The University of San Diego is home to beautiful surroundings, top professors, an athletics program considered the best all-around in its conference four years running, and academic rigor and compassionate community service opportunities that equip students with the skills to develop into changemakers.
Another one of the best reasons why USD continues to make strides as an institution can be found where 25 percent of its annual student body reside, experiencing all that college has to offer: Greek Life.
Prior to the new school year, USD fraternity chapters Zeta Omega of Beta Theta Pi and California Beta Beta of Sigma Phi Epsilon were recognized as the nation’s best during ceremonies in Seattle and Phoenix, respectively. Mandy Womack, USD’s director of Student Organizations and Greek Life, was also selected as a Beta Theta Pi Chapter Advisor of the Year.
It was Zeta Omega’s second straight time receiving Beta Theta Pi’s highest honor, the John Reily Knox Award.
“It’s definitely nice to be recognized, but it’s not so much about winning the award as it is doing what’s necessary to be men of principle,” said Zeta Omega President Ryan Boufford (pictured, above, with Womack), a senior mechanical engineering student. “We take that very seriously and try to live up to that every day. The chapter is devoted to being men of principle, which includes academics, commitment to our community, providing mutual aid and assistance to others and other chapters on campus, and also being a social organization. We want to be well rounded.”
The two-time national designation comes after the chapter won the Sisson Award, the second highest honor, on multiple occasions since being colonized in 2004 at USD and becoming a chapter in 2007.
California Beta Beta, meanwhile, earned its first-ever national designation when it was selected as winner of the Buchanan Outstanding Chapter Award. Formed at USD in 2001, the award was a great way to celebrate its 10th year on campus.
“Receiving this award is my proudest moment at USD,” said California Beta Beta President Jourdain Artz (pictured, at left), a senior business marketing major and biochemistry minor. “This award represents all the hard work that everyone in the chapter has done. Going from what we were to what we are now, one of the top fraternities in the nation, our guys have constantly been striving to make themselves better. I’m really happy that someone recognizes nationally the work we’ve put into it.”
Both chapters, among 12 fraternities and sororities at USD, do their fair share of work to be the best. To Boufford and Artz, that starts and ends with the young men recruited to their respective chapters.
“Our motto is ‘we don’t make Betas, we take Betas,’” said Boufford, who has been a Beta Theta Pi since spring 2008. “It’s a 365-day recruitment process. We talk to all of the guys who come out and get a general feel for where their priorities are. We have a pretty good feel for them before we send them to our recruitment committee for screening. If we believe they possess the same character and integrity we think is becoming of a Beta, we’ll offer them a bid.”
Boufford said there are 67 active members at the present time, though some are away from campus this semester doing study abroad.
California Beta Beta’s national award was helped by its largest group of student members, 88, last spring. “We’re looking for something more,” Artz said. “We’re the most diverse fraternity on campus. We never wanted to have a cookie-cutter image. We accept other members and they all make us who we are. It’s been incredible. Our group dynamic is amazing. We’re about the principles of virtue, diligence and brotherly love, sound in mind and body, we strive to improve our knowledge about the world, stay physically fit and our members are always there for each other. No questions asked.”
There’s little question that these fraternities understand what’s needed to be considered the best.
Boufford, who competed four years on men’s crew and sought a spot in Beta Theta Pi at the urging of teammates, appreciates passing on wisdom to new members. “The most gratifying part to me is being a part of their college experience and having an impact on them. To see them grow and help them through situations, good or bad, I’ll be there for them and they’ll be there for me. That’s worth more to me than any award.”
Zeta Omega’s community service projects promote this approach. The third annual Beta Theta Pi Surf as One Surf Competition happens Saturday, Oct. 8 from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on San Fernando Drive in Mission Beach near the rollercoaster. It’s a benefit for the Life Goes On Foundation, which is dedicated to research for paraplegics and quadriplegics. The group also participates in “Almost Famous”, a partnership with USD sorority Gamma Phi Beta, to raise money for Rady’s Children’s Hospital. Beta Theta Pi does beach cleanups, contributes to local food banks, sponsors a blood drive and members serve as tutors in local elementary schools and participate in USD’s Cool Club, where students spend quality time with intellectually disabled students.
Artz said California Beta Beta does a variety of community service events on and off campus, including work with San Diego’s homeless.
“Our members realize they’re part of something bigger than themselves; but through selfless acts, that’s how they’re able to build up this organization and influence others on campus,” Boufford said.
And that influence, especially now, is nationally known.
— Ryan T. Blystone