Alumni, SigEp Blog

Homecoming 2014

GU SigEp was proud to welcome back over 30 alumni brothers for homecoming on October 26. We started the weekend with a chapter at which several alumni were present and we enjoyed an Epsilon presentation by current brother Andrew Arbeeny (MSB ’15). We then had a gathering at 3338 Prospect, at which, expectedly, far more alumni were present. The next morning started with the tailgate at 11 am where both current and alumni brothers were found in plenty.

Tailgate

Brothers Tim Tsai (’13), Jeff Wray (’11), Jake Ripp (’13), Jake Pressman (’13), and Zack Hubbard (’13) at the Homecoming Tailgate

Properly adhering to Georgetown tradition, no attention was paid to the actual football game, as Pink House’s classic barbeque held much more sway. Serving as perhaps the largest party Pink House has had to date, alumni and brothers alike had a fantastic afternoon in weather that was far too comfortable for late October. Starting with the roast of a pig that seemed too large to actually have lived, the party went on into the late afternoon, and we hardly had any trouble with our friendly local SNAPS officer. From Jeremy Cairl’s lederhosen providing a hint of Octoberfest to Marc Byrnes’ (MSB ’16) dogged commitment to those classic rock songs that everyone miraculously knows the words to, the vibe at this year’s party was perhaps the best we’ve had, and it did Pink House proud for its last homecoming.

Jeremy Cairl ('13) and Jack Maher ('17)

Jeremy Cairl (’13) explains the power of the lederhosen to Jack Maher (’17)

In all, it was a great weekend, and seeing so many alumni back made us undergrads proud of where our fraternity has come thus far, and, more importantly, it helped us connect with brothers that can’t ever come back enough to the Hilltop.

– Colin Walls (’16)

SigEp Blog

Fall 2014 Retreat Recap – Harper’s Ferry

GU SigEp had an awesome time on their Fall 2014 retreat to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. We arrived around noon on Friday where we split up into our cabins and dove into the first activity of retreat, storytelling. Prompted by words that they pulled out of an envelope, groups of four SigEps shared a story with their brothers from their life that related to that certain word. Like all exercises on retreat, storytelling was very open ended, and the stories we heard varied from hilarious, to profound, to nostalgic, to inspiring.
Next, we headed to the river for the main attraction of white water rafting. In groups of four to six, we split up into rafts, chose bold team names, watched a safety video that undoubtedly had the attention of everyone in attendance, and got on the river. Once in the water, the focus turned to away from racing each other downstream, and almost immediately to sabotage of other brother’s rafts and crew. Not one raft made it too far ahead without another catching up to pull them out and into the river.
After a couple hours of rafting, we headed back to our cabins for dry clothes, then immediately into the town of Harpers Ferry for the next retreat activity, dyadic. We again found ourselves in groups of four brothers, who we might not talk to all the time, and answered a list of questions designed to have us open up and learn about our brothers. An experience like dyadic is what sets SigEp apart: spending hours talking about the kind of people we are and want to become, talking about what’s important to us as students, brothers, and men, and admitting our fears and faults, but also our greatest attributes.
Upon finding one open field in tiny Harpers Ferry for SigEp Circle, we were approached by a police officer that refused to believe that 50 college-aged guys could be up to anything constructive in a park at midnight. Christian Chung (’15) went and explained the nature of our presence there, but we all like to think he flashed his badge and pulled rank. As always, SigEp Circle was a moving and profound experience with brothers contributing, participating and observing. Questions ranged from amusingly lighthearted to very introspective, with everything in between. As three hours passed without anyone fully noticing, we agreed that it was necessary to head back to camp to sleep. My van decided to sneak away to McDonald’s…and wasn’t really surprised when we ran into four other vans there that all had the same idea.
Sunday morning brought the birthday of Hayden Pascal (’17), pancake breakfast, and the start of our next activity, goal setting. The brothers met in a room and each VP on the E-board explained their achievements so far, and the upcoming goals for their respective boards. The chapter gave advice and suggestions going forwards for each VP, and we have a lot of beneficial ideas going forwards: including the founding of an established fall philanthropy effort to match our efforts from the springtime Relay for Life.
Finally we ended with a hike up the mountain in Harpers Ferry. After an hour of hiking, brothers got to enjoy what Abraham Lincoln described as ‘the best view in North America’. On the way up and down, I was part of multiple amazing and constructive conversations, all of which were spontaneous, and the types that one can only have with brothers in SigEp.
The catchphrase oft associated with retreat is that it’s a weekend that you’ll remember after you graduate, a standout in a blur of Lau, parties and hanging out in your dorm. Personally, I know I’ll remember this retreat after I graduate, because I already find myself thinking about the conversations I had that weekend on a day-to-day basis. Retreat has been my favorite weekend while at Georgetown this year, and I’m excited about the efforts to bring some of the elements of dyadic back to conversations held on campus. The weekend was an enjoyable and rewarding one, due to the men that I enjoyed it with. Such a retreat wouldn’t have been possible with any other group of men at Georgetown, exemplifying something that I know to be true, but somehow keep relearning: this fraternity is different.
Jack Coaty ‘17

