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Aligning Expectations

Wisconsin Sigs gather for an active-alumni workshop before schools starts

By Marshall Solem - Vice President of the Alpha of Wisconsin graduate chapter and Secretary of the Sigma Phi Society Standing and Advisory Committee

The pandemic impacted social and charitable organizations in different ways, but most of those impacts were not favorable. At the Alpha of Wisconsin, one of those impacts was that from the spring of 2020 until the summer of 2021, there was virtually no in-person active-alumni engagement (though we did have periodic virtual meetings). The 2021-22 academic year saw moderate in-person engagement. The lack of regular face-to-face meetings over two years raised concern by both the actives and alumni that we weren’t as aligned as we should be – or to use a cliché, we were worried we were singing from different versions of the Signet!

To assess the extent of the issue and get in front of it, at our final spring ’22 active-alumni meeting we agreed to hold an all-day active-alumni “expectations workshop” before the 2022-23 school year started. We held that workshop on August 27th. It’s fair to say that both groups were a bit anxious coming into the workshop about the possibility of a chasm of perspectives between the two groups. What did we each expect from Sigma Phi? What did we expect of each other?

I’m glad to report that the differences that surfaced were more like cracks on a road in need of repair than crevasses on a glacier. We covered virtually every topic you could think of related to running a successful chapter. In order not to lead the witness, we identified how close or far apart we were by having all attendees write their perspectives and expectations regarding various topics on post-it notes. We then stuck those post-its to various flip chart pages on the wall – one page for each topic. Alumni responses were distinguished from actives’ responses using different colored pens. We then looked at the responses, categorized them into themes and looked for differences between the two groups. The great news (which was somewhat surprising to both groups) was that we were really very aligned - the differences between our perspectives and expectations were quite minor.

What that told me is that the traditions and culture of Sigma Phi run very deep. They are a foundation that helps us get through challenging times. Coming into the workshop several of us may have felt the Sig flame was flickering. But the workshop confirmed the flame is burning bright. We all agreed it will take a sustained injection of fuel to keep the flame strong through the 2022-23 year, but we found an abundant supply of that fuel in everyone’s genuine and active commitment to ensure Sigma Phi continues to thrive on the UW campus. I left the workshop inspired by the energy of a great group of young Sigs who will lead the chapter into the future.

Covid may have knocked us on our heels a bit, but by no means did it knock us out.

Esto Perpetua!

P.S. If you want to check out the new Alpha of Wisconsin web page, you can find it here.

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