Wednesday, January 23, 2013

How to Make Your AFLV Conference Experience the Best EVER

As we come closer to the end of January, that means one thing here at AFLV--the start of conference season! We are so excited to be in Indianapolis in two short weeks for the Central Fraternal Leadership and National Black Greek Leadership Conference and just as excited as we look ahead to Costa Mesa in April for the West Fraternal Leadership and National Cultural Greek Leadership Conference.

As past participants of each conference and current staff members at AFLV, Branden Stewart, Coordinator of Volunteer and Member Engagement, and Monica Ceja, Coordinator of Marketing and Communication, have come up with their top 5 tips to help YOU maximize your conference experience!

Branden Says ...

Attending a Fraternal Leadership Conference was always the highlight of my undergraduate experience. Each year that I attended, I was able to meet and connect with hundreds of other leaders who were committed to their fraternal values and determined to make positive changes in their communities. Here are my tips to make the most of your experience!
  1. Get out of bed in the morning. No, really. This is my number one tip, and trust me, I love to sleep. There are a TON of things happening all day while at the conference, and you can’t attend any of them if you're in bed. Hearing our expert keynote speakers, attending something during every educational program block, and constantly looking for new people to meet and new things to experience is crucial to having a worthwhile experience. GET OUT OF BED!
  2. We've set some minimum standards, and our expectation is that you meet them. Really, nothing on that list is hard to follow. You’re attending the conference to become a better leader and help make your chapter, fraternal community, and campus stronger. Late and loud nights, hotel parties, and drugs have no place at an AFLV Fraternal Leadership Conference. Seriously, we're the Association of Fraternal Leadership & Values.
  3. Our Awards & Assessment Process is a huge component of the Conference, and we spend the closing banquet honoring those councils that work tirelessly to be a model community. Check out the awards binders and talk with students from councils who apply. This is an amazing way to pick up new ideas for how to help your council work harder, better, faster, and stronger (cue the Kanye).
  4. If you’re coming with a large delegation of students from your institution, the worst thing you can do is attend educational programs with your entire delegation. Your council and school sent YOU to bring back as much information and new ideas as possible. Come in with a plan of attack. How many different educational programs can your delegation attend during each time block? The more ideas you check out, the more you’ll have to bring home with you!
  5. So you've heard a great idea for a program you want to bring back to your campus, but did you get the most crucial information you need to help make that program a success? That would be contact info! Make sure you get some digits, follow people on Twitter, or friend contacts on Facebook! The more contact info you gather, the more your network grows. 
Monica Says ...

The West Fraternal Leadership and National Cultural Greek Leadership Conference was one of the best leadership development opportunities I had as an undergraduate student. Sharing and learning new ideas with other committed leaders from across the country inspired me to do new, big things as a Panhellenic leader on my campus. Here's how I was able to make my conference awesome.
  1. Participate in the many events at the conference! In addition to the educational sessions offered, participate in events like Ignite Fraternity, the Order of Omega Case Study Competition, or the Stroll Competition. These events are a great way to learn by doing and put your ideas into action!
  2. Make sure you dress professionally. Nobody wants to talk to the guy that wore jeans as professional attire, the girl in provocative clothing, or the sloppy-looking person with wrinkled clothes. Look nice and make a strong impression. See our Pinterest board for help with what is and is not pin attire.
  3. Attend all the meals included in the conference. Obvi, these meals are included in your registration, so attending them will make the best use of your funds. Additionally, this is a great chance to network and learn more about the different resources available from AFLV. And, the affiliation luncheon on Friday will seat you with your brothers or sisters from across the country which is always super fun!
  4. Participate in the AFLV Silent Auction and the T-Shirt Auction! What could be more fun than coming home with new t-shirts and favors? Plus, the funds help students attend future conferences and leadership development opportunities. Bring some spending money and budget accordingly!
  5. Have a wrap up meeting. We like the idea of debriefing at the end of each day, so you can keep track of what you learned and follow up when you get home. Don't forget to have a closing meeting on the way home or at your first meeting back so you can come up with a plan of action together!
We hope we were able to be helpful! For more tips, check out our January issue of The Bulletin and our Conference Tips board as we keep pinning, and we'll see YOU this spring!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Names and faces

Today the entire AFLV group went to Las Delicias. Chelsea and Holly went to the school house to help out and play with the kids. The rest of us (Miquel, Laura, Griffin, Tricia, and I, Sonja) went to the construction site for the house we are building for a local woman with six children. The main focus of the day was building the metal columns that will go in the trenches to support the concrete that will later be poured for the foundation. My job was to cut wires into a certain size to tie the rectangular bars to the long metal rods. I think we got about five of them done today and each is about 15 feet long (that is a very rough estimate). I also helped out by twisting the wires onto the metal rods. There were also a few people that moved a large amount of sand that was delivered up to the work site.

