Last week I embarked on my first solo visit as a national advisor. My destination was the swampy land of one of my old SEC arch-foes the Florida Gators. I came with full intentions of putting aside our past differences and fully assimilating into this new Gator persona. I am not afraid to post here on the internet for the whole world to say that I very much enjoyed my time as a member of Gator Nation and even have posted a picture of me doing the famed and feared Gator chomp. All joking aside the men of Florida BYX continuously impressed me last weekend and made me proud to participate in every bit of UF spirit that I could.
|National Advisor Brian Baudoin and Dylan Cronk|
I was met on Friday by National Initiatives Chair Jacob Goetz. I’d love to bottle up the hype and excitement that he has for BYX and spread it around to pretty much every other BYX guy in the country. He had an uncanny passion for BYX that I know will serve the chapter well in the future.
As I tell all my chapters, I told Florida President Dean Tzobanakis to take me out for dinner at an authentic Gainesville spot. I cherish the opportunity to go anywhere around Florida’s campus with the gorgeous Spanish Moss and Palm Trees everywhere on campus. I had the pleasure of eating at a place called the Swamp with some current and potential future officers.
I experienced a burger with a sunny side up egg on top for the first time and let me tell you: it was quite glorious. At one point, former Florida and current NBA star Joakim Noah took a seat behind us and showed up in our group picture. Some would say that he just happened to be in the background of our picture by fluke. The Florida BYX guys will tell you that Joakim Noah photo-bombed their picture.
|Upsilon Chapter Officer Team with Brian Baudoin.|
The main focus of my trip was attending UF’s pledge retreat. This chapter has never lacked on their brotherhood. Recruiting on a campus of 50,000 with competing Christian fraternities and organizations has been a consistent struggle though.
This year the men have turned a corner, bringing in ten pledges as their Iota pledge class, the biggest the chapter has ever seen. There is a difference, however, in recruiting for the sake of numbers and recruiting quality men. My goal this weekend was to find out the caliber of men that Florida has recruited this semester. The officer corps did an outstanding job on summer recruitment and yielded fantastic results.
This pledge class continually impressed me over the weekend. The first order of business upon arrival at the campground was a UF tradition in which the pledge class must build a cross. The men ended up building a cross that was easily over 15 feet tall and took much pride in their work. Pride in their class is without a doubt the one characteristic about this pledge class that stands out above the rest. It is obvious that the officer corps has instilled a deep respect for the fraternity in these guys’ hearts, and it was incredibly encouraging to see in person.
That night we sent the pledges off with some round table questions that were designed to break down some walls and help the guys to really know each other. While it was only intended for the pledges the actives of the chapter volunteered to answer the questions together in a separate group which I got to join in on.
|The Iota Pledge Class finishes their cross.|
These men truly take brotherhood seriously, and, even though it stormed so hard that night that our tents began to flood, neither the pledges nor the actives stopped until everyone had a chance to answer every question. It should be noted that the pledges’ cross was able to withstand the ferocious storm. This was my first true camping experience, and nature had a little bit of a rude awakening in store for me. Despite the weather not being ideal, these men showed excellent commitment and exemplary attitudes, which will pay huge dividends for the chapter in the future.
Monday was filled with meetings. By the time I was finished, I was highly exhausted and encouraged about the future of this chapter. First off, I was able to meet with Jason the UF pledge captain. Jason is a shepherd for his men and for this pledge class. He is protective of his guys and goes to great lengths to serve them. We ended up having to meet twice because his vision for pledge retreat took up our whole first meeting. Jason makes sure things get done right, and I know his pledges see that from him.
Next up was President Dean Tzobanakis. I really cannot type up enough pages on this blog to accurately convey how much Dean has poured into this chapter during his time on the officer corps. If there was ever a guy who understood what BYX was truly about, it’s Dean. Dean and some other members have moved into a very nice house close to campus that has been deemed the BYX house and have even carved giant BYX letters to put in front of the house. It’s a great venue for hosting social events and will serve the chapter well.
My meetings picked up Monday with Secretary Kyle Stillfield. Kyle is an incredibly capable secretary and a credit to this officer corps. His administrative, communication and networking abilities are a huge asset to the chapter.
|President Dean Tzobonakis|
Up next was Chaplain Michael Keen. Michael is a recently married member of the Florida Chapter. Michael has a rock-solid vision of the core values of BYX. He was truly a joy to visit with, and it was a great to see him help with the big brother reveal ceremony.
When I met with Vice President Jacob Power, it really fired me up. Florida BYX has been continually working to increase its campus presence and Jacob has a great plan for that. The first part of the plan is getting involved in campus and sorority philanthropies, and it is going to pay dividends for the chapter.
Treasurer Davis Watkins was my final officer meeting. Davis has put in great efforts to find innovative ways to fundraise for the chapter. I was able to work through some ideas with him and his willingness to serve in this capacity is going to allow the chapter to do things financially they haven’t before.
|Iota Pledge Class|
My trip ended with witnessing the chapter’s Big Brother reveal ceremony. I can honestly say it was one of the coolest locations for a ceremony I’ve ever seen. The ritual was pulled off to near perfection and deeply moved me.
We hope that big things are in store for the Florida Chapter. The past year has yielded more growth in recruitment and more growth socially than ever before. The men are building momentum that we hope to see take the chapter to a healthier level than they have ever been at. I could not be more excited to watch the growth of these men over the next year.
President Dean Tzobnakis gives an update on the
Upsilon Chapter of BYX.