Chapter Spotlight: Texas Chapter, February 2012
The following is the summary of a conversation between Patrick McGovern, Director of Membership Development at Acacia Fraternity International Headquarters, and Gabriel Garcia-Cantu, Venerable Dean of the Texas Chapter.
PM: Gabe, you’ve been very active thus far in your Acacia Fraternity experience. Talk about how your perspective has evolved as related to the Cornerstones program.
GC: Well, I pledged in Fall 2010, and we used the GatesofSamos.org website to track our activities, but the site was kind of difficult to deal with, so we never really used it after pledgeship.
After I was initiated, I had some lengthy discussions with past-Venerable Dean Aaron Hollingsworth about how we could improve our pledge education & member development (Cornerstones) activities. I ended up being appointed Cornerstones Chairman, and had some limited success in the position.
In the spring of 2011, I ran for Rush Chairman on a platform of really cultivating the Cornerstones program into our chapter experience. I became Rush Chairman, and then I was selected to attend the 2011 Acacia Leadership Academy, and the experience was incredible.
With the rollout of Cornerstones 2.0 during ALA, everything just kind of fell into place.
PM: Describe what you mean “everything just kind of fell into place.”
GC: Attending ALA gave me all of the tools that I needed to successfully lead the Cornerstones effort at our chapter. Going into the fall, as Rush Chairman, I had a much greater ability to articulate the positive aspects of fraternity life, and we saw a direct result in our pledge class. I’m proud to say that we pledged 14 men this fall, the largest pledge class since our Re-Founding in 2004! The design of Cornerstones 2.0 made the Cornerstones material more accessible and relevant to us – it has been a major success in our chapter. That first chapter meeting after the summer, we had multiple “AHA” moments, and it felt like we just sort of grew as a chapter.
PM: So did you have a bigger group of members participating in the program activities?
GC: Absolutely, the entire pledge class and a majority of the chapter were active throughout the semester. I’d say 80% of actives had reflected & worked their way through the Personal Development Plan, and then posted their goals for all to see. All of the pledges posted their goals on the bulletin board, which allowed us actives to help them achieve their goals in a collaborative spirit.
PM: How did you keep the momentum going once the semester started rolling?
GC: We just had Weekly Meetings, did the activities in the Personal Development Plan, shared ideas about how we could support each others goals, then we’d do a little reflection time, & everyone submitted their notes as well as kept a copy for themselves. It was pretty basic, but it made a huge impact.
The much-more-open design of Cornerstones 2.0 allowed us to really tailor the program to each individual. The overall feel around the chapter house was incredibly positive and vibrant as we made these changes.
PM: Having made all of those changes in the fall, what are you focused on this spring semester?
GC: This semester, we’re having everyone complete the major parts of the Personal Development Plan in the first two meetings, then we’ve scheduled at least one guest speaker to come to the chapter house, we’re all going to a “Resume Workshop”, and a few of our recent alumni are going to visit the chapter and have some dialogue with us about their experiences moving into the professional world. We’re also focusing on Human Service moreso, to get out of the chapter house. Every week there’s about 6 members that go to a local elementary school to tutor children who need extra help.
Also, we’re expanding on the dialogue that we have as a group. Doing the reflection exercises in the Personal Development Plan is a good thing that we’ll continue, but we’ve found that the strengthening of our brotherhood bonds happens when we just have some dialogue about important issues – not only what is going on in each of our personal worlds, but what is going on in the broader community.
PM: Earlier you mentioned multiple “AHA” moments happening last fall, tell me about the most significant.
GC: Probably the biggest lesson came during one of our meetings with actives & pledges attending. We went through the goal setting exercises, then had discussion with everyone. It seemed that the pledges all had similar goals, and the actives all had similar goals, which we took note of. Then the actives began talking about their own values in relation to Acacia Fraternity, and about the pursuit of Wisdom. The pledges really saw Wisdom as something that happened later in life, but through our discussion we ended up agreeing and recognizing that you can be gaining Wisdom right now, every day. Really, we are gaining Wisdom on a non-stop basis in our lives, as long as you’re open to it.
PM: That is a profound and important lesson. Glad to know that kind of discussion is going on in the Texas Chapter! Anything else you want to mention?
GC: One of our biggest goals is to continue to engage our alumni base, and we have our centennial celebration coming up, so we’re really focused on connecting with as many alumni members as possible to further increase the value of being associated with Acacia. We’ve had a few alumni members that are willing to come to the chapter and talk to us about their journeys along life’s pathway, and we want to continue to bring in more-and-more alums with valuable experience & perspective.
PM: That’s great – and very important for every chapter. Thanks for spending some time with me Gabe!
GC: Anytime, thanks for giving us a platform to celebrate our successes! All are welcome to visit our chapter website at: http://texasacacia.org/.
If you would like for your chapter to be considered for a Chapter Spotlight, send Acacia Headquarters a recommendation here, or email at Cornerstones@acacia.org .