The woman and her children who we are building the house for were there at the site today as they have been in the past. They are very willing to help and often do a better job than I may be doing. I got closer to two of the girls named Ana and Diana. Diana is the youngest one and is very shy but today we bonded over a little kitten, or gatito, that lives on the site. We both held and pet the kitten. She never spoke to me but she did let me pick her up. Ana is older, in second grade, and she was helping me twist the wires. She also liked to play with me and the other volunteers on the site. She was a bit of a jokester and would hang on to me; she was my little monkey.

It has been great working at both the sites. Everyone is always smiling and in a good mood despite the hot weather and hard work. The language barrier can be a little frustrating but we make do with gestures and with the help of Miguel who is fluent in Spanish and Laura who is a Spanish major.

We went up to the school building to join Chelsea and Holly and the rest of the Villanova group. We ate lunch and some played with the children. At this point I was not feeling very well at all so I attempted to take a nap. I think the heat and hard work got to me. I’m not used to the heat considering I’m from Alaska and go to school in Colorado. I’m feeling much better now after a shower, nap, and eating dinner.

We left the site at 2 (earlier than usual) to head to the University of Central America. We didn’t get there until about 4 because there was bad traffic due to construction. When we did get there we first visited the chapel on campus. It has quite a bit of El Salvadorian art work. Much of it is depicting the struggle and pain caused by the civil war. It specifically is about the 6 Jesuits and 2 women who were murdered by the army in 1989.  There was a museum up the hill from the chapel that honored the Jesuits, the women, and Monsignor Romero who were all murdered. We also got to see the pictures that were taken of all the Jesuits and the two women when they were found. The Jesuits had been dragged out of their rooms and out into the garden area where they were brutally murdered. The pictures were very graphic and horrific. I wouldn’t have believed the extent of the gruesomeness unless I had seen it myself.

Learning about the history of El Salvador has been very interesting and eye opening. The people of El Salvador adore, remember, and love Monsignor Romero. He stood for the justice of the people of El Salvador and stood up for them when they were being repressed. He was killed for this reason. More than 30 years later he is stilled remember and spoken about often.  The war affected the country and it is still striving to recover. It changed so many lives. I’m just happy that I am able to help these amazing people even the tiny amount that I am.

After getting a few souvenirs from the school we headed back to the house. I took a quick shower before dinner which made me feel significantly better. For dinner we had Sister Gloria’s Italian pasta recipe. Even though it wasn’t El Salvadorian food it was delicious! There was also garlic bread that was devoured. After dinner and a nap, a band called Sierra Madre came to perform for us. There were 5 guys that played various instruments like the drums, guitar, the accordion, bass, and wooden flute like instruments. They also sang and involved us as much as possible. I tremendously enjoyed listening, singing along, and dancing with them. They did an activity with us where we passed a ball around while they played music and when they finished whoever had the ball had to come to the front. They would answer or ask two questions in Spanish and the band member would try to respond in English. I thought that was a great way to bond and try to get to know each other and learn.   As a band they were also very big on honoring and remembering Romero. It was a great finale to this fantastic week! I even bought one of their CD’s and can’t wait to listen to it when I get home.

Overall this week has been an amazing experience. I came to experience a new culture and to serve others but I came away with so much more.  I have personal relationships with so many people from El Salvador that I will cherish forever. I’ve learned that it is the relationships that are most important. El Salvador is no longer just a country to me, it has names and faces and a great experience behind it. It also made me appreciate what I have but also made me realize what I don’t need, and understand that materials are less important in life than friendship and love.

Not only did I make new El Salvadorian friends but I feel like I really bonded with the AFLV group members. Even though we have only been here for a week I feel like we have all become very good friends. Tomorrow everyone (except me, I leave on Sunday) will be leaving. I am sad to see us all part but am so glad I was able to have this experience and meet all these remarkable people.

