College is when we form ourselves. It is a time when we take shape not just in terms of vocation, but worldview, philosophy, and perception. The precious few years we have here at the University make all the difference for a lifetime, if spent wisely. Enter Reid Williams, a senior at Wichita State, the president of the Interfraternity Council, and a proud SigEp. Until this summer, he had never before set foot outside North America. Because Reid had used his time to prove himself as a dedicated, passionate, and altogether sound student and person, SigEp offered him the opportunity of a lifetime: Experience Greece with the brothers of Sigma Phi Epsilon.
As he was quick to point out, this trip wasn't some resort on the coast where college frat boys go to hang out. The program, called Trago’s Quest, has a far higher goal, one that could never have been achieved without such an incredible curriculum and staff. Each person was given three books: one on Greek mythology, one on Greek philosophy, and one on Greek history. They were assigned readings that corresponded to what they were about to see, so they could have a truly well-informed and rich experience.
They were accompanied on these trips by a handful of successful and sharp SigEp alumni, who got to both share the experience and guide them as mentors. To further help guide and enrich their experience, a tour guide was attached; but the tour guides in Greece are a little different from ours. Reid states, “Here in America, most anybody can be a tour guide and the requirements vary a lot. In Greece, it's a lot different. They actually have to go to a school dedicated specifically to making tour guides who know exactly what they're talking about...all the time.”
As if those two groups weren't enough, they also had a scholar attached to their group. He was not the stuffy, tweed-jacketed academic that the word “Scholar” might make us think of; this man is the real deal. Dr. Gareth Owens(who has his own Wikipedia page, by the way) holds a PhD in archaeology, a second PhD in linguistics, translated for the BBC, and was a professor at the University of Crete, just to name a few of his credentials. Reid smiled and added, “Yeah, Dr. Owens liked to casually drop that he'd have to get back to Crete soon because National Geographic was filming a documentary on him.” Throughout the sites they visited, he would constantly pull from his encyclopedic knowledge, providing a tour of Greece that just can't be paralleled.
Each aspect of this trip lends itself to creating something that is collectively much greater than any of its component parts: forming men who truly exemplify what our fraternity means. SigEp seeks to go beyond the normal college experience and instead provide a world-class formative experience. Reid, being from a Midwestern school whose mascot is literally wheat, found himself exploring ancient Greece, being carefully guided by someone who has completely dedicated his life to the study of it. He was introduced to philosophy that explained what it actually means to be a Greek student, and where that whole concept started. Even though it took place in the mediterranean, if anything, it was a Renaissance experience for the men of Sigma Phi Epsilon.
Returning home to Wichita is not where the trip ended, but rather where it really started. Tragos Quest was a time simply to give students much-needed tools, but home is when it was time to work. “As I enter my senior year, I find myself where every almost every student does: ready to have my ‘coasting year’. We have all worked so hard the past three years, and are ready to just relax a little. Honestly, I’d started kind of brainstorming what I could afford to delegate to others and had a sort of mental map of how little involvement I could get away with. But Tragos Quest took all of that out of me. Now, I want to take control. I want to lead. All I have on my mind is going forward and brainstorming new ways we can progress. I want my senior year to be my most active, and I have Tragos to thank for that.”