At a time when Greek organizations across the nation are taking a hit for bad behavior, a new fraternity at West Virginia University is hoping to change that stigma.
“One of our biggest goals is to work toward changing the current stigma of Greek life,” said Chris Yenchko, chief engineer for WVU’s Chapter of Sigma Phi Delta, an international professional fraternity of engineers. “We would like there to be a positive connotation when people think of fraternities and sororities. There has been a lot of bad press regarding fraternities in the past and we’re determined to change that.”
Founded in 1924, Sigma Phi Delta is open only to students enrolled or working in a curriculum or program leading toward a degree in engineering, and chapters are required to conduct professional programming in the form of seminars and field trips. They do, however, have a social component, with many maintaining chapter houses.
“After hearing about the fraternity and meeting brothers from different schools I really wanted to be part of a group like that,” said Yenchko, who is from Harpers Ferry and is majoring in electrical engineering. “I thought it would be a really awesome experience creating something that could one day be a big part of this school. The idea of being a founding member and being able to institute a foundation for this Chapter that would carry on for years to come was very appealing to me.”
Joining Yenchko as officers are Matt Hergenroeder, a mechanical and aerospace engineering major from Ashburn, Virginia, who is serving as vice-chief engineer; Drew Michael, business manager, a mechanical engineering major from Martinsburg; and Charles Litchfield, secretary, a mining engineering major from Joppa, Maryland. The Chapter is advised by Patrick Browning, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering.
“When Chris and a few other members of the fraternity came to ask me to be their faculty advisor, I was a bit skeptical,” Browning said. “As they explained what Sigma Phi Delta was all about, their obvious enthusiasm and professional attitudes really began to win me over. The members are an impressive and bright group of future professionals and leaders, and I’m really glad that I can play an active role in their work.”
The student organizers had several hoops to jump through before earning their charter.
“We first began as an interest group until we could gather the necessary amount of members and paperwork to petition to become a colony,” Yenchko said. “As a colony, we had to meet certain requirements in order to show the national organization we were ready to become a full-fledged chapter.”
One of only 24 active chapters nationwide, the Beta-Xi Chapter at WVU was chartered on December 6, 2014, and has 29 active members.
While not a member of WVU’s Interfraternity Council, which governs social fraternities, the Chapter plans to schedule a number of events in the fall in an effort to let potential candidates to learn more about the fraternity and meet the brothers currently involved. Bids will be handed out and after eight weeks, pledges will be initiated into the chapter.
“Being new to campus, we have some ambitious plans for the upcoming years,” Yenchko said. “We want to have a very active role in the engineering community locally as well as with events happening in the Statler College. We also want to fill any separation between the College and the rest of the University.”
CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon, Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
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