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Q&A: Volunteers in Higher Education

JASON FEINER (Bradley University, 1997)

Professional: Assistant Director, Conference and Event Support Services, Pacific University

Volunteer: Western Pacific Division President, supporting 15 chapters from Washington to Arizona and representing those chapters on the Fraternity’s Arch Chapter.

What led to your pursuit of a career in higher education? I earned my undergraduate degree in theater and art history and was a stage manager. After graduating, I worked for Danny Newman in Chicago and was earning a stagehand union card. Then Ed King, a Sigma Chi at Bradley, and some of his colleagues told me I could work on campus for a living, and I decided to give graduate school a shot at Illinois State. 

What drives your passion for working in higher education? I immediately fell in love with work in higher education. I had a graduate assistantship and my first year I was an advisor for the Interfraternity Council. Among the many Delts who inspired me to work in high education are Tom Huddleston (Texas A&M University-Commerce, 1962), Michael Shonrock (Western Illinois University, 1979) and Craig Jackson (University of Pittsburgh, 1988). 

What unique value do you find in both working in higher education and volunteering with the Fraternity? It’s because of Delt that I am where I am. I went into higher ed because of my experience with the Fraternity. Working with students, helping young people who can live by our values and live with integrity, grow to be incredible leaders. I love to see a young man be initiated just as I love seeing a student I’ve worked with graduate. 

MARK STARR (Case Western Reserve University, 1995) 

Professional: Director, Office of Greek Life, Case Western Reserve University

Volunteer: Former Northern Division President, chapter advisor, division vice president who has volunteered with nearly every leadership program the Fraternity offers. 

What led to your pursuit of a career in higher education? While in law school, I took a job as a graduate assistant, mostly for the free room and board. I was then the IFC advisor for two years and loved it. I enjoyed working with the students and helping them, their chapters and their community develop and move forward. When I graduated there was a full-time job in the Greek Life Office where I’d been a graduate assistant so I took it. That was 18 years ago and I’m still there.

What drives your passion for working in higher education? Working one-on-one with students. Helping them tackle problems in their leadership positions and seeing them learn and develop while doing it. I truly believe the things students learn from their Greek experience are often more important and last longer than what they learn in the classroom.

What unique value have you found in both working in higher education and volunteering with the Fraternity? It’s the best professional development that I’ve found. I get to see things from the national perspective which makes it easier to work with headquarters in my day job. Serving as a chapter advisor also helps me empathize with what the advisors I work with at CWRU are going through and I’m able to share some of my experiences to hopefully help them. 

What are the greatest opportunities you see for the next generation of Delts? To rethink how fraternities operate. As fraternities, we do too many things because they’ve always been done that way. For example, fraternities still recruit the same way they did when I joined 30 years ago. We need to start adapting better to new technologies and new generations of students.

JEFF PELLETIER(Ohio State University, 1994)

Professional: Director, Ohio Union Operations and Events

Volunteer: Northern Division President, supporting 37 chapters from Ohio to North Dakota and representing those chapters on the Fraternity’s Arch Chapter.

What led to your pursuit of a career in higher education? I was an involved student as an undergraduate. I was in ROTC, a member of our marching and pep bands and gave campus tours to students and families. After graduation, I stayed involved as an alumni volunteer, as an admissions interviewer and speaking with students at admitted student programs and receptions. I kept feeling the pull to work on a college campus, and finally took the leap to apply to graduate school for higher education and student affairs. 

What drives your passion for working in higher education? Right before applying to graduate school, I read an article in our alumni magazine about a new program geared towards helping second-year students reflect on their calling or vocation. I realized that my calling was in helping students figure out their own calling. What keeps me energized is knowing that every day we have the opportunity to create a program, craft an experience or simply have a conversation with students that may lead them to discover what it is they are meant to do in the world.

What unique value do you find in both working in higher education and volunteering with the Fraternity? Honestly some days it’s hard to distinguish between the two. Working on a college campus gives me a unique perspective on what our current college students experience. But knowing that our students at Ohio State are very different than those at the University of Maine, for example, means that I am constantly learning about how to best serve all of our undergraduates. I can also take lessons and best practices from other campuses and figure out how we can apply them to our work in Student Life at Ohio State.

What have you learned over the past year dealing with the pandemic? Everyone interacts with crisis in their own way. Some people step up and shine, others just want to be told what to do and they’ll do it, no questions asked. In general, both in the Fraternity and on campus, I’ve been impressed with the ingenuity that’s been displayed, and how many of us have created processes and guidelines with nothing else to go on but our focus on health and safety, because none of us have ever encountered a situation like this. I look forward to helping lead the way out of the pandemic. When I look back a year from now, I hope to see us in a better place because of all that we have learned.

What are the greatest opportunities you see for the next generation Delts? A recurring issue on our campuses and in our communities has been injustice. It certainly has brought to light injustices that may have been less apparent prior to our current climate. Our members are in a golden moment to decide to do the harder right thing, when faced with perpetuating injustice, or stopping it. My hope is that they have the courage to stop injustice, to be an example of leadership and excellence, and to serve our society well. 

Feature Photo: Jason Feiner (Bradley University, 1997)

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