Brother David Hidinger, Oklahoma State (pictured on the far left) has been the lead facilitator for the Noble Man Institute since 2017. The following is an open letter from him to the past and future Noble Man Institute Attendees about the program and its impact.
I wanted to share my thoughts on the best program our organization offers to undergraduate brothers – Noble Man Institute, or NMI; a program that I have had the opportunity to facilitate for many years and a weekend that I always look forward to attending.
Something about the fresh air of camp, instead of the stuffy conference room of Webb, and the comfort of jeans and a polo over a suit and tie, and the chaos of a competitive game of Gaga ball over the chaos of navigating active member rolls or the screams of someone being swung off the largest Y climbing wall in North America over the screams of realizing how much debt a chapter is in provides a new pep in my step. I share this same remark every year – having facilitated both – my preference is without a doubt NMI. Both are vital to our organization, and none more important than Webb Academy, but while Webb is job training for leaders within a chapter to be successful at their elected position – NMI is about potential. The potential to make new friends, the potential to improve a chapter, and the potential to become a better person.
While it is not the oldest of our programming, in fact being established in 2016 I believe it may be the newest, I’d like to touch on some reasons why it provides such value to our organization and the members that attend it. NMI does the following:
- Serves as an early touchpoint between newly initiated brothers and Headquarters (HQ)
- Provides a perspective on our organization as a national fraternity
- Allows them to form connections outside of their chapter
- Creates a leadership development pipeline
- Frames Sigma Tau Gamma as a lifelong commitment
- NMI introduces brothers to our headquarters staff and national volunteers in a positive manner and creates an opportunity for open communication. This allows a relationship to be built between both parties prior to an issue needing to be addressed. Creating a firsthand experience provides newly initiated brothers a critical data point in developing their own opinion towards HQ, a far less biased one than they will receive from their older chapter brothers, other fraternity gentlemen on campus, and whatever it is they see on social media.
At NMI, I have seen countless times where the light bulb turns on for a brother that there are Sig Taus at other schools. Men that share the same values, ideals, and aspirations that they have to exist across the entire country. The comprehension that our organization is bigger and older than they originally understood challenges their understanding of the world and opens them up to learning.
With that understanding, they quickly begin to compare and contrast the challenges that their chapters face, how Greek life operates on their respective campuses, and what differences exist between schools in different regions and varying sizes. The reality is that a brother from the University of Alabama has a different collegiate experience and perspective from a brother at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Though different environments, the underlying principles of our organization, the challenges they face, and each brother’s station in life are quite similar. This mix of similar values and different environments serves as a primordial soup for innovation and thinking about brotherhood, leadership, and community.
Structuring these ingredients is world-class material and programming on leadership development that is energized by the thrill of the outdoors, activities, and games, the allure of self-improvement, and the promise of a stronger chapter. All of this is then directed through talented small-circle facilitators to drive a process of growth and connection for each brother.
If recruiting is the lifeblood of an organization, then leadership development is cardio. A strong heart results in better chapters, higher quality recruitment, reduced risk of heart attack and stroke dangerous behavior and poor performance, and increased quality of undergraduate experience for all chapter members. NMI starts brothers down a path of leadership development that they didn’t know they needed to pursue or if they did, were unsure how to begin.
On a quiet, otherwise unremarkable, weekend in the Fall and Spring each year, members from all across the country join me and our talented facilitators and dedicated staff to embark on a journey that will change their lives forever. The work we do at this event lays a foundation of excellent leadership within Sigma Tau Gamma and ensures a bright future. None of what we do would be possible without your generous support.
David A. Hidinger
Epsilon Psi ‘13