Rob’s Report: Moving Into the Future

You may have noticed that there are some changes at AEPi headquarters. I am excited to share some of these changes with you and discuss a bit about what is happening and why.

In 2019, the Supreme Board formed a taskforce that was asked to study and quantify what makes AEPi successful at what we do. In other words, find out what about our programs, structure, people, methods, and experience turns AEPi men into leaders of the Jewish community. There was no question that AEPi makes a huge impact on our members but answering the question as to how, is critical in ensuring an optimized outcome for each and every member going forward. Two key things came out of the taskforce.

The first was the need to retool our use of data and analytics. About 30 years ago, Supreme Master David Bacharach (z’l”) pushed AEPi to enter the digital age. At the time this meant that the board and staff would communicate by e-mail rather than by fax or letter. In addition, AEPi would have a webpage and would use new computer programs to track its member database and chapter files. This was a revolutionary step for AEPi back then but today we are not just in the digital age, we are in the age of big data.

AEPi needs to again revolutionize in order to implement modern data collection methodology and analysis to our advantage. This year we will be launching phase one of our new AEPi system. Undergrads will begin to see changes to the MyAEPi and Openbook systems this fall which will be integrated into one platform. They will also see seamless integration with the new system which will eventually offer e-learning programs for each chapter role and phase of college.  Over the coming years AEPi will see greater and greater functionality built into these systems along with tools that help our chapters operate and our members collaborate more seamlessly. Data collected from these integrated platforms will help AEPi to track outcomes of our programming.

The second finding from the taskforce was the recognition of our need to outline what an ideal AEPi experience would look like. Our education staff, led by Kyle Whitlock, went to work developing a document that we call “The Undergraduate Experience”. This document is simply a roadmap that describes each element of AEPi and contextualizes how they come together to create impact on our undergraduates. Some elements are structural (e.g., E-boards, minor boards, committees) others programmatic (e.g., Shabbat dinners, social events, intermural sports) and still others interpersonal (e.g., advisers, parents club members, big brothers). AEPi will be able to utilize our Undergraduate Experience document as a clear model to work towards. As part of that model, we will rely very heavily on our staff and volunteers.

For more than 50 years, chapter-facing staff has primarily been a team of young alumni who take a year or two after college and serve as ELCs — Educational Leadership Consultants. Years ago, they were called Chapter Consultants or Field Secretaries, but the role had remained largely unchanged. Unfortunately, time changed the campus and Jewish landscape and it is time to recognize that the needs of today’s chapters, undergraduates, and volunteers are different than they were years ago. Recently I visited a campus and walked into Hillel. This Hillel employed five full time staff members. I asked one of the staffers that I met how many students come for shabbat dinner and how many come to programs throughout the week. They replied that about 125 students coming through their doors at some point over the week. I then walked over to Chabad and asked the Rabbi the same question. His staff of four reached about 200 students per week for a program or dinner. That night, I walked into the AEPi chapter meeting where 96 Brothers were in attendance and thought to myself …we have one staffer working with these men, but that staffer also works with 20 other chapters. In total, he has over 750 men to work with spread out across a large geographic region. Not only that, but these 96 men don’t just go to an AEPi program, they are immersed in the AEPi experience 24/7/365. Today’s campus environment is more complex and difficult than ever before. AEPi students deal with common campus cultural issues, struggle with the social media age, and often find themselves targets of antisemitism, all while trying to earn a degree and learn independence. It is obvious that AEPi does a lot with few resources but we are taking steps to do even more. I am committed to finding ways to provide best-in-class resources for our growing undergraduate ranks and know that the AEPi foundation is working diligently on these efforts, as well.

In an effort to provide more robust levels of service and consistency, we have developed a new staff role within AEPi. Regional Directors will be responsible for direct chapter-facing work, providing resources to advisers, and for maintaining deep local communal connections. Our goal is to provide greater levels and quality of staffing than ever before. Our staff are the people who help to deliver programs and train our members. In many ways, our people are the product that we deliver. Over the last six months we have hired five highly qualified Regional Directors and two Associate Regional Directors. In addition, we are piloting a Campus Director program at Indiana University and plan to expand this program to several of our largest chapters and campuses. A Campus Director will be a staffer dedicated to working with one chapter on a singular campus where our chapter size warrants the need for this resource.

In addition, AEPi is looking to expand our volunteer team by recruiting more chapter advisers and advisory board members. If you are interested in getting engaged with your chapter or the chapter in your area, please let Andrew Neiberg, our Director of Campus Operations, know.

AEPi is poised to experience growth in both membership size and in the quality of the experience that our members have. There are many changes happening and I hope you are as excited for AEPi’s future as I am. Help us move on this path forward!