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 Iota Phi Theta Fraternity Inc.’s Epsilon Omega Chapter in Atlanta, Georgia and did an interview with Rodney J. Wells the Polaris of the chapter.
The position of Polaris/president of a Black fraternity chapter is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes. Rodney Wells, who works as a Engineering Standards Manager, has been in the position of Polaris for four years.
We interviewed Wells, who is a Spring 2007, Eta Zeta Chapter initiate of his fraternity 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 motivated you to take on the role of alumni chapter president?
I’ve always wanted to lead a graduate chapter. Even during my undergraduate years, I dreamed of becoming Polaris of a graduate chapter. But what motivated me to become Polaris of Epsilon Omega is my vision for growth. Growth in our membership, community service and impact within our community. Since joining the chapters executive board my vision has become a reality.
What specific initiatives is your chapter heading up this year and how do you think they will improve the local community or the broader Black community?
A key initiative my chapter has focused on this year was the Conclave Career Fair. During this event we offered jobs and internships to our members and the community. The career fair was held this summer and approximately 2,000 people participated. Having access to a well-paid career is an important part of improving one’s livelihood. Additionally, we also participate in our national service initiatives here on a local level.
• St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital – Since 2012, the Fraternity has been supporting and raising funds for St. Jude, primarily through the annual “St. Jude Run/Walk to End Childhood Cancer. Iota Teams comprised of members of the IOTA Family (Brothers, Sweethearts and our families and supporters) run/walk in unity in major cities across the nation on a single day, while raising funds through the year for St. Jude.
• The American Red Cross (ARC) – In January 2015, Iota Phi Theta became the first NPHC fraternity to establish a partnership with the ARC to provide assistance to communities through the United States in the areas of blood drives, disaster relief operations and other areas in which each partner believes cooperation and support will be mutually beneficial.
• Good Health WINs – The Good Health Women’s Immunization Networks (GHWs) campaign is committed to building an army of good health champions who understand the importance of immunizations across the lifespan. Working with the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), our fraternity network of trusted messengers will help educate, advocate and impact families and communities across the US to address health disparities, increase vaccination rates and remove barriers to vaccine access and good health.
• I-S.H.I.E.L.D. – Our newest, comprehensive initiative (started Spring 2016) designed to address and end all forms of abuse, nationally and worldwide. I-S.H.I.E.L.D. is an acronym that stands for “IOTAS Saving, Healing, Improving, Empowering Lives Daily”. We have 5 focus areas that address Human Trafficking, Sexual Abuse, Domestic Abuse, Elder Abuse and Child Abuse/Bullying.
What made you want to pledge Iota Phi Theta?
I joined Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc. because of the brotherhood and their commitment to community service. As an undergraduate student the men of Iota treated me like family. Constantly inviting me to events and community service projects. This confirmed that Iota Phi Theta was the organization for me.
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
Epsilon Omega is a unique chapter where 85% of our membership is brought in locally. Traditionally, this would not be the case for a transplant city like Atlanta. Even though our chapter has a long history we continue to build and bring in new graduate members. The ideas of our new members are an asset to the chapter.
How is your chapter providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?
With the constant increase of college tuition and inflation, the financial burden aimed at undergraduate chapters has grown. Our chapter provides funding to assist with undergraduate programming and events. This support has been identified as one of the key needs of today’s undergraduate chapters.
How do you approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among alumni members, and what strategies have you found effective?
Our chapter is very close. To maintain our sense of unity we have created a committee that focuses on brotherhood events. These are outings where members can have fun and improve their bond. Most recently the chapter went to an escape room and hosted a spades tournament.
What advice would you give to aspiring leaders within your fraternity/sorority who may aspire to take on roles of leadership within alumni chapters?
As Polaris, I have learned a lot about what it takes to be an effective leader. I would encourage any member aspiring to be a leader to develop their communication skills. Communication is a critical trait of a good leader. Find your communication style and improve its effectiveness through training.
How has mentorship helped you get to where you are today? Are there any specific people in your org who have made a significant impact on your life as mentors?
When I was an undergraduate student a graduate member named Gene Williams mentored me. Mentorship is such a vital role within our fraternity. It is very important to have a sustainable mentoring program. These programs help with the leadership and development of rising stars. Being a mentor also helps grow the bond between members.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
Being able to tell our own story is important. Watch The Yard does just that. Thank you for promoting the positive impact that Black Greekdom has on the community.
Looking back at it, why do you love being a member of your org?
I just love the fact that our brotherhood is so close.
Lastly, what does brotherhood mean to you?
Brotherhood is family. Whenever I need anything, they are there.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Rodney Wells for his work as the Polaris of the Epsilon Omega Chapter which has a legacy that spans back to 1976.
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