From the Ground Up: Area Alumni, Recruitment Specialists Help Vanderbilt Colony Stand Out Among the Crowd
Several guys in the new colony at Vanderbilt University crowded into an off-campus apartment April 17 for an executive meeting, one of their firsts. It was 10 p.m., but they didn’t seem to mind. They were eager to plan out the rest of the school year and all of next year. From events they want to attend to philanthropies they want to host, they brainstormed ways to make sure their campus community knows they’re back, and they’re better than ever.
Leading that meeting was Sachin Sanam, the recently appointed High Alpha. He decided to join the fraternity just three months ago. Now, he was catching his newfound brothers up on everything they needed to know about the colony and the General Fraternity. They listened closely as he stood at the front of the living room. They took notes and chimed in when necessary.
Sanam had no intention of joining Greek Life until Recruitment Specialist Dylan Bateman reached out to him. Bateman had a lot of questions for Sanam — his job is to make sure all of the guys are a good fit. But Sanam had a lot of questions for Bateman, too. He was intrigued. He especially liked that Lambda Chi seemed to be at the forefront of raising sexual assault awareness, something that is very important to Sanam and his brothers.
“I wanted to make sure that what I was getting myself into meshed with my own personal values, and I wanted to make sure I could really dedicate myself and get behind this,” Sanam said.
He has certainly dedicated himself. It is a painstaking process, he said frankly, but one that is worthwhile. The colony is already a member of Vanderbilt’s Interfraternity Council (IFC).
“A lot of people recognize us already,” he said.
A lot of area alumni have already gotten involved as well. They’re thrilled to have a local chapter again.
“They don’t control us, that’s the best part,” Sanam said. “They just give us guidance. We truly appreciate how much they have put into helping us grow.”
In fact, it is an alumnus who offered up his apartment for the meeting. Vee Basukala graduated a few years ago from the University of Montevallo, where he was initiated into Lambda Chi Alpha. Now, he is a law student at Vanderbilt.
“Lambda Chi was such a big part of my college experience, and it’s something that made such a big difference in my life, so sharing that in Nashville and in the Vanderbilt community is something that needed to happen. It’s just something that should be there,” Basukala said.
The positive experiences he had during his undergraduate years is the reason he is lending a hand at Vanderbilt. He credits the fraternity for bringing him out of his shell.
“I used to be the shy, quiet, foreign kid. But Lambda Chi helped me gain that self confidence. Sometimes I feel like it gave me way too much confidence,” he joked.
“The thing about Lambda Chi is you don’t have to fit in a certain box. You don’t have to be a certain type or act a certain way. You don’t have to be a stereotype to be in a fraternity, and I know they will break that barrier here at Vanderbilt,” he continued. “They’re a mismatched puzzle, but they somehow all fit together to create a good, overall, big picture.”
He has high hopes for the colony as it transitions to a chapter.
“I think there is a bad rep for fraternities these days,” Basukala said. “But I think this chapter has the potential to change that image.”
Stuart Weise, an alumnus of the University of Central Florida chapter, will serve as the High Pi. Weise lives in Nashville where he is an Executive Vice President at Renasant Bank. He attended the Neville Advisor’s College earlier this year to prepare for his role with the colony.
“I am very pleased and honored to be able to help move this chapter forward with these young men,” Weise said.
Communication has been constant and positive, he added.
Weise was at the meeting April 17. He was so impressed by how far the guys have come in such a short period of time.
“I’ve seen a lot of our chapters over my years, and I have to say, from the onset, these young men have done an exceptional job,” he said. “They’ve got lofty goals — very lofty goals. We’ve had a lot of discussions about how to build this organization to be the best on campus. We want them to really focus on our core ideals and values … I’ve been very impressed by their significant interest in not only forming this organization to be just another fraternity on campus, but being leaders on the campus.”
Something all the guys seem to agree about is they want to see change — on campus, in Nashville and in the Greek community.
Lucus Cheng, a sophomore economics major at Vanderbilt, knew deep down he wanted to be part of a Greek organization. But it had to be a very specific kind of organization, he said.
Lambda Chi fit the bill.
“The values of Lambda Chi Alpha really kind of generated a deep response in me,” Cheng said. “I knew immediately it would be a good fit for me.”
Being a Lambda Chi already means so much to him.
“I think the phrase ‘Brothers for Life’ is something that really struck a chord in me … this is for life,” he said. “I’ve met so many alumni in the area who have reached out to us and connected with us, and it made me realize that this is way bigger than just something that happens for four years in school. This is something that goes throughout your entire life.”
Cheng, who is now serving as High Beta, said it has been a rollercoaster ride since January when word about Lambda Chi’s expansion at Vanderbilt got out. Everything happened so quickly. But already, the guys are eager to jump in and get involved.
“I think if we make our presence known around campus as the group of guys who get involved a lot, it’s going to be only good news for us,” he said.
Bateman couldn’t agree more.
“Being in the Nashville community, there is a lot of need in that area, so my hope is that these guys can help fill that void a little bit,” Bateman said.
At Vanderbilt, every student he came across was high caliber, he said, so he got to be even more selective than usual. And it shows. He spent eight weeks on campus with the guys building the colony.
“Once we got up and running, I got to know the guys on a deeper level and they got to know each other, and they really started to form that bond that we look for. The highlight of my experience was just watching that relationship grow, but also building a relationship with them myself,” Bateman said. “It’s so fun to see something start from the ground up.”
As for Sanam, he’s still discovering what it means to be a Lambda Chi, he said.
“At the moment, it truly means to me brotherhood. Everyone in (this) organization, we have our faults, but we also have things that we’re good at, and I think what we’re really good at is taking what we do have and celebrating it.”
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