Chapter Update: COVID-19 Edition
We know that many of our alumni Brothers have questions about how life at Alpha Delta has changed given these uncertain times we’re living in. COVID-19 has changed the way we conduct our daily life, and the undergraduates are no exception. We reached out to Vishal Shah and Cole Waldhausen and asked them about what life as a Chi Phi at Penn State is like nowadays. Here’s what they had to say.
- Where are you originally from? How did you end up at Penn State? I am originally from a small town outside Hershey, Pennsylvania. I graduated from high school in 2017 in a graduating class of around 130. Originally, I did not want to go to Penn State because of the size and I thought that so many people from my area went to Penn State, and I wanted to branch out and look elsewhere. However, I still wanted to tour because I wanted to give it a chance. When I did my tour over the summer, I loved the campus and the opportunities that I thought the school provided to me, and I ultimately ended up choosing to go here.
- Why did you decide to pledge at Alpha Delta? What drew you to the brotherhood? Coming from a small town I found it difficult to adjust to the large community that Penn State has. I mostly stuck to a small group of friends my freshman year, but knew I wanted to be involved in something bigger. A few of my friends from freshman year were rushing our first semester sophomore year, and I decided that I would join them and look at some of the fraternities at Penn State. I ultimately found myself really enjoying the house and the guys at Chi Phi and decided that it was something that I wanted to be a part of. All the brothers were very welcoming and were easy to get along with. I knew from my initial visit to the house that I wanted to be a member.
- How long have you been involved with Alpha Delta? What have you learned/gained from your involvement? I joined Chi Phi in the Fall of 2018, my sophomore year, and have grown and learned so much since joining. I’ve learned how to work with numerous different people towards common goals, as well as worked to come to compromise when there are disagreements on certain things. Chi Phi has provided me the opportunity to meet people, grow as a leader, and explore networking opportunities with alumni as well as other people involved with the chapter.
- Do you have a leadership role at the house by any chance? If so, what’s your title? Currently I am the President and have been since November of 2019. Prior to being president, I held the positions of accreditation and community outreach chairman.
- What’s your expected grad year from Penn State ? What are your area(s) of study? I am a senior and am expecting to graduate in Spring of 2021. I am a finance major.
- Are you involved in any extracurriculars? If so, could you tell us a little bit about your experiences? How are your extracurriculars changing in the coming school year, due to COVID-19? Outside of Chi Phi, I have been involved in the Sports Business Club, as well as in THON. Both as well as functions within Chi Phi have been changed drastically due to COVID-19. Almost all events as a group need to be held virtually over Zoom and cannot meet in person. We are all trying to still function and reach goals, while not communicating face to face but rather over a remote platform. The social aspect of fraternities has diminished greatly, as gathering sizes have been significantly decreased. Chi Phi is still trying to fulfill all our goals in philanthropy, community service, recruitment, etc. but are learning how to do so remotely.
- How does this fall’s rush process differ from past years? How has it altered to account for COVID-19? The rush process for this year is something completely different than it has ever been. Typically, there are open houses for rushes to walk around and see all the fraternity houses. This year however, all house tours are recorded and posted virtually for rushes to watch on their own time. Additionally, the rest of recruitment is to be held virtually, so the challenge for both chapters as well as new members, is to try and see what is the best fit for them, all while making that determination over Zoom, and not getting to interact in person.
- Are there any events at the house that you’ve had to cancel or alter due to the pandemic? Yes there are several events that have needed to be changed/altered due to COVID-19. Some original ideas that we had for philanthropy events needed to be changed due to gathering limits and have had to be changed to online. An idea that one of our brothers had was to set up a drive-in movie theatre as a philanthropy event in our backyard to allow for social distancing, but due to new COVID regulation we weren’t able to put that idea into action. Additionally, there haven’t been much of any social gatherings at the house to once again abide by the new COVID gathering limits that have been put in place.
- How is day-to-day life in the house different this year from previous school years? What safety precautions are the Brothers taking? Day-to-Day life is much different than it has been in the past. People have been keeping to themselves more, and the house in general has been quieter. In order to maintain a safe environment brothers have been wearing masks and making sure to utilize hand sanitizer stations that have been set up around the house. Brothers are not permitted to enter the kitchen to interact with our chef, as she now provides all meals in individual to-go containers rather than serving it buffet style. Finally, the cleanliness of the house has been a heightened priority to maintain safety, as we have conducted two thorough house cleans a week and brought in a sanitation crew twice a week to disinfect bathrooms, doorknobs, and other public areas.
