Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Undergraduate Interfraternity Institute: Madison McGahan, Zeta Tau Alpha

Attending UIFI was one of the best and most empowering learning experiences I have had so far. Not only did I get to meet awesome leaders in the Greek community from all over the country and have the opportunity to learn from them, but it helped re-shape how I view things about myself and things that I stand for.

On the first day, we took time defining leadership and the definition we were taught was leadership is what we do and why we do it. We then looked at Greek Life as a whole and established the idea that we are values-based organizations and that we need to define our values as what we do. Listening to the leaders of UIFI define words that we throw around all time in ways I never really would have thought, was extremely insightful. It made me evaluate what my organization does and if we are living up to these definitions and our potential as a group. In addition to these terms, UIFI also made me rethink about the role I play in my chapter, the role my chapter plays in Greek Life at Lehigh, and how those roles then play into the Lehigh community and Greek Life on a national level. It made me realize that what we do as individual chapters isn’t just affecting us because we are just a small part of a number of larger communities.

This really hit home for me when we participated in a debate about whether Greek Life was a benefit or a hindrance to our society. During the debate it was powerful to hear about all the opportunities given and bonds formed when people chose to be members of Greek Life, but to also hear about the number of indiscretions committed by members of our organizations. At the end of the debate the student panel voted that we are a hindrance to society. After hearing all of this I couldn’t help but question how we could be so proud to be a part of something that even its own members feel is hurting our community. The leader of the program then talked about how his job was to fight for the existence of Greek Life and that despite the negative attention, we truly breed the best leaders when we do stick to our values. It was at this point in the experience that people started to wake up and realize that we contribute to the reason that something that made our college experiences so great, may not be here for others to experience if we continue to let the negatives define us. UIFI was a wake up call to the fact that we know what we are doing wrong and we are the only ones that can make the necessary changes. My experience at UIFI gave me the encouragement and tools to start making a difference and to start acting on my values to be the change in my community so that I can give back to something that has already given me so much.  
Madison McGahan
Zeta Tau Alpha, President