Why a Professional Fraternity

Every now and then, I find the same question reappearing in my day-to-day conversations. It’s a question that isn’t unexpected, nor easily explained in a sentence or two. It’s a subtle inquiry, one that quietly questions my motives, priorities, expectations, hopes and aspirations. The question of:

What made you want to start a professional fraternity?

To fully understand the weight that this question holds, I need to tell you a little bit about myself and my college life so far. My name is Thevenin J. Campton. I’m the media relations director for the Iota Theta Chapter of Theta Chi Fraternity at the University of Central Florida (UCF), as well as the 2014-2015 president of Quotes, the public relations club at UCF. On the cusp of graduating, and with a plate that’s already well overflowing, my decision to sacrifice an internship for founding a fraternity was one dubiously accepted by both my parents and academic advisors alike.

It required sound reasoning to convince them of its necessity at UCF.

As of May 2014, I became the founding president of Zeta Phi Eta Fraternity, National Professional Fraternity in Communication Arts and Sciences, originally founded in 1893. The tedious beginnings of the fraternity had taken root, unofficially. The most difficult, and unfortunately most important, task was to convince UCF that Zeta Phi Eta was needed at our campus.

Fortunately, as many of us reading know, “UCF Stands For Opportunity.”

The UCF Office of Student Involvement openly accepted the idea of Zeta Phi Eta, especially since there wasn’t another professional communication fraternity on campus. Additionally, it was suggested that, in order for the fraternity to be in the “good graces” of the Nicholson School of Communication (NSC), I should rally support by faculty members at NSC.

This was more difficult than I anticipated.

A prevalent fear existed among many of the key stakeholders at NSC. NSC, one of the smaller schools at UCF to begin with, had a good number of student organizations already. These included, but aren’t limited to, Quotes, Ad Club, RTDNA, SPJ and a couple of honor societies. The fear was just and sensible: adding an additional communication-based organization will only hurt the other organizations, spreading the membership roster across all the organizations thinner. Organizations that, unfortunately, already struggled with maintaining steady membership engagement.

I knew that in order for this fraternity to be accepted, that fear had to be remedied.

Zeta Phi Eta’s sole purpose is to band together individuals committed to high standards in communication and serve as an aid in their professional development. The last thing I wanted to do was discourage our members from participating in other beneficial organizations germane to their majors.

The answer lied in this amendment to our bylaws: All prospective members and active members must be a paid member in at least one other organization geared toward professional development.

Once this was included, the rubber began meeting the road. Lindsay Hudock, our fraternity’s faculty advisor, came to our aid, furthering our cause and placing faith in Zeta Phi Eta’s goal.

And since that time, the fraternity has been a great success. An organization that united NSC’s otherwise segmented student body was needed, and I saw that fact reinforced with every student I spoke with.

The fraternity was founded through the hard work and creativity of eight individuals, all role-model student leaders within NSC with above-average GPAs:

  • Ryan Marshall, a junior studying human communication with a minor in sport business management, is interning the spring 2015 semester for the Orlando City Soccer Club. Through his work for Zeta Phi Eta as the chief networking officer, he has procured the chapter’s official philanthropy, Junior Achievement of Central Florida, and has designated us a Silver Level sponsor for their first annual 4.01K Race for Financial Fitness philanthropy event.
  • The fraternity’s chief communications officer, graphic design student Maria Lumbi, has been a longstanding member of the UCF Graphic Design Student Association. Through her impressive flyers and marketing collateral, she enabled the fraternity to pull some of the greatest NSC students into prospective membership. She is currently redesigning our website and in the midst of creating material for a number of our upcoming events.
  • Chief Administrative Officer Jenitza Quiñones, an early senior studying advertising and public relations, was the newest addition to our executive board and quickly proved her indispensability. I’ve been a part of several organizations and her attention to detail is unsurpassed. A good secretary is a foundation to an organization’s communication; communication is the livelihood of an organization. She ensures that all other officers are in order with their duties and obligations, thereby ensuring the longevity of Zeta Phi Eta.
  • Emilee Jackson, a journalism student graduating May 2015, is our fraternity’s chief financial officer. Equipped with an extensive resume, Emilee has a double minor in digital media and entrepreneurship, works as a communication assistant for the UCF College of Sciences, freelances as a sports writer and photographer, is a member of the Society for Professional Journalists (SPJ), serves as the historian of UCF’s Collegiate DECA organization and the president of Lambda Pi Eta since November 2013. Her past experience as a treasurer and her current class standing provides the fraternity with tremendous insight.
  • Responsible for the fraternity’s health and well-being, Chief Risk Officers Xenecia Farrell and Jacqueline Kooser are tasked with not only ensuring our fraternity abides by the UCF Golden Rule. Additionally, as new member educators, these two are tasked with providing prospective new members (PMs) with not only an unforgettable experience, but also ensuring that each PM undergoes a positive transition professionally, academically and even socially. Xenecia, a soon-to-be-graduate studying advertising and public relations, is the director of special events for Quotes and has just accepted a summer internship at KellyScottMadison in Chicago through NSC’s Multi-cultural Advertising Internship Program (MAIP). Jacqueline, a junior studying writing and rhetoric, also serves as the director of communication for Quotes and is the author of her very own fashion blog, Welcome to My Walk In. They work tirelessly for the fraternity’s future by enabling quality new members.
  • Our fraternity’s chief operations officer, or for simplicity’s sake, the fraternity’s vice president, is Lisa Kauffman. Lisa is a sophomore broadcast journalism and international relations student at the University of Central Florida with a GPA exceeding 3.9. Geared toward bettering the fraternity and establishing stronger roots for us, she has planned several events for the coming year, including a professional communication panel that pools professionals from every major industry, and a comprehensive social between every NSC organization.
  • And then, there’s me, the president. I serve as the external voice of our chapter with anyone the fraternity comes in contact with. In May 2014, I established relations with the National Council of Zeta Phi Eta and wrote letters on behalf of our fraternity. My main goal is to empower the organization to function properly, to guide them toward a singular vision of success, to help however possible (even in the most minuscule tasks), to motivate our active members and encourage our prospective new members. It is true that the president has the least amount of direct responsibilities. As other students who have served in a similar capacity can attest, being president can be tedious. You are ultimately given the credit for the fraternity’s success, or the blame when things fall apart.

A president is nothing without his board. I cannot help but close this entry with that acknowledgement. It’s a concept that old-age bosses still seem to have trouble with.

Thinking back to my rush process with Theta Chi Fraternity, I remember this most poignantly: A leader is not quantified by his aggressiveness, cunning strategy, qualifications and ideas, but by his followership.

Brotherhood, wisdom, love and integrity. These are the roots of our fraternity.

-Thevenin J. Campton

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