Fraternity Friday: Eli Smith (Sigma Phi Epsilon)

With Zoom courses in full force and all students operating various academic platforms - especially our new one, Brightspace, one thing hasn’t changed in the face of COVID-19.  One of the main objectives of the Her Campus chapter here at the University of Maine is cultivating pieces that not only relate to other collegiate students but bring them together by showcasing members of campus who are involved in numerous activities and organizations. 

One of our traditions that I piloted at the beginning of  last year is a series I call Fraternity Friday- a weekly feature that showcases a member of a fraternity that not only exemplifies the values of his chapter but excels in academics and is an active participant in the University of Maine community. I thought, who better to kick off the new academic year than a close friend of mine, Eli Smith of Sigma Phi Epsilon.

Eli is a third-year student majoring in Kinesiology from Hallowell, Maine and he has been a member of the University of Maine’s chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon (known commonly as SigEp among those on campus) for the past two years. Eli stated that he was initially very turned off from Greek life when he came to college - similar to how others have felt prior, he wasn’t sure if Greek Life  was for him and that there were other organizations or activities on campus that could check all the same boxes. . However, upon  meeting many members of SigEp as well as a number of the other fraternities through both intramural sports and various on-campus activities, Eli realized that Greek life was an opportunity on campus and he wanted to take advantage of that. 

SigEp is one of the larger fraternities on our campus and the chapter has over sixty members as of last Spring. The chapter’s core values are centered  around the ideals of what they have coined as the “Balanced Man” with a “Strong Mind, Strong Body.” Eli explained to me that there are four key qualities that every prospective member of the chapter should display: Gentleman, Leader, Scholar, and Athlete. To go along with these core values, SigEp deeply values the connection between a strong mind and a strong body. Inspired by this phrase, all of the brothers frequently work out together or often go on group runs together around campus and back up to their house at the end of College Ave. 

The brothers are also very serious about their academic standing as a chapter  and stress that a strong GPA displays academic involvement and excellence on campus. They are consistently either at or near the top of the highest GPA ranks in Greek life and the chapter is committed to bringing their chapter average GPA up to a 3.5 in the next few semesters. In order to become a member and a brother, one must hold a 3.0 GPA and in order to not only obtain membership but hold an executive position, they must maintain a 3.2 GPA. In order to encourage academics among the brothers, the entire chapter holds study hours together which helps  everyone  stay accountable at an individual level but also acts as a motivator to all members in the chapter to do the best they can in their academics for the chapters continued academic success as a whole. 

Speaking of the chapter’s brotherhood, Eli told me about a specific memory during his interview that has always stayed with him - it was an experience he had with an older member of the fraternity early on in his time with SigEp. This member had actually come in to speak with the chapter about his own struggles with mental health and how the combination of the values of SigEp and the strong support offered by his brothers helped him out of his deep struggle with depression. Reflecting on this memory, Eli expressed,“It really let me know that I would never be alone here[and that Mental health is] such an important thing to talk about - and for men it’s talked about so much less than it should be.” SigEp not only offers a “safe space” for brothers who struggle with their mental health, they have been taking advantage of the resources on campus aimed at helping alleviate that for students. Many members of the chapter  give presentations at the Mind Spa on campus, and as of late, the brothers have been doing yoga together on Zoom to help center themselves and check in on each other in a fun way that not only allows for one brother to see how the other is doing but offers some support and bonding during a confusing and isolating time. 

Outside of being a member of SigEp, Eli is heavily involved with the Maine Steiners, the University’s premier all-male a cappella group through the University Singers. This year, he is serving as the music director meaning that he will choose the music for the year, run rehearsals and help set up shows alongside the business manager, Michael Flannery of Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE). It’s important to have passionate members such as Eli in their leadership because the Steiners are in for a strange and potentially difficult year as they will be rebuilding after losing ten members last year - not to mention the challenges that COVID-19 has brought to many organizations on campus. 

On commenting on the exit of ten members, Eli stated “After that group left, everything changed. The group dynamic is different as well as our sound. One of our bass singers really set our overall tone, as well as some of the voices we had on lead.” to elaborate  how this year will bring many changes for the group from their membership to the overall sound. Not to mention, auditions will be more difficult this year as their group will have to comply with UMaine’s COVID-19 standards for social distancing and performance groups. Eli is hoping that despite these new constraints,  they will be able to conduct some of their rehearsals in person (COVID permitting) as it is one of the only ways they are able to  not only visualize but hear how the whole group will sound together. 

Although he does hold a position in the Maine Steiners, Eli does not currently hold an executive position in his fraternity, but he hopes to change this in his senior year. He tries to stay as involved as he can, helping in committees whenever he is able  and contributes ideas wherever possible and he is an active participant in many of SigEp’s intramural sports teams - not to mention, he was very excited to share that the intramural cup- an award presented to the intramural team that wins the end-of-season tournaments-  was finally back in the chapter’s house again. SigEp is very passionate about intramural sports as it helps to enforce their beliefs in the Strong Body, Strong Mind - and they are often quite competitive, beating many of the other fraternities' teams they compete against. 

In truth, the values of SigEp were ones that Eli didn’t realize were ones he had held his entire life and aligned closely with his personal core values. His relationship with not only his family but his close friends as well is a central and integral part of his life - and he states that he can’t imagine his life without them. These core values play a large influence on who he is presently and who he wants to become in the future. Upon his graduation from the University of Maine next spring, Eli hopes to pursue either a Doctorate in Physical Therapy or a Master’s degree in Strength and Conditioning. He sees himself on one of two distinct paths: either as a practitioner in an injury rehabilitation facility or program or as a collegiate-level soccer coach. The career path that he takes is all dependent on where that particular opportunity lies, as he can’t imagine being more than a few hours away from his family, close friends and other loved ones. Ideally, he would go into either the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program at Husson University in Bangor or return to the University of Maine for his Master’s degree. No matter which he chooses, he hopes to keep creating meaningful and emotionally connected relationships with either his future patients or his future players. 

Any action or direction  that Eli takes in his life is guided by  both a desire to leave a positive impact and his dedication to make a troubled situation better. This desire to do good and be good was further  displayed in a job he took over the summer that helped package, deliver and ship Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to schools and state facilities across the state of Maine. He was hired on as an intern but after only a few weeks, he became a floor leader after his managers realized how much work this job would be and how valuable Eli was in completing all tasks. He spent some days driving around the state making sure that every location that needed PPE had it and in good supply. He called this a “very 2020 job” and talks highly of his role as it’s clear he is very proud of the work he has done and the cause he contributed to over the past few months. 

Eli Smith is not only one of the kindest and most pure-hearted people I have ever met, but he is also someone who works hard and loves with his whole heart. He is passionate, driven, and will always go the extra mile to get things done right. I have no doubt that wherever he goes in life, he will bring a sense of positivity and grounding to whoever he meets. I am so grateful for the friendship we share and thank him for letting me interview him for this week’s Fraternity Friday!

Author’s Note: Sigma Alpha Epsilon is also involved with Partners for Peace, a local organization that provides awareness and resources to those in  domestic violence situations. Their annual Sleep Out on the Mall has TBA plans  for the fall. If you or someone you know is struggling with an abusive situation, call Partners for Peace at their confidential, 24-hour hotline number: 1.800.863.9909.