|Sigma Phi Epsilon returns from life changing quest to Greece|
|Written by Ariana M. Taylor, Daily Vidette Features Editor|
|Tuesday, 24 July 2012 16:54|
Sigma Phi Epsilon is a social fraternity founded on the principles of virtue, diligence, and brotherly love. On June 14-24, the fraternity, also known as SigEp, held its 12th Tragos Quest to Greece, which further embraced their motto of “building balanced men.”
“The trip is called Tragos Quest to Greece and it is named after one of our past grand presidents Bill Tragos. It’s SigEp’s premiere leadership experience where sixteen undergraduates are chosen from around the country, after hundreds apply. The trip is fully funded by the fraternity and for ten days sixteen undergraduates and five mentors travel across the country of Greece,” Messersmith said.
Despite the beautiful scenery, the men of Sigma Phi Epsilon stayed focus as they had assigned readings and were accompanied by a professor from the University of Crete. In the mornings, the fraternity men would have discussions about mythology and the readings of Greece, and relate them back to today’s society.
“We would get on the bus and see ancient ruins somewhere whether it was the Temple of Apollo or Olympia … it was big things in Greece that we had read about that we got to see in real life. The purpose of the trip is for the men to have this experience in Greece, where modern-day philosophy was said to have begun, and then have conversations and tie them back to our fraternity with the idea that when these men [return home] they will be forever changed, and then they in turn will give back to the next generation,” he said.
Seeing the ancient ruins was merely one of the many unforgettable moments Messersmith encountered in Greece.
“Midway through the trip we’re in Delphi and this is where the oracle of Delphi was said to be, so people would travel to this oracle and stand in line for days to have a prophecy told to them. It’s also where the Temple of Apollo was … so this night, we did our fraternity’s ritual on a cliff overlooking Delphi, which is just amazing,” he explained.
The Greek considered it the center of the universe and our ritual is the center of our fraternity and that’s the one thing that bonds all of us together. So we’re doing the ritual on this cliff overlooking ancient ruins and it was emotionally overwhelming. You walk in and you see these three ancient stones that all of our ritual stuff is on and you’re realizing how few men get to participate in this … it was unbelievable.”
Shane McKee, member development manager with Sigma Phi Epsilon, was Messersmith’s roommate during the trip and served as the program lead. Looking out over Delphi was an amazing experience for McKee as well, for he explained that he lost his biological brother to suicide when he was in college.
“I never thought I would be whole again. However, experiences like this do that. Although my own brother is gone, I am honored and humbled to have my SigEp brothers who have been there for me through thick and thin ever since,” he said.
According to Messersmith, another remarkable instance was during SigEp’s wrap-up session when a member said “why don’t we all go home and build a Parthenon in our chapter.” In Greece, the Parthenon was a place of “coming together and philosophizing.” He added that the sixteen men selected were the right men for the trip and the mentors were the right mentors for the trip.
Dan Sullivan, chapter president at Quinnipiac University, was honored to be chosen for the Tragos Quest to Greece which he explained to be “the most competitive and most selective.”
“After learning about the quest during our EDGE program, the first stage of the leadership continuum, I realized that my interests of history, philosophy, and personal development aligned with the program’s purpose. Out of 15,000 undergraduates, only 16 are able to say they were chosen to participate. Once I found out I was selected, I was overwhelmed with joy, and even brought to tears, that I would have the opportunity to study abroad and leave the continental U.S. for the first time ever,” Sullivan said.
He added that his experience in Greece positively altered his perception of the world.
“One sunny afternoon, we hiked a mountain that led to the cave of Dionysus, the god of wine. As we took a step inside, dampness and darkness surrounded us while we explored the cave that dug hundreds of yards into the earth. During a prior lecture, we discussed Plato’s allegory of the cave. In that literature, a prisoner is chained in a cave, unaware of the world outside of it. When he is released, he learns that perception and reality were totally different, and that realization helped him to better understand the world,” he explained. “Studying this allegory taught me that every time I open my mind to learn something new, my perception of the world around me is changed. When we reached the cave, I physically transferred from darkness to light, exemplifying the transformation that occurs when we learn new things. The connection and harmony between the physical world and intellectual world is one that I will never forget.”
McKee’s responsibility is to manage all of SigEp’s leadership programs and events; therefore he initially desired to attend this trip in order to gain insight into how to improve future trips, allowing them to “have an even greater impact on the men.”
“Each day we challenged [the undergraduates], encouraged them, and debated with them … and each day there seemed to be growth and additional insights popping up everywhere. As a Ph.D. student studying men and masculinity and writing my dissertation on the experiences of college men, I was extremely excited to host a session for the guys on better understanding themselves and their masculinity ... which they latched on to and discussed for hours ... and many of them said it was their favorite topic to talk about. The plan is to write this conversation topic into the curriculum for future trips,” McKee explained.
McKee added that he is “re-inspired and re-energized” to do his work at SigEp headquarters. To add, the quest enabled him to see how using his cell-phone and computer frequently was taking away from his life.
He said, “I am re-inspired and re-energized not just because of what I saw in the undergrads, but also from what I saw from myself and the other mentors. Going on trips like this with exceptional students is what working in education is all about … Also, being unplugged for so many days helped me realize how much of my life has passed by while I was on my computer or cellphone. So I have done a better job unplugging back in the state and not getting back into my old stupid routines.
Lastly, I am a better man as a result of this trip. It is hard to go on a trip like this with so many exceptional men and not become a better man simply as a result of being around these types of individuals. They all had great stories, had overcome obstacles, achieved amazing things, stayed humbled, and that is something I take from each one of them. We are all different men as a result of this trip, we are all more balanced men.”
Messersmith encourages sorority and fraternity members to seek out what their organization has to offer, even after graduation.
“A lot of people when they join fraternities and sororities think that it’s four and done, like they’re going to do their four years and they’re out. A fraternal experience can be life changing and it can continue to change your life. Sig Ep has transformed my life … I am a different person because of Sig Ep,” he added. “I truly believe that if people join fraternal organizations, it can change their lives forever but they have to be open to it.”