New Student Guide, SigEp Blog

5 Tips for a Great Freshman Year

I remember my move-in day at Georgetown all too well—it was a steamy 95-degree afternoon when I first arrived on the Hilltop, eager to begin my life as a Hoya.  My CHARMS-chosen roommate Jake met me in my VCW room, and I noticed he had already taken the bed I wanted.  Joy, what a start.

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Blog author Tom Pescatore (MSB ’17)

The next few months were a Blue & Gray blur, filled with late night Eat & Joy, VCW-style living, trips to places all over DC, and, thankfully, no nights in Lau the entire semester.  I swear, I did study—just not in the soul-eating dungeon we call Lau (see Tip #4 below for some other ideas).

And soon enough I found myself back in northern New Jersey.  Reunited with my friends from back home, I was surprised to find that many of them weren’t really enjoying school.  I had probably a dozen friends ready to transfer, and many more disgruntled with their first semester but willing to give it a second go.  And this made me realize something very important: I’m blessed.  Georgetown is an incredible place.  It’s got great academics, great tradition, and, most importantly, great people.  For me, it’s so much more than a school—it’s home. 

I no longer call New Jersey home (which my parents HATE)—my home is on the Hilltop.  Leo’s is my kitchen; VCW my bedroom (well, not anymore…); Healy Lawn my front yard; Yates my personal gym; Washington my playground.

Now, as happy as I was, there was definitely an adjustment coming to DC.  I did a lot of research coming into my freshman year with the thought that I knew everything when I arrived. Boy was I wrong. Here are some things I wish I knew on that first day of freshman year:

1. Avoid Leo’s during its off hours. 

Those are the times between breakfast and lunch, lunch and dinner, & dinner and late night service. Don’t go between 10 AM-11 AM, 3 PM-4:30 PM, or 8 PM-9 PM unless you are desperately in need of fuel and nearing starvation.  All that’s there during off hours is salad and sandwiches. It’s a disappointment.

2. Take care of your body.

Make sure you eat.  My first week at Georgetown I lost seven pounds. Now most people would probably see that as a blessing, but I didn’t have the weight to lose. And, that being said, exercise.  Once you make sure you’re eating, you eat A LOT.  The late night food and beverages add up quickly.  The freshman 15 (or 35) is real—and some of my friends back home looked like they took up sumo wrestling as a hobby in the matter of a semester. You hate to see it. So at least play intramural sports—which leads us to another tip.

3. Don’t miss intramural sports sign up deadlines.

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IM Basketball Champions

You should get emails about them, but they’re easy to miss. The first sport is flag football—sign up with a team by September 10 (A full list of deadlines and more IM Sports info is here).  I won two championships as a freshman and would love a new challenge from some incoming students. Oh, and winners get a free t-shirt.

4. Take a Break from Lau

I’m in the minority when it comes to avoiding Lau completely, but even those who do choose to study there should treat themselves to a change of scenery every now and then. Try Regents, MSB, or, if it’s nice out, the Leavey Center roof—they are really great spots to chill and get some work done.

