The following is a guest post written by Chris Brooks who has attended the Balfour Leadership Training Workshop 8 years in a row. The last 4 years have been as a faculty member. Chris will discuss BLTW and why this past year at Chapel Hill was special.
One of the greatest things about the Balfour Leadership Training Workshop is that every brother’s experience is a little different. Actually, every brother’s individual experience changes every year as well.his summer marked my 8th BLTW in a row, including my 4th year on faculty. I classify myself as someone in-between experience levels. I am not a veteran facilitator nor am I a rookie at Workshop, I am simply a brother who goes every year to enrich the lives of undergraduates and, selfishly, to enrich my own life.
So, how was BLTW this year from my eyes? It was truly amazing. Other than dining hall lines that never seemed to end and a few shenanigans early in the week, this workshop topped my list of favorites. I will explain why, but first I want to thank Chris Brown and the entire BLOB, as well as Headquarters Staff, for ensuring every participant had a great time!
So, why has this workshop topped my list? Let’s start off with the curriculum. Even though some might view BLTW as a chance to come and party in a new city with a ton of brothers, the real meat of BLTW is the curriculum and what you learn while you are there. I really felt that this year’s curriculum was a slam dunk. We spent the right amount of time on nuts and bolts training, but we didn’t leave out the leadership theory that is so important to our undergraduate officers. The best part about this: they coexisted beautifully in practice and design. In addition to our small group learning, I heard brothers continue discussions in between groups, on their way to meals, and while eating pizza at SigFest. That marks great curriculum, when the discussions continue beyond the “classroom.”
One of my favorite parts of this year’s workshop was the return of the distinguished faculty program, now known as the distinguished visitor program. One thing we always pride ourselves on in Sigma Chi is the great success so many of our alumni have had, but it is not very common for brothers (especially undergraduate brothers) to meet these remarkable men. The return of this program made that possible this year. I personally met two of these brothers this year, Watts Wacker and Sam Haskell. While their biographies are impressive, it was what they offered in development that made a difference.
Brother Wacker gave a presentation that challenged how we thought about what we call leadership. He asked brothers what they thought about various leaders through history and challenged us all to continue our growth. The best thing I heard from Brother Wacker came after his presentation to the Magister division when he said that to be successful, “You have to learn to love to learn.” It seems like such a simple concept but many people today give up on learning and developing themselves when they graduate college, or in some cases long before that. Challenging yourself to learn is a cornerstone of Sigma Chi teachings and this quote summed it up perfectly. (On a side note, along with being inspirational, Brother Wacker is extremely funny and an amazing brother. I encourage you to meet him if you can, but at least look him up on YouTube and see one of his speeches.)
I met Brother Haskell when he popped into our small group room during an evening session. As many facilitators do, I promised the brothers in my group we would get done early so they could get to SigFest and enjoy their nights. A clear indication of the value of Brother Haskell’s presence was that even though we got out later than planned, the brothers, including me, wanted to stay even longer to hear him speak. Brother Haskell was the Magister at Mississippi during his undergraduate years and he still speaks of that time with passion most men don’t exhibit over anything but Monday Night Football. He ignited the room with making a difference in the lives of their pledges and being there for them through their lives. I was thankful to hear him speak as it inspired me to continue making a difference in any way I can. I have since purchased and started reading his book, Promises I Made My Mother and so far am enthralled. His inspiration continues and having met him in person makes it an even better experience.
So, those are some of the big picture reasons I loved BLTW this year, but of course there are many other reasons. BLTW provides an annual reunion of all of my greatest friends. I might only see some of my brothers once a year, but I look forward to it for 365 days until it comes around again. This year was no different and I am reenergized in those friendships. The brotherhood never fades from those friendships and BLTW is proof of that. It is also a time for new friendships to be cultivated and now I can’t wait to see even more people next year! And, who doesn’t love to see 1800+ brothers in one place? I know that downtown economy of Chapel Hill was certainly stimulated!
This post doesn’t begin to cover an entire BLTW experience. I could go on for years about why I go, where my dedication comes from, why I love the torture of heat and humidity every year, but I think you get it. If you don’t, I encourage you to go next year. I cannot imagine a summer without BLTW and look forward to number nine next year. I want to, once again, thank everyone who blew this year out of the water, including every brother in attendance. I cannot wait to see how next year improves. Also, a quick shout out to my Magister small group! I want to close with the final line of the closing video (Great Job Ansley):
“What will you do? What will your verse be? Will you guard our honor? This Is Sigma Chi!”
In Hoc My Brothers,