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Sigma Nu Institute Sets the Bar for Leadership Training Across All Chapters

With more than 150 Sigma Nu chapters and colonies across the country, a challenge for the Fraternity is creating national leadership training and education that leads to local chapter strength.

This ideal was the driving force behind the Sigma Nu Institute in 2006, which established a positive learning environment for participants to grow and improve as officers.

“Both newly elected and mid-term officers benefit from participation in the program through exposure to, and education on, the knowledge and skills necessary to perform their duties successfully and effectively,” said Scott Smith (Central Arkansas), Director of Leadership Development for Sigma Nu Fraternity.

The Sigma Nu Institute complements existing Fraternity leadership training, expanding on the one-day LEAD (leadership, ethics, achievement, development) and Values-Based Recruitment Institutes the Fraternity held across the country each year through the 2000s.

The Sigma Nu Institute takes leadership training to the next level. It focuses on vital components of all chapters -- key programs, policies, and procedures -- with the goal of consistency regardless of geography or demographics.

Operational functions, such as laws and policies, dues, financial management practices, the Pursuit of Excellence Program, and recruitment philosophy, should also be uniformly carried out across all Sigma Nu chapters.

“Gathering as many new officers as possible to build a regional support network and learn the key components of their job as early in their term as possible [benefits] the entire chapter,” Smith said.

The Early Days of the Institute

Initially, the Sigma Nu Institute focused on Commander training. In its pilot offering in January 2006, the Fraternity invited 24 Commanders from across the country to Headquarters in Lexington, Va., for a weekend event. The reviews were positive.

“Results of the pilot indicated participants found significant value in the program and believed it should be continued…as well as expanded,” Smith said.

Two years later, in the spring of 2008, the Sigma Nu Institute curriculum was packaged with existing leadership programs and offered at six regional sites through a one-day “drive-in” training session.

Past staff members Travis Galloway (Washington) and Shekhar Hazarika (South Florida) kick off a 2016 Institute in Cleveland, Ohio.

In addition to the geographic expansion, the target audience also grew beyond Commanders to include other key officer positions – with the Institute serving five top officer positions each year. This ensures continuity of leadership and helps chapter officers successfully navigate the “learning curve” of leadership - whether it’s their first office or a transition to a new one.

“The assumption is officers are likely to move into other roles in their chapters, and so the Institute provides a base of both hard and soft skills that can transfer to other roles in the Fraternity,” Smith explained.

He noted many skills such as goal setting, delegation, leading with values, and the importance of vision and planning are key functions in all positions. Once instilled, these traits are valuable across the board.

Since 2006, more than 7,000 members have been educated through the 152 Sigma Nu Institutes held over that time, growing from 6 to 14 regional events held each year. The Institute has garnered consistently high ratings from attendees who take valuable lessons learned back to their home chapters.

“Further, each year, the program shows statistically significant improvements in participant competencies for their role,” Smith added.

The success of the Sigma Nu Institute also laid the foundation for the Fraternity’s highly acclaimed College of Chapters, reformatted in 2012, with training targeted specifically for chapter Commanders.

“Looking back, the Institute was a pre-cursor to the Commanders training and ended up serving as a proof of concept and pilot for what came to be the annual College of Chapters model,” Smith explained.

The Impact of the Pandemic on Training

In 2021, one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sigma Nu Institute program was delivered virtually and expanded from focusing on five officer positions delivered across three tracks to 10 learning tracks across 12 officer positions. Additionally, committee members and Fraternity volunteers were invited to participate in the virtual program.

The training was hosted on three dates in different time zones, providing flexibility for participation.

“Despite the varied locations and times, the curriculum was identical across all versions,” Smith explained. “This allowed officers from the same chapter to take the training together – or individually - as it fit their schedule.”

This year, the Fraternity is continuing the virtual model for the Institute, which has proven successful in providing and expanding targeted training for its members.

“Virtual delivery allows the Institute training to be provided to more officers at more chapters on key programs, policies, procedures, and resources they’ll need to be successful in 2022,” said Smith.

While he believes in-person Institutes will return, the success of virtual instruction is one positive outcome of the pandemic.

“I anticipate a virtual, national Institute will be one thing the Fraternity takes with it out of the pandemic,” Smith said. “Virtual national events allow all chapters – regardless of geography – to participate and for the training to be conducted even earlier in each officer's term than the in-person events."

Collegiate officers prepare chapter goals at the College of Chapters. The Sigma Nu Institute serves as a complement to the College of Chapters curriculum.

© 2015-2022 Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc.
9 North Lewis Street, P.O. Box 1869, Lexington, Virginia 24450
Phone: (540) 463-1869 | Fax: (540) 463-1669 | Email: headquarters@sigmanu.org

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