- Do you have any post-grad plans at the moment? Fortunately, my internship this summer with Bell Flight still took place in Fort Worth, Texas. I was fortunate enough to receive a job offer from their parent company, Textron. Currently I am searching for jobs and weighing that offer.
- Where are you originally from? How did you end up at Penn State? Originally, I am from Central New Jersey and I chose to apply and attend Penn State due to the prestigious academics as well as the school spirit. After my visit to the school, I was astonished because I had never seen so many people show so much pride in their school. I immediately knew that I wanted to be part of it.
- Why did you decide to pledge at Alpha Delta? What drew you to the brotherhood? I pledged Chi Phi the spring semester of my freshman year, so Spring 2019. Going into the rush process, I really did not know anything about Greek life. It was something that I just wanted to learn more about but have heard mixed opinions about it.
- How long have you been involved with Alpha Delta? What have you learned/gained from your involvement? I have been involved with Alpha Delta since the Spring of 2019. Upon rushing, I met a lot of cool and interesting people but what really drew me to Chi Phi is that there are so many kinds of people in the fraternity and everyone is accepted and welcomed. I met people with a wide range of personalities and backgrounds, and they all said the same thing: that the fraternity is like their second family. That is what I wanted to get out of Greek life, so the choice was clear when I received a bid.
- Do you have a leadership role at the house by any chance? If so, what’s your title? I hold a few chair positions including Alumni Chair, Assistant Risk Manager, and I am one of the THON chairs for THON 2021. I especially enjoyed being Alumni Chair as I have had to plan reunion events (even though they were canceled due to the pandemic) and speak to alumni and work with others. As for THON, although it is virtual this year, I have enjoyed working with our partner sorority and the THON families.
- What’s your expected grad year from Penn State ? What are your area(s) of study? My expected graduation is May 2022 where I (hopefully) will receive a bachelor’s in biomedical engineering.
- Are you involved in any extracurriculars? If so, could you tell us a little bit about your experiences? How are your extracurriculars changing in the coming school year, due to COVID-19? I am involved in the Biomedical Engineering Society in which we learn about opportunities, both short and long term, in the field. I was also part of the Humanitarian Engineering & Social Entrepreneurship program (HESE) in which students work in groups to tackle a major problem in Kenya. If it wasn’t for the pandemic, I would have traveled to Kisumu, Kenya for 4 weeks during the Summer to implement our business idea. This year, however, extracurriculars are nearly 100% virtual. Zoom meetings have become the new norm. It is more difficult to connect with people virtually; however as long as people are driven, the purpose of any club or program will be met.
- How does this fall’s rush process differ from past years? How has it altered to account for COVID-19? Rush this semester is very different. This is an area where I can say it is much worse due to Covid-19. Prior to rush there is a week of zone days in which potential rushes check out as many houses as they can to get a general feel and this year that was conducted through Zoom. From a rush’s perspective, not being able to take a tour of the house in person really hinders their ability to get an accurate sense of what kind of place it is. My first tour of Chi Phi is what drew me back there for rush events because I was able to see how the brothers interacted with each other and just the overall atmosphere. However, on zoom, although it is more personal in that you can have a conversation with a smaller number of people, it is hard to gauge if the house is the right fit for the rush, and if the rush is a right fit for the fraternity.
- Are there any events at the house that you’ve had to cancel or alter due to the pandemic? As for other events outside of rush, all of them are canceled. The brothers that live in house, myself included, can hang out with each other but guests are strictly forbidden. We were all really looking forward to Spring formal last year because we were not able to have one in the Fall of 2019, but we all got sent home in March. In a normal year, we would be having events every weekend, whether it was the entire fraternity getting together, or a themed social with other organizations, there were always fun events to fill our schedules. This year living in the house is obviously still a lot of fun because I can hang out with my closest friends all the time, but there is a clear difference in the atmosphere on campus.
- How is day-to-day life in the house different this year from previous school years? What safety precautions are the Brothers taking? For safety precautions, masks are required whenever you are not in a room and hand sanitizer stations have been installed in several locations all over the house. We are randomly testing 5 brothers a week, but if you have been exposed you are highly encouraged to get a test and then quarantine in your room until the results come back. In fact, I was exposed to someone who tested positive, so I quarantined in my room for two days until the test came back. Thankfully it was negative but so far, we have had two brothers test positive. As soon as anyone tests positive, everyone gets tested.
- Do you have any post-grad plans at the moment? Currently, my plans after graduation is simply to find a full-time job in Biomedical Engineering. One of my longer-term goals is to make enough money after 4-6 years of working and then try to get an MBA. I believe that having both a degree in Engineering and then a Master’s in Business will really help excel my career.