Sonja Jones (aka Chica Henaldo) is a sophomore at Colorado School of Mines in Mechanical Engineering, and is a member of Sigma Kappa.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A week that lasts a lifetime

Today was the first day that Miguel and I traveled to the construction of the house in Las Delicias, with Chelsea  and Laura, while Sonja and Holly made their way to Cuidad de Arce. This was after the amazing eggs we had for breakfast, made by Mike from the Villanova group.

What we found in Las Delicias was a group of small children already helping out the others that were digging the trenches for the house. The morning really flew by thanks to great conversation with Don  Israel, the construction leader, and Carlos, a local community member. It was also great that most of the site was covered in shade while we worked, and the soil was very soft and easy to work with.

Chelsea was supposed to be helping at the nearby daycare with some members of the Villanova group, but the night before, she found out what happens when some of the water is consumed in San Salvador. She thought she was okay to work for the day, but the trip there did not bode well for her stomach. So, Chelsea spent most of the day trying to sleep off her sickness.

We broke for lunch, and drove up to the daycare with the rest of the members who were playing with the children for the day. We ate, and helped the children clean up, while Miguel took advantage of the opportunity to sample some of the local jewelry.

We left the site early, approximately 1:30 pm, and traveled to the house and chapel where Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated. On the way, we stopped by the lava field near the foot of the volcano, and collected some samples to take home. Our journey to Romero’s former dwelling soon continued, and we were there before we knew it.

The other group had arrived before us, and already toured the chapel, so we all sat and listened to one of the nuns describe the life and death of Romero. We found out that his heart was buried there in the garden, while the rest of his body was buried in the Cathedral. Her talk led us to his residence, where everything he owned, from his car to his toothbrush, was put on display for all to see and worship. Our group then traveled to the chapel where he was assassinated, where they still have mass every Sunday.

When we were done there we traveled home, and the Villanova group was given a chance to shower so that they could go to Mass at 5:00 pm. While they were getting prepared, Don Miguel allowed Miguel, Tricia, and me to tag along on his errands as we needed to stop by an ATM to grab some cash. During this ride, we were able to see the ‘Belly Button’ of San Salvador, including the main market and normal hustle and bustle of the afternoon crowd.

Upon return, we were able to shower and help set up for dinner, and enjoyed many a good laugh (while Chelsea lay in bed, sick). The priest who led Mass joined us for dinner, and afterwards told us his history in El Salvador, and let us ask questions about him and his journey.

Our reflection for the night brought a new activity, where we were able to tell each what we appreciate the most about each other, and we also gave up another item for the week. If it was not obvious that we were bonding before, tonight would be the night that it is a concrete fact that we have created great bonds and friendships; those that will last much longer than the week we have spent here.

Griffin Bortzfield (aka Little Foot, Little man, or Ronaldo) is a senior at Fort Hays State University, and a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Values in Action

Our group celebrated the New Year in a very fun experience in Guatemala. We enjoyed site seeing, shopping, and learning about the culture. After spending four hours in a van, we came back to our home and quickly fell asleep, ready for the next day. We woke up early this morning and headed once again to our worksites.

In Las Delicias we continued working on building a home for a single parent family. It is interesting to see the living conditions of the people. Houses are crowded around one another and built literally in the middle of the trees and wildlife. I feel horrible knowing that this new house is going to make a family very happy, but also knowing that back in the states this is not as good as it gets. The people are happy just to be getting a home, they don’t care that it isn’t going to be much. The family of six is going to have a kitchen, a living room, and two bedrooms, A FAMILY of SIX. I am in awe of how thankful they are just to be given this small dwelling that they will be able to call home.

As soon as we started I was immediately put to work digging trenches for the foundation. I put my muscles to work, pulling away at the dirt with my spike-axe, shoveling the dirt into wheel barrows, and dumping it out of the way. I have to admit, it was hot, sticky, and very dusty. I found myself completely covered in dirt and dripping in sweat. After my first water break I looked at my progress with despair, I felt as if I hadn’t made a dent in the earth at all. I was beginning to get grumpy and thinking nothing was getting done, but then I was surprised to see that a young boy and girl had joined the progress. They were a part of the group of kids who would one day be living in the home and I was humbled to know that they were willing to help build their own home.  I once again picked up my axe and begin digging away again.

