For over twenty years now, the Ruck Leadership Institute has been SigEp’s premier leadership-oriented program that focuses on helping undergraduate members learn valuable skills to better themselves as leaders, and to bring new ideas back to their respective chapters. Traditionally, this program takes place each Summer in Richmond, Virginia and brings together both active and alumni members for an unforgettable week-long learning experience.
“Ruck 2019 really opened up for me the full scope of what SigEp can be,” said Cooper Whiteleather, a rising junior in Virginia Kappa studying Materials Science and Engineering who attended last year’s Ruck experience. “Exposure to brothers from across the nation, as well as generations of alumni and volunteers was a more enriching experience than I ever could have hoped for.”
When the members of Virginia Kappa applied to be a part of this Summer 2020’s Ruck Leadership Institute, no one had the slightest idea of just how much life would change shortly after their applications were due. The global coronavirus pandemic shifted their entire Spring semester to an online experience, and in many other areas of involvement, their activities had to resort to platforms such as Zoom to engage one-another.
For those who had applied to Ruck, they were informed that the plans to have the program in-person were unable to happen, but that they still had the opportunity to partake in the experience, albeit via virtual means. Transitioning to Zoom, with a revised schedule to have participants meet once a week every week for eight weeks, Virtual Ruck was born.
At the beginning of Virtual Ruck, each brother was placed in a group of around ten brothers, with each brother being from different chapters across the country. Groups were then assigned an alumni member known as their group facilitator to help direct the weekly discussions held over Zoom. These discussions vary by topic each week, with the overall theme relating to leadership.
Throughout the meetings held so far, establishing command presence in leadership is a key aspect of what has been taught. Brothers have been continuously pushed to go about leading in a way that has them, “get out of the box”. This box is a metaphorical representation of whatever inhibits their abilities to lead; the quote itself exists to encourage brothers to step outside of their comfort zones and to lead with confidence.
In order to track their individual progress as the Ruck experience goes on, participating brothers are to record what they have learned and how they feel they are improving in a weekly log known as their Excel Action Planning Guide. These guides are to both hold brothers self-accountable to improving as leaders, and to also remind them of the takeaways from this learning experience.
“So far, the Virtual Ruck experience has been extremely rewarding. While it’s difficult to connect with other brothers over zoom, I’ve still been able to learn and participate,” said Ben Butler, a rising sophomore in Virginia Kappa studying Business Information Technology. ”I think this experience will benefit the chapter because I can bring things I’ve learned from brothers of other chapters. Since every chapter is different, I’ve been able to see how others work. With the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be extremely important to implement leadership skills to keep brothers engaged within the chapter so we can continue bringing great things to campus.”
While it can be assumed that their return to school this Fall may be difficult on a variety of levels, what is known for certain is that strong leadership from within the chapter will be vital to any progress that is made moving forward. From recruiting to keep members motivated, Virginia Kappa will be put to the test in the months to come as brothers work to adapt to the challenges ahead. The leadership learning experience that Virtual Ruck has provided multiple brothers within the chapter will no doubt benefit the planning and guidance that will be necessary to overcome any barriers that present themselves in the future.