Alumnihood: The Best of Both Worlds

A guest blog by Andrew Berman, Beta Epsilon ‘02, NYMAAC

I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but ten years after my graduation from Syracuse University, I’m still receiving emails from Beta Epsilon Chapter’s listserv. Of course I’m on the Chapter’s alumni listserv, but also the general and social lists. I live 250 miles away, and yet I still get notifications that the chapter meeting has been rescheduled to 2pm for the Superbowl. What does that say about me?

Staying involved as an alumnus is a two-step process: 1) Embrace the alumni world, 2) Learn your place in the collegiate world. For Brothers who were super-involved in Phi Sigma Pi as undergraduates, it’s tempting to stay in that familiar place, especially if you stay close by. Certainly, stay in touch with your chapter, but open your eyes to all that is out there.

Embrace the alumni world

Anika Jackson touched on a few ways to take advantage of being an alumni Brother in her blog post earlier this week. Let’s focus and expand on one of the points she mentioned: getting involved locally. Scope out the alumni scene in your own neighborhood. Some places have organized alumni chapters and associations you can easily join. If you live in a place that doesn’t and are feeling ambitious, you can start an alumni chapter in your area, but don’t feel that’s the only option. Start small: contact the National Office to locate alumni in your area. Then what? Hang out, chat, start a Facebook group, let things happen organically.

Once you have your happy group of local alumni, remember that alumni activity is happening all over, not just in your backyard. Connect with alumni nationwide, even worldwide, through professional networks, reading the Alumni eNewsletter and the Lampadion, and attending national events. Joining the National Alumni Association will help with this. Becoming a member of the NAA unlocks all sorts of goodies.

Learn your place in the collegiate world

We are all Brothers for life, but Phi Sigma Pi is a collegiate organization. Our focus is and always will be on our undergraduate Brothers, as it should be. We alumni have had the benefit of the Phi Sigma Pi collegiate experience. We’re the experts. Now it’s time to let our younger Brothers take the wheel as we sit back and advise (and have some of our own fun).

But how involved should we be in undergraduate life? Good question, me! I’m sure we all remember those alumni who stuck their noses in annoyingly when we were undergraduates, the alumni who told us we were doing things wrong. No one likes to be nagged. How can we make sure our interactions with the chapter as alumni are positive ones?

  • Lead by example. It’s tempting to give advice in words, but we all know that actions speak louder.
  • Speak when spoken to. Let the chapter know that you’re there for them, and offer them encouragement and positive reinforcement. Then, wait for them to come to you.
  • If you must intervene, do it one-on-one. Choose someone you’re close with (perhaps a descendant), and ask them questions. Your concerns will be felt from the questions you ask.

This is what’s worked for me. You may disagree, and that’s fine. The important thing is to strike a balance. Stay involved with your chapter, but open yourself up to the alumni world around you. They’re both important elements of being a Brother for life.

But back to my question at the top. What does it say about me that I’m still on my collegiate chapter’s listserv? Possibly that I’m too lazy to unsubscribe. I believe it says more about me that I read, but reply only sparingly. I submit news for the alumni newsletter when asked, offer to be interviewed by initiates, and occasionally I field a question from a Brother who wants to know how things were done in the past, or just wants to know more about my LGBT orchestra.

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