Last month, the New Jersey Alpha Residential Learning Community (NJA RLC) chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon (“SigEp”) at Stevens Institute of Technology received a 2016 Chapter Award of Distinction by the North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC). The award, given annually to individuals, groups and organizations who exemplify excellence in the fraternity industry through their leadership, service and fraternal values, marks the first time a Stevens Greek fraternity or sorority has received such an honor.
“I’m so proud of the incredible dedication of the members of NJA RLC. Recognition as a Chapter of Distinction is an amazing accomplishment that truly reflects on the integrity, commitment and hard work of the chapter at Stevens. These men are setting an example for other organizations at Stevens and also nationally and internationally for what it means to be a member of a fraternity,” said Sara Klein, assistant vice president for student affairs at Stevens.
Sigma Phi Epsilon is the nation’s largest fraternity, with more than 300,000 lifetime members. NJA RLC, one of approximately 250 Sigma Phi Epsilon chapters nationwide, was selected out of thousands of chapters within the 70 organizations represented by the NIC.
NJA RLC is no stranger to praise. It’s been the recipient of the past four Buchanan Outstanding Chapter Awards, or “Buchanan Cup,” handed out every two years at the Grand Chapter Conclave to the highest performing chapter. Only the chapters that excel in every area of operations and further the Grand Chapter's strategic plan qualify for the honor.
NJA RLC members reacted to news of the NIC award with a deep sense of pride for their fraternity.
“The award serves as a validation that practicing SigEp principles of Virtue, Diligence and Brotherly Love is one way to achieve happiness and good health,” said Kris Alvarez '16.
Stevens sophomore William Harris, vice president of recruitment for NJA RLC, says the award will serve to strengthen the chapter’s efforts in recruiting men who continuously seek to improve themselves.
“In every chapter and executive committee meeting, we continuously ask ourselves: ‘How can we get better, what is next to fix, and are we still just doing the same things we did last year?’ NJA RLC practices values-based recruitment that carries the idea that by joining our chapter you will be given the tools to become a more balanced man and have the best, most constructive college experience possible."
In its recognition of NJA RLC, the NIC noted the chapter’s several outstanding attributes, including the highest GPA for the last four years. NJA RLC’s current 3.562 GPA is higher than the campus average of 3.289, as well as the Greek average of 3.298. Additionally, NJA RLC has consistently demonstrated leadership on campus, with members comprising almost 15 percent of the current resident assistants, and representing 20 percent of the school’s orientation leaders last summer.
In addition to service activities within the local community, including volunteer work with local food stores and churches to hold canned food drives and serve food, the NIC noted the chapter’s dedication to train area Sigma Phi Epsilon chapters on leadership, individual fitness and teamwork through NJA RLC's LIFT program .
“They soar when it comes to service hours and philanthropy money donated, and serve as leaders in all aspects on campus, but most of all, they have an enriching experience as brothers within the chapter. I always stand by my statement that if there were more fraternities like our SigEp chapter, the world would be a better place. They are truly a valued partner in higher education,” said Thea Zunick, associate director of student life at Stevens.
Seth Irby, managing director of the national fraternity, echoed the sentiment in his letter to the NIC endorsing the chapter, saying, “I’ve seen some of the best fraternities in the U.S., and NJA RLC stands out from the average chapter in nearly everything they do.”
Zunick adds that one of the outstanding characteristics of the chapter is its commitment to maintain a substance-free or “dry” house by banning all alcohol and drugs in the entire facility, which include multiple study spaces, a faculty office and weight room.
Stevens junior Troy Kanaszka, president of NJA RLC, describes the decision as part of a larger commitment to learn, practice and live SigEp values of “Sound Mind and Sound Body,” stating that the fraternity makes a concerted effort to counter negative stereotypes of "frat boys" who harm college campuses, communities and universities.
“I joined SigEp because it was different. I think most of us did. I knew that the values and ideals it held its members accountable for would allow me to succeed and accomplish more than I ever thought imaginable.”
Kanaszka is quick to add that the success of his chapter is due, in no small part, to the support it receives from the university and their shared values.
“Stevens attracts well-rounded, driven and motivated individuals to begin with, which aids us in being so successful. The environment at Stevens makes people strive for more, and within SigEp, we try to do the same. Furthermore, the amount of resources Stevens and Student Life offer to Greek life always gives us opportunities to be better and better. When you have people who respect what you and your organization are really about, it makes it easier to achieve in a vast amount of areas knowing that you have a support system.”