5. “Do less.”

One of my best friends and my OA told me this on my first day at Georgetown, and he couldn’t have been more right.  Join clubs you are passionate about, but not so many that you can’t focus on what you love.  I’m a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon, the Blue and Gray Tour Guide Society, and Club Soccer—and it’s a perfect balance.  I urge you to find things in which you can invest yourself.  For me, it was these groups, as well as Relay for Life—I spearheaded the SigEp charge into this event last spring.  Check out Georgetown’s Relay website and Facebook page for more info. The SigEp team absolutely killed it last semester, raising over $20,000, the most of any student group on campus.

Relay for Life

Georgetown SigEp at Relay for Life

At the end of the day, my first year at Georgetown was defined by the people I met and the experiences we shared.  Bingo Players at Echostage, Hoya basketball games, cab rides into Virginia for Chick-Fil-A, late night FIFA with my brothers.  This is why I can’t wait to get back to Georgetown.  The freedom of college, paired with the people you meet at Georgetown, makes for a really incredible freshman year.

New Hoyas, you’re only a few days away. Get pumped. Get ready to experience the Hilltop.

About SigEp: SigEp at Georgetown is a  social fraternity committed to the principles of virtue, diligence, and brotherly love. We take the best the Greek tradition has to offer — a sense of community through brotherhood; vibrant social life; and a wide range of career and networking opportunities — and exclude nonconstructive elements like pledging and hazing, which aren’t in line with the values here at Georgetown. “This fraternity will be different” is our founding creed.

We invite you to take a look around this site and to check out our Facebook page to get a better sense of who we are and what we do. If you’re considering rushing SigEp, sign up for email alerts about upcoming events, and take a look at our recruitment page,which features a tentative calendar of events. You can learn more about us here.

SigEp Blog

Wreath Laying at Arlington National Cemetery

By Kevin Lo, College ‘16

There might not be a more definitive display of service than enlisting in the armed forces. There’s also not much that could be done to accurately show the gratitude that we (or at least the gratitude that we should) have. A simple act of laying wreaths is, quite honestly, the least any of us could do.

The author lays a wreath on a headstone.On December 14th, a group of brothers went to the Arlington National Cemetery to pay our respects to those who so diligently and selflessly served our country.  We met at 8:30 at President Hamblin’s house and together drove to the cemetery. After arriving (it was, somewhat shamefully, my first visit to the cemetery), it was incredible to digest the sheer size of the grounds—to internalize the numerous generations of individuals who served.

Before the wreath laying commenced, we ventured to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Again, being completely new to the cemetery, I did not really know what the tomb represented. After learning of its meaning, I just thought about the pain that one must have felt to never learn of a loved one’s fate in battle.

Soon after, the organizers of Wreaths Across America distributed the wreaths and an incredible movement covered the grounds. Solemnly walking towards each gravestone, one sees the wars in which each individual fought. Some were simply unbelievable. There were numerous soldiers who fought in multiple wars, with some fighting in three, from WWI to WWII to the Korean War. A simple wreath does none of this justice, but it was the very least we could do to say that we will never forget.

Of course, none of this was done for self-serving reasons, but, the day did offer something extremely valuable aside from the deep appreciation we all felt for the fallen. In the midst of finals, the day provided solitude and an opportunity to think beyond ourselves. In a period in which we are almost only thinking about achieving the best grades we can achieve in order to try to get a better job, salary, and future, a thinking beyond the self offers wonderful perspective.

Like those who fought, we should understand ourselves as a part of a much bigger collective. This applies to our fraternity (in which a new Sigma can as easily voice his opinion as can an older Epsilon) and, of course, to life. As citizens of such a privileged country and, more specifically, university, we should strive to be—like Georgetown alum Brit Marling said so beautifully said this past May—to be men and women for others in all fields of work we seek. It might never be as selfless as those who served in the armed forces, but we can at least try.

