Most college students in the Northwest spend their summer on the water – somewhere warm – nestled between the rocky mountain pines and rolling hills of the Palouse for three months of uninterrupted fun.
But not all.
Rising Washington State juniors Alex Pan and Ryan Pettit set their sights months in advance to Richmond, Virginia – home of their beloved fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon – for the Frank J. Ruck Leadership Institute program.
The five-day event connects students with alumni to equip them with the necessary skills and knowhow to spark positive shifts in culture on campus and within their communities. It is often said that only the top one percent of SigEps across the nation are accepted.
“It’s about how one can impact the many,” Pan said. “Individuals have more power to create change than they think.”
Leading roles such as ASWSU Director of Community Affairs, Greek Standards Board, Director of Greek Week, WSU Athletics Marketing and Promotions Intern, Residence Hall President, and College Hill Association Board Member, its by no coincidence Pettit and Pan have been on the frontline of influence since arriving at Washington State in 2017.
Within the chapter, the tandem serves in a multitude of ways but have most notably been the driving forces behind Washington Alpha’s 2019 recruitment class. Pettit, vice president of recruitment, appointed Pan the Balanced Man Scholarship Chair – effectively slating him the right-hand man on the outlook for potential new members.
Pettit and Pan – both of Member Class ’17 – joined the WA Alpha chapter quickly realizing its success. Their MC broke WSU’s new member class GPA record with a 3.54 cumulative mark and later played a hand earning WSU’s first ever Gold Standing Chapter Award.
And exactly a year later, the feat was repeated with MC ’18 who reset the bar with an even better 3.57 GPA.
“I turned down three job offers this summer so I could be completely dedicated to our recruitment. It’s important the job gets done right,” Pettit said.
Many within WA Alpha see recruitment as the foundation of improvement. Potential new members must exceed several benchmarks in initial screenings; however, it goes beyond that. And with as many as 20 interviews per day, it takes a lot for an applicant to jump out.
“I want to know what they bring to the table that I won’t find on their resume. I’m more interested in learning about what kind of person they really are,” Pettit said.
For this matter alone, WA Alpha has put a lot of emphasis on summer recruitment specifically through the BMS. And in an effort to the find the best WSU has to offer, Pettit and Pan sent the application to high school counselors all across the western United States drawing in 320 applicants cumulatively averaging a 3.5 GPA.
“Those are record numbers for us. And after the most recent cut, there are still 140 guys left,” Pettit said. “We’re trying to get it down to 30 for in-person interviews and hopefully have a solid 15 after that.”
While Pettit and Pan felt they had a handle on recruitment since the beginning, Ruck has played an important role in driving their ideal chapter vision forward.
“It’s about living the ritual. I always understood it’s importance and value, but once I was told to think of it as a lifestyle – not an event – it just meant more to me,” Pettit said.
Their potential to live that ritual is what led to Pettit and Pan receiving bids their freshman year. Both remember the start of their SigEp journey and begin telling the tale just like any other in their member class. The story typically goes, “I wasn’t sure about Greek life, but then I was recruited by Taylor Swanson…”
Pan continued to explain that his reason to join SigEp leaned heavily on the upperclassmen’s involvement on campus. Alex, a native to Pullman, Washington – home of WSU – wanted to have a hand in the greater community and saw SigEp as that outlet.
Pan admits his time in SigEp has tested his patience and leadership alike and wouldn’t trade it for the world. He later emphasized his initial belief of SigEp evolving its members into men has been confirmed.
“That’s the experience I want to pass along to the next class,” Pettit said.
Swanson, now a Regional Director with the Fraternity, took to Ruck during his turn at vice president recruitment. And after Swanson it was Blake Gurney who – following the blueprint ahead of him – attended Ruck as well. Pettit and Pan will be the third consecutive team to immediately apply their Ruck experience by recruiting to the WA Alpha chapter. The newfound tradition, sparked by mere chance, has manifested itself in incredible growth of quality for the WA Alpha brotherhood.
When their time as undergraduates comes to a close, both are aiming high. The week at Ruck not only finetuned their aim and vision for recruitment, but also with career aspirations and goals. Pan, seeking a degree in finance, was connected with several executive-level alumni in and around the circles of Wall Street. And Pettit, a sport management major, now says he’s considering work as a recruiter.
“Where else can you get that?” Pan said. “They’re facilitators, but they can be so much more. Many even become mentors.”
If you would like to learn more and get involved with WA Alpha or SigEp nationally, please submit this interest form. For membership interest, please contact us here. To ensure our members are able to attend this life-changing event in the future, please consider donating to the WA Alpha Ruck Endowment.