Chapter Advisory Boards

What they are and why they are important

Think about the last time you started a project or new endeavor from scratch. How did you begin? Likely, you sought research and guidance from those who have either previously done something similar or who have expertise or experience helpful to you. You learn tricks of the trade, gain historical context, receive advice, and sometimes gain a friend or mentor. When it comes to managing a fraternity chapter, the same concept applies.

In Delta Upsilon, a Chapter Advisory Board (CAB) is designed to provide consistent support and guidance to an undergraduate chapter. This group of advisors provides a chapter—particularly the Executive Board—with a guiding hand when it comes to chapter operations and building brotherhood. CABs are an integral part of Delta Upsilon’s success and future. The Fraternity continues to see that one thing each strong DU undergraduate chapter has in common is a highly functioning Chapter Advisory Board.

What is a Chapter Advisory Board?

Guides. Mentors. Coaches. Advocates. Stewards. Supporters. Challengers. These are some of the words that can describe members of a Chapter Advisory Board. These dedicated volunteers help guide a chapter to reach its highest potential and can be DU alumni or any non-DU with the desire and skills to help. A CAB’s goal is not to do the jobs of the undergraduate chapter’s Executive Board, but to provide insight, reminders and assistance when needed.

Adam Culley, Northern Iowa ’00, has served DU as an advisor for much of his time as an alumnus. As a Leadership Consultant for the Fraternity after graduation, he recruited advisors for the two chapters he helped start. Then, as a campus professional at North Carolina State University, he has advised for not only the DU chapter, but alongside the other campus fraternities and sororities, as well. From his perspective, advising is about connecting chapters to resources, building relationships and being available to students.

“It’s great to help the students brainstorm, help them think about where they are with their leadership, show them how they can overcome some of the challenges they are facing, and say, ‘You are not alone in this.’”

Ideally, a CAB consists of nine volunteer advisors—an Advisory Board Chairman and one advisor for each member of the chapter’s Executive Board. However, it is possible to have strong CABs with fewer than nine advisors. The most important thing to note is that one advisor cannot do it all. Two (or more) heads are always better than one, and sharing the workload leads to less burnout and a stronger advisory experience.

The CAB should meet at least once per semester/quarter, keep in frequent contact with the Executive Board, and attend various chapter meetings and ceremonies. 

How is a Chapter Advisory Board Different from an Alumni Chapter?

Every undergraduate Delta Upsilon chapter has a corresponding alumni chapter made up of its alumni. These alumni chapters exist to keep alumni connected to the Fraternity and the undergraduate chapter, providing opportunities for networking, reunions and more. Many alumni chapters remain very active even if the undergraduate chapter has closed.

In the past, alumni chapter officers would most often serve as advisors to the undergraduate chapter, in addition to planning events and initiatives for the alumni. This mixture of responsibilities proved challenging as focus, time and resources would run thin. For this reason, today, Delta Upsilon recommends having a CAB that operates separately from the alumni chapter officers.

Members of a CAB can most definitely be members of the chapter’s alumni chapter, but it is not required. For example, an alumnus from a different DU chapter who lives in the area can make a great advisor, as can a local non-member. And alumni chapters can help recruit advisors and support the undergraduate chapter in many ways—scholarships, housing assistance, fundraising, mentorship, etc. By having separate boards, both the undergraduate and alumni chapters benefit from extra attention, and it provides more volunteer opportunities for interested alumni. Two good examples can be found in the Kansas State Chapter and Syracuse Colony.

According to Frank York, Kansas State ’71, the Kansas State Chapter, which has received the Sweepstakes Trophy four the past five years (2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016), attributes much of its recent success to the addition of a CAB. It’s current CAB model, which began in the early 2010s, has allowed the undergraduate chapter to have strong role models and mentors, and for the alumni chapter to focus on alumni and other needs the undergraduate chapter has outside of support with day-to-day operations. With an alumni chapter board of 12, the group has been able to focus on Founders Day events, a quarterly alumni publication, an alumni/undergraduate golf tournament, fundraising and more.

When the Syracuse Colony officially re-started in fall 2016, the alumni set up three groups: a CAB, a Housing Corporation Board and a foundation. The CAB features eight advisors. The House Corporation Board deals with all things housing for the undergraduate chapter, and the nonprofit foundation focuses on raising funds to help the undergraduate chapter. As a result, the Syracuse Colony has became one of the strongest and fastest-growing DU colonies in recent years.

“With the return of our undergraduate brotherhood, our three distinct boards each have critical responsibilities and all must be strong to successfully support the colony,” said Ken Hyman, Syracuse ’88, who serves as the Advisory Board Chairman. “Having three boards provides more options for alumni who want to get involved and reduces the time commitment that any single alumnus must take on.”  

Why Should You Become an Advisor?

Delta Upsilon is always looking for dedicated men and women to serve as part of a Chapter Advisory Board. The Fraternity currently has 75 active undergraduate chapters and colonies, and one expansion (Illinois State University) scheduled for fall 2017. While some chapters have full CABs, others have just one advisor.

For Craig Sowell, Houston ’92, serving as an advisor is a no-brainer. He loves Delta Upsilon and is willing to serve in any way when asked. He is a former advisor for his home chapter and a current advisor for the Texas Colony.

“These young men of the Texas Colony have made a decision, and in that decision, they have chosen to care about something I deeply care about,” Sowell said. “If they care about Delta Upsilon, then how can I not care about them?”

Sowell chose to advise the vice president of administration for the Texas Colony based on his level of interest and expertise as a former International Headquarters staff member and DU historian. By leveraging his knowledge and passions, he is able to help the colony even more.

“The men at Texas are bright and intelligent and certainly capable of starting a fraternity on their own,” Sowell said. “But with no real precedent in front of them, they are literally starting their own experience from scratch … I think alumni involvement is critical to teach them how to be a Delta Upsilon fraternity man. We have to be there to live out the Principles and be an example of what DU is about and show them what a DU man looks like.”

While undergraduate chapters and Executive Board officers clearly benefit from the guidance and mentorship of advisors, it is a mutually beneficial experience. Advisors also gain from the experience in many ways. They can sharpen leadership skills, reconnect to the Fraternity, create deep friendships, enhance professional skills and more.

“I have formed very deep relationships with the other advisors who I respect and admire,” Hyman said. “Plus, the colony members are really great men. I sincerely enjoy every interaction with them and consider them my friends, as well. [The experience] has been tremendously rewarding.”

To help its advisors, the International Fraternity offers training at its educational programs like the Leadership Institute and the Advisors Academy held in conjunction with the Regional Leadership Academy. A monthly advisor webinar series provides added continuing education to advisors on a wide variety of topics.

Culley, like Sowell and many others, has also found great benefit from advising a DU chapter this is not their own. After his chapter, Northern Iowa, closed in 2008, the North Carolina State Chapter members and alumni adopted him as one of their own.

“I don’t think I truly understood what it meant to be a member of Delta Upsilon as an undergraduate,” Culley said. “For me, it really started to connect as an adivsor and realized this really is a lifelong membership. Building the relationships and seeing the growth and development in the students, that’s the best part.” 

How Do You Become an Advisor?

To become an advisor for a Delta Upsilon undergraduate chapter near you, reach out to Senior Director of Chapter Development Michelle Marchand at marchand@deltau.org