Finally lunch came and we joined the other group up at the day care to enjoy our apples and sandwiches, thankfully I was able to find some Nutella instead of the traditional peanut butter sandwiches. I loved being there with the children that I had seen earlier in the week. I have helped with other service projects and I have done many philanthropy events, but nothing has brought more emotion out of me than seeing the smiling faces of the children of El Salvador. They have such a spirit and the biggest hearts. One child, named Daniel, has really touched me deeply. He has the biggest smile, and he is so smart. On Monday, we played memories games, puzzles, and Uno. Today he was excited to play baseball and jump rope. Unfortunately I only had a chance to pitch to him a few times, but I was so excited to get to see him once again.

After lunch we headed back to our building site. We continued scooping more dirt, except this time we had even more help. Ranging from the ages of 4 to 13 little kids were running around the sites excitedly offering a helping hand. After grabbing a drink of water I would find my shovel taken from me by a child of merely seven who eagerly wanted to show how strong she was, and that she could help too. My heart melted as the children threw themselves into working just as hard if not harder than me.

Trying to build the home was difficult and I’m sure it isn’t going to get easier these next couple of days, but it is so much fun. Even while we are working people are joking with one another, and the language barrier can’t stop the smiles and forms of communication we have used. Some people may disagree and say that building a house cannot be fun, but I truly mean it when I say I enjoyed helping build the home because of the people who I was working with. I may be sore, tired, and hot, but I am smiling and that is all that really matters.

We finished up in the afternoon and said our goodbyes. We were able to finish all but one trench which is close to being done. After we returned to the house and scrubbed ourselves clean, and I literally mean scrubbed, I’m still finding dirt on myself; we had dinner with the rest of the group. Around 7 o’clock we gathered to watch a movie based on the Archbishop Romero, who had a significant influence in El Salvador. As a man of God he spoke out for the poor and wanted to find a way to help them. His passion for God and the people ended in his murder; however his spirit lives on in the people.

Tonight during reflection we discussed our fraternal values. Although my sorority has important values I found myself connecting my journey in El Salvador to my sorority’s creed.

To the World I Promise, Temperance, and Insight, and Courage. To Crusade for Justice, to Seek the Truth, and Defend it always. To those whom my life may Touch in slight measure, may I Give Graciously of what is Mine. To my Friends Understanding and Appreciation, to those closer ones, Love that is ever steadfast. To my mind growth to myself Faith, that I may Walk Truly in the light of the Flame.

The words of my creed sum up my sorority’s values. Here in El Salvador I am crusading for the poor and helping them in whatever way that I can. I know I am only helping a small amount, but any help is good help. This journey is also helping my mind grow because I am learning about a new culture and I have a new found faith in the good of humankind.

Greeks can strive to help change the world, one journey at a time. If we are to live by our values and creeds there is no reason why we can’t find the time to help out those less fortunate than ourselves, who may never know how it feels to have a place called home.

Holly Weiss is a senior at Fort Hays State University and President of the Delta Omega Chapter of Delta Zeta Sorority.

Example. The Only Form of Leadership

My name is Faryn Kushner. I am a junior and a proud sister of Delta Phi Epsilon from Florida Atlantic University.

Today was our third day on the Habitat for Humanity site. As each day progresses we get more comfortable with our new routine and each other. Immersing ourselves within New Orleans seemed difficult before the trip began, but as we spend more time here, it almost seems natural. The day was spent mostly installing windows and re-enforcing the interior walls of the house. Something we've all come to appreciate from working with the Habitat crew is that they encourage us to do things we never thought we could be capable of, and if they aren't done correctly the first time, it isn't a serious issue. They treat all of us with respect and give us the responsibility of building something that will house a family one day; which is more responsibility and paradoxically less pressure than most of us have ever experienced. It has shown us all the important lesson of "not sweating the small stuff" that we allow ourselves to become frustrated by very often. I had a lot of difficulty removing a nail from a incorrectly placed beam and when I has asked the Habitat crew member for help, he told me, "You can do this, practice makes perfect" and sure enough, after a few tries I did. Encouraging us as individuals to move forward when given the chance has shown us this week that we can accomplish anything if we try.