Alumni, SigEp Blog

Alumni Spotlight: A Story of Airplanes, Medicine and Brotherhood

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Greetings to all fellow SigEp brothers out there and all across the world. As a continuation of DC Gamma’s focus on alumni involvement, I wanted to introduce myself and say some words about my involvement with the fraternity. The name’s Taylor Barnett, and I’m originally from Nashville, Tennessee. I had spent most of my childhood growing up in the South, but after having traveled around a bit and spent some time abroad in England and Chile while in high school, I decided to begin a new chapter in my life and venture north to much more frigid and, along those lines, political climates to come to Georgetown to study foreign languages. Freshman year at Georgetown was awesome: We had not one but two cafeterias, Darnall Hall was actually habitable, Philly P’s ruled the world of late night pizza, and snaps were ginger and oh-so delightful holiday treats and not your worst enemy on a Saturday night.  I got so excited coming here I joined no less than two dozen clubs at SAC Fair…and then proceeded to quit pretty much all of them, except for your standard Hoya Blue, NSO, and ESCAPE, to mention a few. And to be honest I’m glad I did, because it afforded me the option of pursuing other options outside of Georgetown, such as teaching ESL every week in Adams Morgan, working at the Whitman Walker HIV/AIDS clinic,  as well as getting to enjoy DC and see the sights. Armed with my SmarTrip card in hand, I’d go all over the district and even up to the University of Maryland in nearby College Park to visit some of my high school friends, one of whom was in fact a SigEp. That’s how I first got introduced to the fraternity, and when he told me that a chapter at Georgetown had just opened and they were looking for new brothers to join I thought, “why not?” They seemed like cool people, and who doesn’t like hanging out with cool people? So during the fall of my sophomore year I came out to some of the recruitment events and, whaddayaknow, I became a SigEp.

To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect, especially with an organization just a few months old that had less than two dozen members and that then the university was resistant to accept, much less even recognize. I mean, when I came to college joining a fraternity was the last thing I had considered doing, but looking back I’m so glad and thankful I did. I saw DC Gamma start off from very humble beginnings and grow almost a decade later into a fortified and resounding brotherhood. Every aspect of SigEp, from the rituals and challenges to the retreats and formals, helped to make my years in college some of the best years I’ve had, and that included right up to my graduation, when just three days before my commencement ceremony I presented to the hospital for continuous ringing in my ears (we call it in the med biz “tinnitus”). Three hours after walking in the doors of the ER, I was diagnosed with metastatic testicular cancer that had spread to lymph nodes and parenchyma of the lungs, abdominal aorta, and spleen.  Yeah, that pretty much a huge dampening on the graduation week festivities. (if you want to read more about my story, head over to https://archive.org/details/SigmaPhiEpsilonJournal_838 and take a look at the Fall 2008 copy of the Sigma Phi Epsilon Journal). Nevertheless, I immediately had surgery and left the hospital the next day. And what’s more, I was thankfully able to make it to my graduation ceremony two days later and then to Europe a few days later for a three-week trip with five other DC Gamma brothers. Having to pass up on three job offers and spend instead the summer getting chemotherapy for about ten hours a day wasn’t necessarily on my to-do list then, but I have to say the support that poured in from the chapter was truly amazing. Now, over five years later, I’m glad to say I’m still in remission and the needles and alopecia are in the past.

Since graduating Georgetown and finishing surgery and chemotherapy, I worked a number of jobs, such as an interpreter for a local hospital, a high school foreign language teacher, and even an airplane pilot. But with all that I had just been through with the cancer, I gave medicine another thought and decided to apply to medical school. I got a scholarship to go medical school back in my home, the great Dixie motherland, at the University of Tennessee, where in addition to studying disease and then preparing to annihilate it in the hospital, I got involved with our student run Spanish speaking clinic for the uninsured Hispanic population of the city and even became clinic leader by my fourth year. And now, I’ve moved over two thousand miles away and am currently doing my residency at Scripps Hospital in San Diego, California, with hopes of someday  going into oncology so I can help other patients affected by cancer who may not be as fortunate as I have been. And I just took another step further with my career and joined the U.S. Air Force, for which I’ll be working after I finish my medical training as a flight surgeon and urgent care doctor.

