A Convention Like No Other

Each year, as we write up a convention recap, we say that this year’s convention was the best and most unique ever. This year, there is no doubt that this is true.

Alpha Epsilon Pi’s 107th Annual International Convention was unfortunately NOT held in Atlanta as had been originally planned. Instead, world events forced us to go virtual this year. A lot of things were different but the most important attributes – our Brotherhood – remained the same.

“By late spring, it was becoming apparent that we would have to modify our convention plans,” said AEPi CEO Jim Fleischer. “There was no way we could ask Brothers from around the globe to come together for a traditional convention and risk their health. It was a very difficult decision – at the time – to make. I love our International Convention. Some of my fondest fraternal memories and closes friends came from conventions in years past.”

“I challenged my staff to do the best they could to recreate the leadership development and networking opportunities in a virtual environment.”

AEPi International got to work. With the burgeoning success of AEPiConnect, fraternity staff knew that undergraduates and alumni would participate in virtual programming if the opportunities were interesting and timely.

“The first thing we looked at was adapting our summer leadership series to this new environment. Jon Bridge (Chief Programming Officer) and Kyle Whitlock (Director of Leadership Development) and their staff broke down those programs, focused on the essentials and developed a creative approach to leadership development for our undergrads,” said Fleischer.

The Michael A. Leven Advanced Leadership Institute offers select Brothers the opportunity to learn the essential tools to become a successful leader and manager. The conference bolsters business leadership skills to prepare attendees for their future careers and is geared toward undergraduate Brothers who currently or previously have held a position within the chapter, with particular emphasis on rising seniors.

Instead of occurring right before #AEPi107, the Leven Institute occurred over virtually over several weeks this summer. Participants had the opportunity to hear from inspiring business leaders and Brothers and work together to resolve case studies and present them to a panel of AEPi alumni. All of this happened virtually this year.

“One of the key lessons of leadership is adaptability and flexibility. Our Leven participants got a first-hand lesson in that this year,” said Fleischer.

The Hineni Jewish Identity Enrichment Conference offers two tracks in Jewish Identity and Tikkun Olam, allowing Brothers to reflect on their Jewish identity and discover ways to strengthen the Jewish Identity of their chapters and take the values of AEPi and the Jewish people into their community to help the less fortunate and make their community a better place. With speakers from throughout the “Jewish world,” Hineni participants had a unique opportunity this year to participate in virtual learning opportunities and have valuable interactions with Brothers from across the globe about the meaning of these values in the middle of a global pandemic.

With the Summer Leadership Series programming underway, AEPi staff turned its attention to convention programming.

“This year there obviously needed to be some important discussions with our undergraduate Brothers about operating during a pandemic, whether virtually or in-person, as well as reviewing our health and safety guidelines overall,” said Fleischer. “We also wanted to combine these important and serious discussions with some more fun topics and also create forums for our undergraduates and alumni to interact.”

Yes, #AEPi107 did offer Brothers the chance to have a little fun and network. In addition to learning valuable leadership skills and chapter management tools, panel discussions with alumni discussing “How AEPi Changed My Life” were offered, breakout groups were held throughout convention allowing Brothers to “meet” each other virtually and discuss common issues and problems. There was even an AEPi Trivia Night!

“I think we accomplished what we wanted to during our virtual convention,” said Fleischer. “We brought our Brothers together, we discussed important topics, we learned from each other and, to the best of our ability, we networked and developed new friendships.”

On Friday, July 31, Brothers from across the globe gathered virtually to attend Supreme Council via zoom. Supreme Master Jeff Jacobson donned the robes for his last time and, from his den in Tucson, AZ , conducted our annual business meeting. Brothers heard reports about the fraternity and foundation and elected a new slate of officers to the Supreme Board of Governors. Joining the SBG this year is Brother Michael Oxman (Northwestern, 2006) and leaving the Board was Past Supreme Master Scott Cohon.

A significant part of each International Convention is the election of the undergraduate cabinet, which is charged with providing the SBG input and suggestions from AEPi undergraduates around the world. Mazel Tov to these dedicated Brothers who were elected to serve on the 2020-2021 cabinet: Daniel Blumen (UCLA, 2022), Amitai Gispan (Hebrew U, 2021), Jacob Levey (Rutgers, 2022), Evan Rosenthal (Alabama, 2021), and Maxwell Schwartz (Kansas, 2021).

Later that night, Brother Jason Oshins (Union, 1987) was installed as the fraternity’s 75th Supreme Master. In his address, Brother Oshins challenged our undergraduates and alumni to help lead the fraternity and the Jewish community. “If we hope to ensure that AEPi remains a place we are proud to call our Jewish home, a place defined by Torah, by mitzvot, by acts of loving kindness and by community, then we all have an obligation to think strategically about our future, and to take action to make sure that that future becomes a reality. And, if you would like to be involved in strengthening AEPi, then please start now, in whatever capacity you can. Get involved in one of the many amazing programs and initiatives that we have. Join us in Tikkun Olam, so that you can help our fraternity give back to the world that gives so much to us.”

The final highlight of convention was the announcement of awards. “Even during these unprecedented times, our Brothers are doing remarkable things on their campuses and in their communities. I’m glad we were able to provide them with some recognition for their extraordinary accomplishments,” said Fleischer.

Click here to watch the video featuring the 2019-20 AEPi award winners, and the Lion page listing all award winners can be found by clicking here.

“I hope we never have to do a convention virtually again but, if we have to, we are ready,” said Fleischer. “Next year in Orlando!”

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