In an effort to highlight the young leaders who are leading undergraduate chapters across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to the brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.’s Theta Zeta Chapter at Dartmouth College and did an interview with Ebenezer Bulcha the president of the chapter.
The position of president of an undergraduate chapter of a Black fraternity is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes. 21-year-old Ebenezer Bulcha has used the position to gain new leadership experience, improve the lives of other students on campus and help the community around him.
We interviewed the Economics; Sociology; and African and African-American Studies (modified with Public Policy) triple major and talked about his position, goals, future and what it means to hold a leadership position on campus in the digital age.
Read the full interview below.
What does it mean to be a chapter president to you?
As a fraternity principled on service to community, I had initially understood my role as chapter president as both ensuring the chapter is at a state in which it can effectively fulfill this role and executing proper delegatory services towards producing quality programs. However, in time I’ve recognized the various sacrifices also associated with the position. Essentially being the ‘first-man-up’ in the event an issue comes about, contributing whatever time and resources necessary has become a distinguishing feature of this position. To effectively serve as a chapter president, you have to first be willing to sacrifice for the cause of your fraternity or sorority respectively.
What made you decide to attend Dartmouth College for undergrad?
Going back to my senior year of high school, when deciding between colleges, I was ultimately drawn to Dartmouth given the college’s dedication to undergraduate education as well as the high degree of alumni connectivity to the college.
What specific initiatives is your chapter heading up this year and how do you think they will improve the campus/surrounding community?
Building upon existing successful programs while placing an emphasis on inclusion has been identified as a key goal for the upcoming year. In order to properly service our community, we have to ensure that the chapter’s space is inclusive to the degree that we’re ideally able to service all members of the community. Oftentimes the most marginalized within our community feel unwelcome or uncomfortable within our space or at a given event– whether affinity-related, pre-professional, social, etc.– and simply put, we fall short of our vision statement as long as this problem persists.
What made you want to pledge Alpha Phi Alpha?
Alpha Phi Alpha is inexplicably linked to leadership. That can easily be discerned given a number of prominent brothers in the likes of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and Justice Thurgood Marshall; however, I only came about realizing this through my interactions with the brothers of the chapter, now my prophytes. Entering college with no familial ties to Greek life, I understood my purpose of attending Dartmouth as being to gather the resources and networks readily available to ultimately support my family post-graduation. As I began navigating through the predominantly white institution, I was advised by my high school career counselor to sign up for the “Big-Sib/Lil-Sib” program hosted by the Afro-American Society at Dartmouth, and come the second week on campus, I find I’m paired with the chapter president (at the time). Upon our first sit-down, he shed advice on how to navigate around campus, how to select courses, and etc, readily answering any questions I may have had. Fast forwarding towards the end of the term, a ‘Black Lives Matter’ march was being conducted in response to the tearing down of a BLM display in the students center. During the event, I had noticed my Big-Sib was leading the event coupled with a number of fraternity brothers I had met through the term.
In hindsight, I can confidently say this is when I first became interested in the organization. I came to see that Alpha offers a social platform to enact positive change to the community. Upon further conversations with brothers, I came to find that through an organization as such I could increase the scope of my impact from beyond just my family, to an entire community. Alpha had a purpose, and there was a distinct calling all chapter brothers under the shield adhered to. Whether the president of the NAACP, the chair of a pre-professional club, or even the captain of the football team, the brothers of the Theta Zeta chapter were leaders in every aspect of the term, successfully creating spaces and opportunities in which young black men, like myself, attempting to navigate the PWI could not only be comfortable but thrive.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
In Dartmouth College, located in Hanover, New Hampshire, it’s safe to say there aren’t many people around that look like me. With about 8% (roughly 350) black students enrolled in the college, the saliency of having black spaces available is then bolstered. Beyond our programming, this affects the makeup of our chapter in that we naturally become extremely close-knit. Being isolated in the woods also adds to this, leading to chapter brothers spending the majority of time with one another outside of programs.
We now live in a digital world, what do you think undergraduate chapters across all orgs need to do to represent themselves online in 2019?
Chapters need to evaluate their internal structuring and practices both within and outside official fraternity/sorority events. Poor online representation is often a result of internal problems within a given chapter. If the brother/sisterhood is strengthened to the extent that every member is accountable for one another, perceptions of the chapter will likely grow more positive. As my prophytes constantly remind me, “The brotherhood comes before the shine.”
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership cannot be limited to any singular occupation; leadership can be exemplified on various platforms whether on a basketball court, behind a podium, or at the head of a conference table. Leadership can essentially be understood as a body of people acknowledging a peer amongst the collective as possessing both the means and respect necessary to lead.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
Watch the Yard succeeds in challenging Black greekdom by bringing problems to the forefront of discussions while still managing to empower every org. In discussing issues either directly related to orgs or the community, Watch the Yard facilitates important dialogues amongst various campus leaders. As a result of those dialogues, I’ve found myself establishing programs to address mental health within communities of color, for example. Watch the Yard in facilitating this said dialogue, functions as a vehicle for the exchange of ideas, which ultimately benefits the respective campuses we serve.
What does brotherhood mean to you?
After the conclusion of a recent district convention, I, unfortunately, would miss the last bus, making the return trip towards campus. Over five hours away from campus, I was effectively stranded; however, upon briefly hearing of my situation, a brother immediately offered to take me to his house where I could stay the night and leave comfortably in the morning. Although inconveniencing his schedule, he did not hesitate to help a brother. Brotherhood happens during those brief seconds where a brother sees another in need and doesn’t hesitate to help.
What do you plan on doing after graduation?
I plan on taking a gap-year prior to enrolling into a JD/MPA program; however, throughout the duration of the year, I plan on being with the United Nations.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Ebenezer Bulcha for his work as the president of Theta Zeta Chapter which has a long legacy that spans back to 1972.
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