In this article, we will be hearing from two brothers who attended the Ruck Leadership Institute this last summer in Richmond, Virginia: the birthplace of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. Both Pujan Shah and Jacob Meiskin will tell their story about their experience. Pujan will have the perspective of a first time attendee, while Jake will explain what it is like to return to Ruck for a second time. Both stories share the idea of finding continual growth through using the resources provided by the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. They also explain the lessons and impact taken from Ruck for them to apply here at the New Jersey Alpha chapter.
First, Pujan will talk about his time at Ruck:
This summer, I had the opportunity to attend one of SigEp’s leadership continuums known as the Ruck Leadership Institute in Richmond, Virginia. This year, 146 scholars were chosen to attend this incredible 5 day experience. Going into the experience, I thought I would be lectured at just as I had been in opportunities before about what leadership is. Instead, I not only got to learn and discuss what leadership meant for myself and my community, but got to do so with like minded individuals. The same individuals who were all there for the same goal we all have as SigEps: bettering ourselves. Ruck not only gave me the opportunity to experience the true meaning of leadership, but was also accompanied by bonds made with brothers from around the country that I will cherish forever.
Being a part of the 20th Ruck was a unique experience in itself. After a competitive application process where I was able to reflect on my time as a SigEp and as a leader, I was accepted to attend the program. Once arriving in Richmond, I found out that not only was I surrounded by some amazing mentors and facilitators, but I was to be a part of Team Hartman. John Hartman along with Jay Hurt were the founders of the Ruck Leadership Institute and having the opportunity to be in John’s group and hear from his experiences made the experience even more meaningful.
One of the mottos of Ruck is, “teaching the few to impact the many”. This program not only helped me to learn how I can improve our chapter at New Jersey Alpha, but how I can apply my leadership practices in situations outside of this chapter and even after graduation. This experience helped ignite a never ending reflection into my own leadership and how it will always be growing stronger over time. Rather than leadership being something you just learn about, it became a practice to me that is constantly changing, and is shaped through my own experiences through life.
After just 5 days, the bonds formed with the brothers in my group were incredible. As hard as it was to think that it was over, there were many takeaways from Ruck. I was able to learn how I could be a more effective leader for my brothers around me and people I interact with on a daily basis. There was also this flame ignited within me to make sure that in the two semesters I have left as an undergraduate, I would do my best to ensure that the future of NJA would allow for all brothers, current and new, to be able to reap the benefits of being a brother in Sigma Phi Epsilon. I will strive to push each brother to grow and step out of their comfort zone, as this is when an individual is able to learn and grow the most. I am excited to implement the many ideas that I came back to NJA with.
I have been fortunate enough to watch Pujan return to the chapter with a newfound fervor for brotherhood. He has been vocal about his presence in the house, having an open door, and always being open to a conversation. While Pujan is currently the Vice President of Programming, I have seen him visit the Communications Committee meetings as well as the Phi meetings. He is not expected to be at these meetings, but he volunteers his time and effort to bettering the chapter. He is vocal about what he has learned during his time here at Stevens and SigEp as his graduation is approaching this spring. These are just the experiences I have been fortunate enough to be apart of with Pujan. If you were to talk to any current brother, I am sure they would be able to vouch for his commitment to Sigma Phi Epsilon as well as to each of the brothers apart of this fraternity.
Next, we will hear from Jake’s experience as he returned to Ruck.
In the Summer of 2018, I had the unbelievable opportunity of attending the Ruck Leadership Institute as a scholar. I learned more than I could have imagined, was able to develop my leadership skills immensely, and met lifelong friends along the way. My experience was something every SigEp should try to have, because it was truly life-changing.
After realizing the impact that Ruck had on me, I had the chance to provide other brothers with that same experience and to assist with SigEp’s Program and Events (PnE) team. I applied to be a Rucktern midway through the Spring 2019 semester and received an exciting phone call asking if I was still interested in being a part of the team. I immediately called my mom and told her I was heading back to Richmond, this time to help others learned as much as I did.
Traveling down to Richmond for a second time was a bit surreal. I walked through the Richmond airport and although I had only been there twice before, I felt at home. I got a ride to the hotel I was staying at for the night, and there I met the other Rucktern, JD, a brother from Drake University. From the moment I met him, I could tell it was going to be a wonderful time.
My first full day in Richmond was a housekeeping day, creating bags for the scholars and bringing everything to the University of Richmond campus. It was the second day when the Scholars began to arrive at the airport that I started to understand what I was doing there. Welcoming Scholars and organizing buses to the campus, I interacted more than 100 brothers who were all as excited to be there as I was.
As the days progressed, I talked constantly with the PnE team about SigEp, life, and their experiences. I had the opportunity to speak to hugely impactful people in SigEp’s history, like Past Grand President Steve Shanklin and SigEp CEO Brian Warren. I learned more about SigEp’s history, about how headquarters operates, and formed incredibly meaningful relationships with those around me.
When I first applied to be a Rucktern, my goal was to give the current Ruck scholars as meaningful and impactful an experience as the one that I had the year prior. What I gained from being a Rucktern was so much more. For me, it was like a second Ruck experience, interacting with the PnE all day long for a week, talking about my goals and plans and learning so much about the people around me. Without them, I wouldn’t have been on the Ritual team at the 2019 Grand Chapter Conclave. Without them, I wouldn’t have ran for the National Board of Directors. I am so thankful for getting to work with Stacy, Laura, Alex, and Matt this summer and be involved with SigEp for as long as I can, to provide as many brothers with a meaningful experience like the one I have had.
It has always been clear that Jake is committed to Sigma Phi Epsilon and especially to our NJA chapter. He explained his involvement in the national fraternity through the PnE team, the Ritual team, and his run for the National Board of Directors. While very accomplished on this national scale, he is also very involved in the day to day business of our chapter. He, alongside Sam Young and Alex Murtagh, began hosting open door hours throughout the week for brothers to come and relax and talk about whatever is on their mind. He is very committed to the growth of individuals in the brotherhood through his roles as Epsilon and Brother Mentor coordinator.
We have heard from brothers Pujan Shah and Jacob Meisking about their lessons learned at the Ruck Leadership Institute and their plans for improving the New Jersey Alpha chapter. Next week we will hear from Greg Kortina and Jeff Sprague about the canoeing mixer with the Sigma Delta Tau sorority they organized on Saturday, September 7th.