Sigma Phi Epsilon honored with academic award

From left, sophomore Brian Williams, juniors Mike Savard and Christian Kuumar, and sophomore Robert Mannanice receive the Amy Vojta Impact Award for Academic Achievement.

By Emily Landgraf

The Rider chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon (SPE) thought about academics in a new way, and was awarded regionally for its efforts.

The fraternity won the Amy Vojta Impact Award for Academic Achievement at the National Greek Leadership Association (NGLA) conference at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, Conn. The conference took place from Feb. 18-21.

According to sophomore Brian Williams, SPE devised a program to help brothers better their GPAs.

“We created this program called Fantasy Academics,” he said. “The brothers with the highest GPAs would draft brothers with lower GPAs to be on their team. The guys with the higher GPAs would have team meetings and the brothers would help each other get better GPAs.”

Junior Mike Savard said that despite grouping members together, brothers were willing to step outside of those teams.

“The teams aren’t exclusive either,” he said. “You can always find brothers from different teams working together. I have seen brothers working harder on their studies, but most importantly, I’ve seen people working together more instead of studying separately.”

Williams was impressed with the improvements that he has seen in his brothers.

“There has been a change,” Williams said. “I know one brother had, like, a 2.6 average and jumped to, like, a 3.1, I think. It was amazing.”

The NGLA consists of members from fraternities and sororities throughout the Northeast region, which extends from Maine to Michigan and south to Virginia. According to Director of Greek Life Ada Badgley, SPE’s win is impressive.

“To have one of our fraternities submit a program and win an award is kind of a big deal,” she said. “It makes us very proud.”

Badgley said that when SPE came to her with its idea, she was intrigued.

“They came to me last year with the idea of the program they wanted to do,” she said. “It’s an exciting, new way to look at how to create an academic culture in a fraternity.”

Williams was proud that the fraternity won the prestigious award.

“We were so excited; we couldn’t believe it,” he said. “That fact that we were able to represent SigEp and Rider, it was awesome.”

Coordinator of Greek Life Ashley Ganoe was present at the award ceremony and was thrilled when SPE won.

“I felt like a proud mom,” she said. “We felt really excited for them.”

Coordinator of Greek Life Meredith Bielaska was also present and was excited about the win.

“As a community, we haven’t applied for an NGLA award in three or four years, so to have them win was really special,” she said.

Bielaska also believes that the program was an innovative way to get students involved in academics.

“I definitely think it was creative,” she said. “This program drew people in and made them want to be excited about doing better in school.”

Ganoe believes that this will encourage chapters here and at the schools present at the ceremony to start applying for the awards.

“They could be recognized, not only in their community, but in the region for the things that they do,” she said.

Badgley was impressed with the fraternity’s efforts, and not simply because individual brothers have done butter.

“It’s exciting to see real improvement in individuals,” she said. “But more than that, when a fraternity puts an emphasis on academics, that is something important to our culture.”

Badgley is hoping that SPE will continue to succeed with Fantasy Academics, and that its success will encourage the other Greek organizations on campus to “find their niche.”

“If each group could pick a topic and make it their focus, there would be some really interesting things going on on the campus,” she said. “I hope that SigEp inspires them to think about how they want to be seen and how they want to be awarded.”

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