“Actions speak louder than words, so I think the most important thing I can do right now is take everything by storm.” Zack Cockerham is taking on the lofty challenge of becoming a model leader, not only for his Fraternity, but his entire college campus. The Northwestern State University sophomore from Morgan City, Louisiana was one of only 100 of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity’s 10,000 undergraduate members selected for Pi Kapp College, an intensive, six-day leadership development experience that empowers participants to create the ideal chapter. Held June 13-18, 2013 at the University of South Carolina, the program is designed to challenge and inspire participants to become better leaders and better men.
Cockerham, a Liberal Arts major, was assigned to a small group of 10 other Pi Kappa Phi members led by two faculty, consisting of a friend of the Fraternity and one alumnus. The facilitation team provided a wealth of knowledge to attendees, including more than 60 years of higher education and leadership development experience to challenge and support the men. The week included small group discussion, large group education sessions, a challenge course, unique subordinate rituals, and an insider look at Pi Kappa Phi’s history on the nearby College of Charleston’s campus. The Fraternity was founded there in 1904, making the physical setting an important element of the program. “Visiting the gifts around campus given on each quarter-century anniversary really helped me connect with our founders,” Cockerham said. As the week progressed, men were challenged daily to learn and reflect on their own morals and strengths as well as the values of the fraternity
In December, Cockerham was elected Secretary of the Chapter. For him, a week of inner-reflection and team-building helped identify his greatest skills and opportunities as a leader. “[Pi Kapp College] showed me new ways to use these strengths, and that I shouldn’t rely on my strengths alone. Before this week I wasn’t very confident in my leadership skills, but now I know that I can help lead my chapter to greatness.”
Zack, along with fellow participants, were introduced to many alumni members who rose to the challenge as students in similar situations. Beta Omicron Chapter re-chartering archon Wes Breeden returned for a third year as a facilitator, drawing from his undergraduate and professional experience to motivate and challenge the students. In 2000, Breeden led a group of 29 NSU students to re-charter the Beta Omicron Chapter after nearly two decades of dormancy. Cockerham says he draws inspiration from that story. “If Wes can build something so great out of nothing, there is no reason why I can’t also build something when I already have a strong foundation.” He said he plans to focus on being a role model for his chapter brothers. “As Wes once told, passion is contagious. As long as I can demonstrate why I’m passionate about being a Pi Kapp, then those around me will as well.”
One of the most impactful experiences at Pi Kapp College was a friendship visit with a local partner of Push America. Beta Omicron alumnus Nick Breaux, a Push America staff member, discussed the importance of service and how it ties in to the values of the fraternity. The students and facilitators traveled to a local bowling alley to bowl a few frames with athletes from the Charleston Miracle League, a baseball league for children with disabilities. Throughout the afternoon the students bowled with their new friends, high-fiving and dancing to celebrate each bowl. Cockerham said he and the brothers felt inspired by the abilities of the athletes they had met that day. More importantly, they were able to experience firsthand that the value of brotherhood can deeply impact members of the fraternity as well as touch the lives of members of the community.
Attending Pi Kapp College is an honor in itself. Students are selected through a rigorous application process, involving interviews and essays. Graduates leave with an increased commitment to acting consistently with their core personal values and values of Pi Kappa Phi, enhanced abilities to develop and enrich relationships as well as a strengthened commitment to respecting the dignity of all people, and embraced belief in aspiring toward the “ideal chapter”, and developing the capability to move a plan into action. Cockerham said it was a transformative experience. “I learned a lot about myself and how I can mold myself into a true leader ready to evolve my chapter into something even greater.”
Pi Kapp College has proven to be one of the fraternity’s most impactful ― and most enduring ― leadership experiences. Since its redesign in 2010, nearly three quarters of all Pi Kapp College graduates have gone on to hold leadership positions in their chapters or campus communities.
To learn more about Pi Kapp College or to apply, click this link: http://www.pikapp.org/content.aspx?id=773