In an effort to highlight the people who are leading graduate chapters across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to the brothers of the Gamma Theta Omega Chapter of Iota Phi Theta in Minnesota and did an interview with Isiah Dennis the Polaris/president of the chapter.
The position of Polaris of a Black fraternity chapter is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes. Dennis, who is a youth worker and educator, has served as the Polaris of the chapter for 1.5 years and also serves as the president of the Minneapolis/St. Paul’s NPHC, the only NPHC in Minnesota.
We interviewed Dennis and talked to him about his position, goals, future and what it means to hold this type of leadership position in the digital age.
Read the full interview below:
What does it mean to be a chapter president to you?
Being the Polaris of the chapter is to be the guiding light for the brothers as we work together to serve our communities.As Polaris, I see my role as to make sure that as a chapter we are growing on a holistic level as I stand on the foundation of the previous leaders before me. I want to not only execute and do things in order but to make sure that once my time is done, I set the next Polaris up where they can take the baton and keep the ship moving forward.
I also serve as the President of the NPHC-MSP and to me being president of the NPHC means that I help make sure that as a greek community here in Minnesota, we are a united front, working together to serve our community, build each other as leaders and to be a light.
What specific initiatives is your chapter heading up this year and how do you think they will improve the surrounding community?
Currently our chapter is building back up and one of my goals is to re-charter our undergraduate chapter. We currently are raising money for St.Jude as we will be participating in the walk on September 21st. Also as a chapter we have a partnership with the American Red Cross (ARC) where we hold a board position for the Minnesota Region and every brother is registered as a volunteer to help out when it comes to relief efforts around the world. I’m in communication with ARC to find out ways we can help out with relief efforts for the Bahamas due to Hurricane Dorian.
For NPHC we are building partnerships with organizations within the community that range from the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) to the state level with the Council of Minnesotans of African Heritage (CMAH). Currently we wrapped up our Black Greek Weekend and we are getting ready for an event with the Minnesota Historical Society.
What made you want to pledge Iota Phi Theta?
Being at the University of Minnesota I did study a lot of about Greek organizations and knew the history of the chapters. At first I didn’t give Iota Phi Theta a chance all because it was the youngest of the D9 and there were no Iotas on the yard. I was apart of a campus ministry geared for Blacks/African-Americans called “The Impact Movement” where for 3 years I served as president and each year did a summer mission trip.
On my summer mission trip in 2010 on the University of Memphis, I met 2 brothers who were apart of the Eta Epsilon chapter and before I knew they were Iotas they treated me as family and one of their own. From that interaction to one of the charter members of Gamma Theta Omega, I researched on Iota and there were three things that caught my attention: era we were founded, motto and the brotherhood.
Iota Phi Theta was founded in 1963 during the civil rights era in which society got disrupted and forced to change due to the injustice black people were going through. Our motto “Building a Tradition Not Resting Upon One”, it asks the question: “Are you going to rest on the traditions set by others or are you going to create and start your own legacy that people can see and gain inspirtation to start their own?” Lastly the brotherhood is genuine and there is none like it. I love I-Phi-T and grateful for the ways it continues to help me grow and to be who I am called to be.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
With my chapter, I appreciate how we got people who come from different backgrounds and have done work with the fraternity on a regional or national level. I roll with the saying I heard from my previous pastor “we can be small in number but mighty in power”. Even though we are growing as a chapter, we are making moves and doing what we can to make a difference in the community as a whole.
We now live in a digital world, what do you think alumni chapters across all orgs need to do to represent themselves online in 2019?
Alumni chapters need to make sure that they have social media presence because the marketing and networking is key plus helpful. Both for IPT and NPHC in MN we utilize our social media pages for events and to have people know what is going on and the turn out shows when it comes to events and activities. I also encourage to make sure that you have your members share out the posts that your org or chapter put up for that helps when it comes to the outreach.
What does leadership mean to you?
I breakdown leadership to the acronym F.A.T. (Flexible, Available and Teachable). You have to be flexible because things will not go 100% the way you want it planned out and you got to be able to adjust and keep things moving forward. Available because people got to be able to reach out to you and you got to be able to be there when needed. Available also means you need to be available to yourself, know when to say no and make sure you do not burn yourself out. you have to be teachable because we all have to be willing to learn and take feedback when we did not do well. I will be the first to say I don’t know everything and I give permission from the leaders and members to call me out so that I can grow.
Lastly when it comes to leadership, communication is key! Talk with your team, I rather have you over communicate than under communicate. No matter who the person is I will always treat them well for one of the quotes I resonate with is “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle you know nothing about”
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
What does brotherhood mean to you?
Brotherhood means being able to be real and honest. We are able to look out for one another and sharpen one another as we help each other get to the next level. Also brotherhood is like the saying “I am my brothers keeper”
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Isiah Dennis for his work as the Polaris of the Gamma Theta Omega Chapter which has a legacy that spans back to 2012.