One thing I want to get across to all fellow brothers is this: your role in SigEp does not stop at graduation. SigEp is something that will be a part of you far beyond your four years of college, and in fact some of my best and most meaningful experiences in SigEp were as an alumnus. When I left Georgetown, the nurse that took care of me while I was getting chemotherapy was a SigEp. My peer mentor in medical school was a SigEp from Vanderbilt. I’ve even been able to travel the world with many DC Gamma brothers, from France and Spain to most recently spring break in Hawaii.  And I still try to make it back to the Hilltop every so often to revisit the chapter and meet all of the new brothers. The journey has indeed been absolutely spectacular, and now I’m living in one of the coolest cities in the country, taking in all of San Diego’s glorious three “Bs” — beaches, breweries, and burritos  — while having the humbling privilege of taking care of patients from all walks of life, from surfer dudes and Marine recruits to the elderly homeless and immigrants coming in from across the border, and being a part of what is without a doubt the best and most noble profession there is. I even have several SigEps as patients in my clinic and am now the godfather to twins I once delivered whose father was a SigEp. And the best part of it all is that my roommate is none other than fellow brother Kevin Parvaresh, who was in my Sigma class at Georgetown and now is an orthopedic surgery resident at UCSD. Obviously, even a decade after joining SigEp, the fraternity and brotherhood indeed still have an impact on my life, and I think today I’m a better leader, a better doctor, and a better man for it.

I’ve seen DC Gamma take off light a rocket since its very beginnings. It has emerged as a prominent leader on the Georgetown campus in academics, athletics, community service, and so much more. Consistently the chapter ranks among the top of many other campus organizations in fundraising for Georgetown’s annual Relay for Life ceremony, which donates hundreds of thousands of dollars to the American Cancer Society. I’m astounded at what the current undergraduate brothers have done not only in their own individual fields of study and organizations on campus but also together as a brotherhood to make DC Gamma into a powerhouse of excellence on the Hilltop. Indeed, for anyone considering joining the fraternity, I’d say that if you’re looking to make your college years meaningful, wanting not to live your life in the background but rather in the spotlight and become a stronger leader and contributing member of society, and to learn how to do so and succeed at such in the company of some amazing guys from all over the country and world, SigEp DC Gamma is what you seek. Come to the recruitment events, meet the brothers, and ask them why they wanted to be a SigEp – they may have joined for different reasons, but you’ll see that what ultimately makes them stay is the brotherhood. And for those of you who’ve already made the wise decision to become a part of the brotherhood, understand that there is so much more to SigEp than what you have and experience during your years at Georgetown. As it has been so for me, SigEp will be with you far longer than your time in college. There is now a network of over several dozen DC Gamma alumni in all different career fields located all over the globe, from California and New York to Algeria and Kenya, who are devoted to giving back to the chapter and helping out younger brothers in any way they can. Never hesitate to reach out to any of them for whatever you may need, and if you’ll do you’ll be astounded by what they’ve accomplished and realize just how strong and amazing the SigEp DC Gamma brotherhood is.

Again, my door’s always open if you ever want to reach out to me with your thoughts and questions, and I will see you back home on the Hilltop soon.

HFF,
Taylor

Alumni, SigEp Blog

SigEp Alumni Spotlight: Supporting Small-Enterprise in Kenya

By Alex Villec COL ’13

Hey brothers!

As part of DC Gamma’s growing emphasis on alumni involvement, I wanted to say a few words to introduce myself, what I’ve been up to, and how SigEp fits into the picture. I spoke to some of this in a recent e-mail, so please excuse the redundancy where it exists.

