One Vote Changed My Life

Justin Zolot, Pi ’12
Alpha Services Coordinator

What does Chi Psi mean to you?

A simple question, but yet a difficult one to answer. Where do I even begin? As I look back over the past three and a half years of my life and reflect on the most memorable moments, I can’t help but realize that Chi Psi played some form of influence on each of them. It has given me the opportunity to grow as a person, a young professional, and as a Fraternity gentleman.

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When I arrived at Union College in the fall of 2008, I considered myself a quiet and reserved individual. Hard to believe, right? During the first semester, I rarely left my dormitory, and when I did, I was either at class or at baseball practice. It was also very convenient having the dining hall on the ground floor. The running joke was that you could tell the difference between those who lived in West and those who didn’t by what they wore to dinner during the bitter cold Schenectady winter months. I always wore a t shirt and shorts, while those who lived in Richmond or Davidson were bundled up in winter hats and coats.

I encountered Chi Psi through my involvement with Union College baseball. Many of my teammates were in Chi Psi and always invited me up to their sorority mixers before they were open to the rest of campus. I immediately felt right at home with the Brothers, who really made an effort to make me feel comfortable.

Before formal recruitment even began, I knew I was going to join Chi Psi. I had also just declared a major in economics, and my close friend and Big Brother, Peter Mugford ’11, told me he wanted me to succeed him as Alpha Pi’s #4. He was also an economics major, our delegate at the 168th Chi Psi Convention at Duke University, and spoke very highly of the position and overall experience. With his blessing and my own determination to solve my Alpha’s debt crisis, I won the election by one vote. That vote changed my life.

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My time as #4 was one of the most challenging experiences of my life. When I was elected, we had 84 active Brothers, a quarter of which had no intentions of paying their dues in full, and an accumulated debt of approximately $3,500 to the Chi Psi Central Office and Spencer Properties. It was a disaster, and it was no help that many of my Brothers considered the Chi Psi Central Office to be the “big bad national.” Attending the 169th Convention at Alpha Theta Delta with our #1, Sean Aaron ’12, changed everything. I attended Br. Paul Braswell’s #4 Spencer Institute sessions where I took notes and asked questions like a machine. I still talk about the experience with Paul Braswell, who admired by enthusiasm and desire to create change in my Alpha. We developed a close friendship, and I continued to communicate with Br. Braswell regarding financial policy and practice. Much of the financial success my Alpha experienced following the 169th Convention is a testament of Br. Braswell’s belief in and patience with Alpha Pi.

Br. Braswell encouraged me to utilize my resources and communicate with the Chi Psi Central Office. I immediately contacted Sam Bessey to discuss my Alpha’s financial situation, and the results were extremely favorable. In addition, I negotiated with the Union College Greek Life Office to withhold diplomas from seniors who did not satisfy their financial obligations to the Alpha, and I reached out to key Alpha Pi alumni who later sent us donation checks to alleviate the situation. Safe to say, Br. Braswell was completely right and by the end of my term, our debt was 90% paid and the remaining 10% was a manageable amount. I felt good handing over the Alpha’s finances to Jason Cohen ’13, my Little Brother, teammate, and close friend.

In sum, your Chi Psi experience is what you make of it. For me, I received an education that could never be received in any economics course or classroom setting. I made friends for life both within my Alpha and with Brothers across the country. I learned to not be afraid to ask for help, and to trust others when I am in need of assistance. I now work for the Chi Psi Central Office to continue my journey as a Brother of Chi Psi, a young man, and a Fraternity gentleman. It is my hope to prepare all my Alphas for success, and serve as a role model for undergraduate Brothers.

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