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Leadership Highlight: Chandler Frierson the Polaris of Iota Phi Theta at The University of Kentucky

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 Iota Phi Theta Fraternity Inc.’s Zeta Psi Chapter at the University of Kentucky and did an interview with Chandler Frierson the Polaris/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. 20-year-old Chandler Frierson 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 Integrated Strategic Communications major and talked about his position, goals, future and what it means to hold a leadership on campus in the digital age.

Read the full interview below.

What does it mean to be a chapter president to you?

Being a Chapter President means more than just leading fellow members of your organization, it means establishing a consistent change culture within your chapter. Instilling specific standards regarding the operation of your chapter, how you perform intake, how you become mentors of the campus community, and how you promote and develop relevant thought leaders that have the capacity to be powerful influencers in their specific sectors. Being a Chapter President allows you the opportunity to lead through unconditional love, and assist in creating accountable environments.

Credit: Clifton Jackson @cljackson12

What made you decide to attend the University of Kentucky for undergrad?

The University of Kentucky was always a big household name soley because of sports, so I decided to apply for fun given that I had always grown up being a fan of the athletic programs at the school. Ultimately, the University of Kentucky awarded me the most money to pursue my degree out of the other institutions.

What specific initiatives is your chapter heading up this year and how do you think they will improve the campus/surrounding community?

Specifically over the last year our chapter has emphasized programs responding to the racial and socioeconomic inequities presented to us as a chapter. We have done numerous programs centered around “Blackness” and the wellness thereof, while emphasizing civic engagement and advocacy work. We are currently planning for our Civic Engagement and Advocacy mini-week which will be titled “1963” to emphasize the legacy and the heritage of members of our community who have lead intentional advocacy and civil rights programs that have been directly linked to the wellbeing of our communities and families today.

What made you want to pledge Iota Phi Theta?

As a freshman with a colorful greek background in regards to family affiliations I feel that my arm was being tugged in many different directions. A few family members and mentors even had membership in some of the chapters housed at the University of Kentucky. I was initially leaning towards not participating in greek life at all, but I met a group of men who truly poured into me as an individual and stewarded me well as a freshman. My sense of belonging at the University of Kentucky can be attributed to their mentorship. Even after expressing not being interested in Iota, nothing changed. I was even told that regardless of my greek affiliations or lack thereof I would always be their brother, and they would do anything for me. That sentiment was consistent organization wide. This is what truly inspired my love for Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc., leading to my membership and leadership.

Photo: Hillary Morton

What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?

The “Ride or Die” Zeta Psi Chapter of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc., truly is a unique chapter to say the least. Currently we are the largest NPHC Fraternity at the University of Kentucky while simultaneously being the youngest chapter. I feel that the overall lack of exposure to Iotas nationally has served as inspiration for our chapter to never settle or rest. We consistently have to reintroduce ourselves to new classes as they come in, causing us to truly live up to our National Mission: “The Development and Perpetuation of Scholarship, Leadership, Citizenship, Fidelity, and Brotherhood Among Men.” And just to brag a little bit, and for the lack of a better phrase we can step pretty damned good! Holistically, the Zeta Psi chapter produces genuine men, with intentions to better the world in any and every way we can.

Photo: Hillary Morton

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?

I think chapters need to have a platform to really promote their chapter curriculum. Meaning a way for them to display in what ways their existence is relevant to the modern community. We love to display community service at food drives, and other events, but there is a lack of consistency in how we serve. The content is there, but the quality and nature of the service needs to be portrayed. This is something that needs to be communicated equivalent to the exposure strolling and stepping receives. Have substance in service this year D9!

What does leadership mean to you?

Leadership is simply being a servant listener. You listen and find the gaps and voids that are present and you bridge that or find those that effectively can. I feel like leadership is something you are born with. Sure you can be a leader, but to live it as a lifestyle that looks different, you have to embody this idea of unconditional love, opportunities for redemption, and have honestly tough skin.

Credit: Matthew Ramsay @champaigneraine

Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?

I think Watch The Yard is the centerpiece of modern day greek life. To be on WTY is the pinnacle of greek exposure for many chapters. I feel it is an avenue to promote excellence and display achievement that we often don’t get elsewhere. Also WTY is building a very intentional human capital that leads to professional and social connections alike, that unifies the D9 on a large scale.

What does brotherhood mean to you?

Brotherhood means embodying the idea of unconditional love. I know that sounds simple, but truly being your brothers keeper and making sure that he is taken care of, sometimes, even before yourself adds an additional layer to your character. You no longer become solely self serving, but you can truly set yourself up for servant leadership, building a family, and building communities as a result of true brotherhood.

What do you plan on doing after graduation?

Post graduation I plan on attending law school where I will pursue my interest in Civil Rights Law. I also want to work in Diversity and Inclusion initiatives either in higher education or for a private corporation.

We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Chandler Frierson for his work as the president of Zeta Psi Chapter which has a long legacy that spans back to 2007.

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