Since graduating in May 2013, I have been working with an NGO that focuses on small-enterprise development in northern Kenya. The BOMA Project provides grants to groups of three women toward the objective of income diversification and drought resilience. Whether measured in nutrition, savings, or prevailing cultural notions of wealth, livestock is central to the pastoralist way of life. Climate change and conflict undermine the strategy of herd accumulation that defines “the pastoralist dream”, if there ever was such a notion. First, BOMA provides the capital ($100) needed to launch a small business. Second, participants receive training (e.g. record-keeping) and on-going support (e.g. weekly business visits) from local mentors who live in the very communities where BOMA operates. At six months, women receive a second grant ($50) to expand their enterprise, at which point groups form savings associations and begin extending credit to group participants and within the community. Our model rests on the idea that liquidity constraints and poor access to markets present pastoralists with high levels of risk that make it hard to plan and even harder to withstand negative shocks. Our model introduces a sustainable livelihood that complements pastoralism and equips women with greater financial freedom to fund medical expenses, invest in their children’s education, and purchase food.

My work with BOMA centers on monitoring and evaluation (M&E). In short, this means using data to improve our program. In the office, this involves designing surveys with relevant indicators, analyzing datasets, reporting internally and externally on changes in household characteristics and business performance, and then using our findings to inform how we define success among program participants. In the field, the monitoring component entails continuous communication between our local mentors, field officers, and office staff. Back checks, data collection, mentor visits, grant disbursements, and savings group meetings are all key components of our work in the “field”, either because I’m directly involved in their execution or because they serve as opportunities to better understand our program and its operations.

If you’re still awake at this point, I should simply mention that BOMA has not only been a stellar introduction to international development, but also to post-graduate life more broadly. It’s shown me what an organic and locally-run program can accomplish when development practitioners understand the communities in which they operate. It’s also shown me how fundraising needs, inter-NGO competition, and shortsighted planning can hinder non-profit actors in lifting large portions of the population out of extreme poverty.

I began with the BOMA Project by applying for a Princeton in Africa (PiAf) fellowship during my senior year at Georgetown. PiAf is part-placement organization, part-network, part-professional development program that places recent graduates with organizations based in Africa across the fields of humanitarian assistance, micro-enterprise, public health, and agriculture, to name a few. After the initial application and interview process, PiAf staff engages you in a personalized conversation about specific fellowship posts and potential fits, at which point you’re put forward as a fellowship candidate to interview with the decided-upon organization. It’s a fluid process that can last anywhere from 4-6 months.

A Georgetown degree will present you with incredible opportunities. Most important will be identifying what it is that you want from your first few years off the Hilltop. As I searched left and right, I placed a high value on gaining international experience, honing language skills, and developing a portable toolkit that would easily transfer across disciplines (e.g. data analysis, leadership, organizational/strategic planning). Once you can clearly articulate what you’re after, you’ll dive into the job hunt with a sense of direction and purpose. To me, these initial steps out of the Georgetown nest are prime for learning as much as possible, for growing my network, and for pondering how I wish to develop professionally over the next 5-10 years – all within a context where I have enough peace, flexibility, and freedom to think. Don’t underestimate how valuable it can be to live and wrestle with your own thoughts for a year or two! I’m talking about thoughts influenced, informed, and dictated by your judgment alone, not by a rigid syllabus, a mind-blowing extracurricular schedule, sacred words like “cum” and “laude”, a rapidly dwindling checking account balance, or a friend’s CV…)

Take this all with a grain of salt. Among those reading this are studs with a far firmer grasp on where they’re headed. Plus, there are so many other paths with so much to offer. While 90-hour weeks would make it tough to indulge in recreational reading on a Wednesday night or spend Sunday evenings learning a new language, I’d guess that a high-intensity career track can be one superhighway to long-term success. And, unless you join the Jesuit order, you’re not taking a lifelong oath to one fixed career path. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the beauty of post-graduate life – at least at the outset. Know that with momentum and motivation, you’ll be able to pursue Plan B if Plan A was a flop; just keep pressing ahead. It’s easy to turn a moving car.

Restore balance where it lacked in college, fill your brain, put yourself in uncomfortable situations, ask yourself difficult questions, and never stop meeting people.

Most important of all, don’t forget your brothers. The most meaningful exchanges I’ve shared since graduation have been with SigEps, and there’s a good chance I’ll be saying this 20 years from now.

As always, my door is open. Reach out with your thoughts and ask me questions – I’ll be challenged, more focused, and better because of them.

HFF,
Alex