Tonight's discussion focused on Congruence; the more developed version of Consciousness of Self. Congruence is not only identifying ones personal values, beliefs, attitudes and emotions but acting consistently with them. Many people identified this as an important issue that they see others and themselves sometimes struggle with. Many values that were discussed included justice, knowledge, service, tolerance, scholarship, passion, loyalty, character and personal growth. As we are working on this house in a community different than our own, and living with 23 individuals from all around the United States, we have reflected on our values numerous times; and were given sound advice to look toward our ritual if we ever feel lost, because it is the ever trusting compass that always points to the true north. Martin Luther King once said, "We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles, rather than by the quality of our service and the relationship to humanity." We discussed that this occurs because salaries and possessions are tangible things, and unfortunately you cannot always see all of the great service someone has completed. Service is beyond a fulfilling and rewarding experience and it should not be a rare occurrence, because regardless of the size, it still makes an impactful change, much larger than imagined. We spoke about how crucial it is to be congruent with our values, because we are all leaders within our organizations and throughout our Greek community. In the beginning of the trip we were asked to give up one thing we could live without for the week, to help us immerse in the culture of those affected by hurricane Katrina, and tonight we were asked to give up another item until the end of our trip. This week has shown me how much we all take for granted, and how sometimes we can be unappreciative of the conveniences we are given. The students on the trip participated in an activity where we were each given cards that had values on them. Some were good, some were bad and some were relative. We got into 5 groups of 4 and became and island, where we decided to either vote people off, join another island or vote on a new member of the island. It helped all of us realize that islands with inhabitants who possess motivating and awesome values could progress to no bounds, but ones with too many discouraging values could hinder their growth. A very wise Theta Chi once shared his favorite quote by Albert Einstein with me, "example is not a form of leadership, it is the only form." In order to lead an organization so that the best values are the ones that your members will focus on, you must lead by example through congruence.


My name is Scott Cunningham and I am a junior and proud brother of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at Indiana State University.

Today was our third day on the Habitat for Humanity site and we were all up and ready to go as we have now had a chance to adjust to the day-in and day-out routine of the early morning wake-up. One of the major exterior projects we had worked on for the day was the installation of windows, walls, and other features which will allow the structure to withstand weather similar to what it experienced in 2005. Many of us have told tales of trial and failure whether it be using a hammer or buzz-saw for the first time, but much of the Habitat staff have been surprisingly hands-off and forgiving. Some of us here have said that they don't feel that same kind of forgiveness is allowed in their real world setting whether it be on a big term paper, upcoming group project, or a project in their fraternity/setting.

Tonight's discussion focused on the concept of congruence. Congruence requires that one has identified personal values, beliefs, attitudes, emotions, and acts consistently with those values, beliefs, attitudes, and emotions. A congruent individual is genuine, honest, and "walks the talk". The phrase "walk the talk" stuck out to Miranda, a Sigma Kappa sister, who openly pondered how many of those who are confronted about the potential negative aspects of Greek life actually do "walk the talk" and live the values taught in their respective rituals. Our opening reflection/quote for the night was one spoken by the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He once said, "We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles, rather than by the quality of our service and relationship to humanity." This quote was further explored when we discussed our ability to recite certain famous alumni but we failed to idolize our brothers and sisters who've touched our lives or have paved the way or allowed us to experience what they have experienced through their positive decisions and commitment to their organization's ritual. These were important messages throughout the night as we participated in our island activity. In this activity, we were given a card which listed a characteristic, quality, or trait in which we exemplified. Some were positive traits such as compassion while others were negative such as apathy. Four of us were on a island and were each assigned the task of voting out a certain member off the island based on their trait. Naturally, those with alike traits gathered together on these islands until all that remained were the outcast fraternity, the so-so fraternity, the excellence fraternity, and the horrible fraternity. The message was to remain consistent and recruit those with values that are taught in your ritual. Negative influences can spread within your chapter and that one negative influence will become three bad influences then five then nine then fifteen and soon you have a major problem within your chapter that needs to be addressed. What was once a joke within the chapter has now become a major clique that is a negative influence on your chapter's productivity, image, integrity, and morale. Congruence in the key and the quality you must possess in order to confront these kinds of issues. If you see these issues, you not only have an opportunity to amend but an obligation to do so as well. Dave said it best when he said that our ritual is a compass, not a weather vane. It is a constant that will always remain true, much like a compass that will always point north. It is not a weather vane, meaning it does not go with the change of time. Ritual is what we all live and while our organizations may be different, what we value is the same. We must be congruent with what our ritual teaches if our Greek communities are to thrive.