This article was originally published in the spring 2012 issue of the Sigma Phi Epsilon Journal.
One chapter was challenged by a striking statistic: more than one half of American University undergraduate students choose to study abroad. The constant outflow of older brothers to distant schools and continents could have destabilized the brotherhood.
New members would be strangers to those returning to campus, and returning men could feel detached from the brotherhood that they loved before they left. American pursues an outreach program to ensure that these international travelers keep their connections to SigEp alive.
Chapter President Anthony Miller, ’12, established the abroad brother chair position in late 2010. This brother coordinates updates from traveling brothers, and distributes entertaining snapshots of life overseas to those at home.
The chapter as a whole commits to a Sound Body goal of running the distance equal to the number of miles separating them from an abroad brothers. This past fall, D.C. Delta targeted the nearly 5,000 miles between Washington and Rome. The goal was incorporated into the Balanced Man Program, and each brother completed his 84-mile share.
During the Sigma Challenge, new members still make an effort to get to know the brothers who are abroad. The sigma coordinators and the abroad brother chair provide Skype names, email addresses, and Facebook pages of those abroad. Those connections have proven vital. Indeed, Daniel Knoll, ’13, who studied in Israel, was selected as a big brother last fall.
Since many brothers travel abroad as juniors, they still have a year to bring a renewed energy to SigEp and new perspectives to challenge past practices. Four traveling brothers sought three positions last fall, and of those, José Morales, ’13, was elected vice president of member development, and Nick sanders, ’13, became president.
Electing abroad brothers has some precedent. Kristian Hoysradt, ’09, was elected president while abroad in 2007. Under his leadership, American University SEC earned its charter. The current president decided to run when he was already in London. “I never worried that my being abroad would hurt my chances of getting elected,” said Sanders. “I was in such regular contact with my brothers that sometimes it felt as if I had never left at all.”
As a result of this outreach program, the chapter continues to encourage brothers to study throughout the world. It means leaving comfortable America for places such as Azerbaijan, Cuba, and even Syria last spring. It also means new memories and great stories to share. With a successful outreach program, a chapter can have no fear sending its brothers abroad, so that they too can have worldly experiences, but remain a part of the chapter.