At 4 a.m. last Thursday morning, armed with five hours of sleep, an extremely heavy garment bag, and enough cold medication on hand to keep three men healthy and satisfied, I embarked on a road trip to the San Francisco Bay area of California. Along for the ride were Derek and David, two of my fellow Delt brothers, both of whom were also fighting off nasty colds just as I was. But the state of our sinuses wasn't our worry. With ten and a half hours to go until we reached our hotel in Pleasanton, all that mattered was staying awake and getting to our destination in time.
The Bay area is super fun to visit, but we weren't skipping two days of classes for sightseeing. We were men on a mission. That mission: To attend the Delta Tau Delta Western Pacific Divisional Conference, a gathering of undergraduate and alumni Delts all seeking to improve the state of the fraternity. I had never attended one until this last weekend, so I wasn't sure what to expect from it aside from the rumors of wild parties in hotel rooms that I had heard about from other brothers. So at first, I was just focused on arriving safely. Between the three of us who were going, my car was the one best prepared to make the trek of 1,000 miles. My sheltered Sebring hadn't left the state since I had acquired it in high school, and I had just gotten its brakes replaced, so I was keeping my fingers crossed the entire drive out for good weather conditions and decent handling.
Luckily, the trip went as smoothly as it possibly could. We only made a couple of pit stops to change drivers and fill gas on the way to Pleasanton, and we were making fantastic time the whole way. We had arrived in Reno an hour earlier than we had anticipated, so early that In-N-Out Burger wasn't even open yet. Since it's basically a Rite of Passage on a trip to the west to have In-N-Out, we spent that hour we had gained napping in the car, dreaming of animal style burgers and fries. And even after we finished in Reno, our arrival in Pleasanton was way sooner than most other Delt chapters making the trip. We made it to the hotel three hours before we needed to be there for registration - talk about efficiency.
When registration finally opened, I got the chance to see the most Delts gathered in one place I had ever seen in my life. Over a hundred representatives from the chapters of the Western Pacific Division came for the conference, including delegations from the University of Oregon, University of Idaho, UCLA and Stanford, among other major institutions. Everyone I talked to was totally welcoming and willing to talk, despite my constant coughing and nose blowing. We all came from hundreds of miles away, and yet here we all were, united for an organization that has contributed so much to all of our lives.
The purpose of the conference was for the undergraduate delegations to learn techniques to improve their individual chapters. Much of this was done through a wide variety of workshops and lectures, ranging from broad topics like recruitment best practices and alumni engagement to specific ones, like running effective administrative meetings and having proper table etiquette. Almost all of these involved active engagement with the material - often the guys attending the lectures would be separated into small groups and asked to make a list or develop a hypothetical event, which were good brainstorming sessions as well as great chances to interact with guys from different chapters. Our Delt chapter at C of I is actually one of the smallest in the division; most guys I talked to at length come from chapters of 60, 80 or even 100 men. Our practices usually ended up different, of course, but I was able to put our own work into perspective a bit. Just because we have less men to work with doesn't mean we need to be less effective. We can always improve.
To that end, Derek, David and I also attended private meetings with advisors from the national office about our chapter's specific needs, and what our directions and goals needed to be. All of these were thought provoking discussions, and got all three of us really thinking about how we could best improve our chapter.
All of this would have been awesome enough, but at the end of the conference, our chapter was honored in a big way. Every divisional conference ends with award ceremonies, handing out major awards to chapters based on their performance in philanthropy, recruitment and academics during the previous year. I don't think that any of the three of us expected to bring home anything major, but we did. Our chapter, little Theta Psi at The College of Idaho, was awarded Court of Honor distinction (that fancy gavel in the picture). It doesn't sound like much, but it really is - out of the 124 Delt chapters in the country, we are ranked in the Top 20. Our small, 28 man chapter. We're one of the best in the nation. Naturally, we're all super excited. With this award, we know that placing in the Top 10 next year isn't an impossibility. That would be an even greater honor for our small little chapter.
All in all, it was a fantastic trip, even if I was too sick to enjoy any sightseeing opportunity (colds are exhausting, folks!). It was totally worth the speeding ticket I received on the way back in Nevada, too. $75 is a small price to pay for all the alumni I met, the actives I met, and the awards we received. I can't wait for next year's conference!
Clayton is a junior creative writing major from Meridian, Idaho.