.  Whenever I ask them to describe their job responsibilities it usually sounds something like this: “I organize study tables.  I make sure people are keeping their grades up.  You know, stuff like that.”  Today, I propose we take ‘scholarship’ to a higher level.

I decided to Google ‘define scholar.’  Among the many outstanding definitions provided, the one that caught my eye was: “A learned person. One who educates themself for their whole life.”  Yes, that sounds about right.  Let’s explore that further.

What if the scholarship chairman took upon himself to lead the charge in creating an environment of continued learning?  What might that look like?  Some of the best ideas I’ve encountered include:

1) Make announcements during weekly Alpha meeting about visiting guest lecturers and follow up by organizing a group to attend the event.

2) Set up a debate night.  Have a student from the mock trial or debate team come in and give a presentation on speech tactics.  Set up head-to-head debates and let the Brotherhood at large determine the winner.  Keep the topics fun.

3) Arrange to have campus newspapers delivered to the Lodge.  If that’s not possible, retrieve a dozen copies of each new publication and place them in high traffic areas (i.e. dining area, foyer, restroom).  Let Brothers read about campus events and opportunities for involvement.

4) Turn the common room TV to a news station like HLN, CNN or FoxNews.  When Brothers crash on the couches between classes they will surely learn something.  Brownie points for keeping the TV on ESPN less than 50% of the time.

5) Plug the Alpha into university academic resources.  Every institution has a department devoted to academic services.  Use meeting time to raise awareness about the resources your campus has available.  Ask outside parties to present information to the Alpha about time management, study skills, conflict resolution or anything else.

Legendary basketball coach John Wooden said “little things make big things happen.”  When cultivating an environment of academic excellence it is important to consider the little details.  As a leader of an Alpha, it can be tricky to demand improved grades from your Brothers.  Something you can do, however, is create an atmosphere where young minds are exposed to fresh ideas,  new information and opportunities.  In the long run you will be putting your people in the best possible position to succeed.

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