No, I’m not referring to Athens, Greece….I’m talking about a beautiful city in Georgia that prides itself on Saturday afternoons at Sanford Stadium, late nights on Clayton Street, and the sight of sorority rush on South Milledge Avenue.
Last week, your new Alpha Visitors were assigned to assist the talented Derek Taylor and Justin in formal fall recruitment at the University of Georgia in Athens, GA. Coming into the week, I was a bit nervous – here I am a native New Englander, a graduate from a small liberal arts school in upstate New York and clueless in the art of wooing southern girls – traveling into the lion’s den of an SEC southern school. I had no idea what to expect. Fortunately, I had met some of the Alpha Alpha Delta delegates at this year’s Convention so it was nice to see some familiar faces upon my arrival. From the start I felt right at home — they gave us a tour of the Lodge, made us a gourmet dish of spaghetti, and gave up their own beds for us to sleep. I was fortunate to share bunk beds with Jordan Fiasca, and I honestly felt like I was seven years old all over again having my best friend over the house for a sleepover (without my mom trying to embarrass me by asking if we needed anything every 20 minutes!). Thankfully the bed frame didn’t collapse because I was almost certain that we were going to unintentionally pull a re-enactment of a scene out of Step Brothers!
The two days that followed felt like a whole week in itself. House tours required non-stop interaction with both Brothers and rushees alike and constantly forced me to come up with creative and effective ways to make our fraternity experience at Chi Psi appealing to those who listened. In all honesty, it was probably the most challenging experience I’ve faced thus far holding this position, but it was also one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had. The look in these young men’s faces showed signs of exhaustion, overwhelm, and fatigue. Many of you probably remember going through fraternity recruitment and felt similar emotions going from house to house, being bombarded with sales pitches about why you should join an organization. I found that the best connection you could make with someone you’ve never met before is a casual and confident conversation. Be sincere and carry along a sense of curiosity in the person you’re speaking with. See where the conversation takes you…you’ll be amazed how much you may have in common with them!
My northern cultural differences certainly came out in conversation. Of course I could carry on conversation about anything related to sports – Atlanta Braves baseball, why Thrashers hockey couldn’t make it, and countless reasons for why the BCS college football system should be ousted. But one conversation struck me the most. I had one rushee named TJ who literally for 15 minutes told me everything there is to know about white tail deer and turkey “hunt’n” (apparently theres no G…or I…who knew). Now granted I’ve never shot a gun in my life so for this whole conversation I was getting a kick out of him. Acting out the proper techniques and stance in front of me, he was telling me where the kill spot was – how it depended on the angle of the animal as viewed by the hunter, how far the animal is from the hunter, whether or not the animal is calm, and how solid a gun rest the hunter has available. By the time our conversation finished and it was time for him to leave, we exchanged number,s and I invited him to come to the Lodge later that night for a bbq and cornhole. As he left the Lodge, I knew I had made a difference in TJ’s day. We both had a first in our life – for him, he had never met anyone north of Maryland more interested in learning his passion, and for me, I had never met anyone who told me more about game hunting. It gave us that immediate connection.
I encourage all of you as you move forward and enter your Alpha’s rush week to keep an open mind and talk to as many people as you can. Ask as many questions as possible. Learn. Teach. Educate. It’s an important time for your Alpha. A simple conversation, no matter how ridiculous it may end up being, will help you recognize the potential and goodness in that person. As a Chi Psi, you pride yourself on being an outstanding gentleman and the lifelong experience that’s been offered to you so uniquely from others. It’s not about the numbers, it’s not about the glory…it’s about the authentic quality of friendships you share with your brothers in the Lodge.
I would like to send a special thank you to Jake Lederman ’12 and Josh Bates ‘13 of Alpha Chi Delta, and Greg Kenton ’14 of Alpha Iota Delta for their volunteer efforts this past week in rebuilding Alpha Alpha Delta. I would also like to thank Alpha Alpha Delta alumni Lee Preston ‘76 and Dave Hagaman ‘69 for providing me with their words of wisdom and reminding me that the fraternal bonds of Chi Psi extends across generations and Alpha designations. I would also like to wish the boys in Athens the best of luck this fall in classes and recruitment. GO DAWWWWGS!
Yours in the Bonds,
Justin M. Zolot, Pi ’12