Tragos Quest: Sound Mind and Sound Body

By Rei Ramos ‘15
University Communications

A summer expedition in Greece recently gave an undergraduate the opportunity to better understand his fraternity’s mission of “building balanced men.”  Russell Rosenkranz ’15 was selected among hundreds of national applicants for this year’s Tragos Quest, a 10-day trip through Greece sponsored by Sigma Phi Epsilon.  Reading selections from Homer and Socrates and subsequently venturing through the country’s archeological sites, he was given the opportunity to challenge himself mentally and physically in hopes of obtaining the Greek goal of having a “sound mind in a sound body.”

The trip allowed Rosenkranz, president of the U of R’s NY Xi Chapter of SigEp, to simultaneously experience Greek culture and consider the origins of his fraternity.  Along with 18 undergraduates from chapters around the nation, he traveled through Greece from June 12-22.

“Each day of the trip was both mentally and physically rewarding,” he said.  Typically, the morning routine would consist of an early, 6:30 a.m. breakfast and an hour-long discussion with a professor based around writings from the poets and philosophers of Greek antiquity.  Throughout each day, the group would go on to visit archeological sites that corresponded with the stories and history discussed. The first day of the trip brought the team to Poseidon’s Temple in Cape Sounion, a visit that helped to explain the capital’s namesake – Athena, the goddess who defeated Poseidon in battle.  The evening discussions were then led by a smaller group of two to three undergraduate Tragos Scholars, focusing on the values of virtue, diligence, and brotherly love upon which the fraternity was founded.

Rosenkranz found the search for a “sound mind” to be perhaps the most challenging part of the expedition.  The nightly group discussions often forced the group to think both outside of the box, as well as their comfort zones.  “We constantly pushed the envelope to have some of the best and deepest conversations I have ever had in my life.”  Delving into topics such as fear and the pursuits of happiness and success, the nightly discourse pushed the undergraduates to think critically and introspectively.

That’s not to say that the rest of the trip was without other obstacles.  The trip’s physical challenges included hiking up mountains for better views of temples and dig sites and climbing a 1000 step fortress overlooking Nafplio to get a panoramic view of the seaport city.  The group of Tragos Scholars also held a friendly race on the original Olympic track, which Rosenkranz went on to win. “We were also constantly challenging one another to try new experiences or tasks each day,” said Rosenkranz.  The group’s mentors asked them to prepare a lunch for the team on a set budget, which forced the Tragos Scholars to coordinate and barter with locals without a common language.

The quest’s focus on physical fitness and mental equilibrium did not detract from the trip’s showcase of Greece’s beautiful scenery.  Rosenkranz recalls gorgeous, breathtaking views from the Hosios Loukas Monastery in the town of Nafpaktos.  “I cannot do it justice describing it in words,” he admitted.  The sixth day of the trip offered views of Delphi and the natural landscape of the Corycian Cave.  The final day of the trip ended on the tallest hill of Athens, overlooking the entire city and the Acropolis.  With a dinner at sunset, the group was able to watch the sunset and see the entire city light up at night, a sight which Rosenkranz would go on to note as one of the most memorable of the entire trip.

Through all of the harrowing physical activities and journeys through memorable sights, Rosenkranz found a conversation with a stranger to be the most meaningful experience of his journey.   Asking three locals in Nafpaktos for words of wisdom, one older gentleman went on to share a story of the loss of his child.  “It was shocking how this stranger was able to open up to us – four young Americans – and tell us his emotional story in such a vulnerable state.”  This brief, but meaningful, exchange quickly moved Russell to empathy and led him to consider himself somewhat of a surrogate son to the Greek man.

Having lost his father exactly a month prior to the flight to Greece, Rosenkranz entirely understood the man’s sadness.  A discussion on fear on the following day gave him the chance to share his grief with his mentors and fellow scholars.  “That night, everyone opened up and showed that level of emotional vulnerability which led to the deepest and most meaningful conversation of the entire trip,” he said. “It was an experience I will never forget; though short, it made the biggest impact on the rest of my trip and my life.”

Rosenkranz’s time spent in Greece, beyond being an enriching cultural experience, has taught him a few lessons that he plans to carry with him into senior year and beyond.  The first lesson involves being more vulnerable and emotionally open to his peers.  He believes that this alone will allow him to develop deeper relationships with those that he trusts.  The second is to make time to grab a cup of coffee with friends – or even strangers – to “soak it all in” day-by-day.  “I am one to always be on the go, so being able to sit and hangout with people helps clear my head and open my mind,” he said.

Looking ahead, the rising senior, pursuing majors in applied mathematics and financial economics, hopes to one day seek out a career in consulting or within the banking industry.  “When it comes down to it, I will choose a career that challenges me to grow and constantly learn.”  In the meantime, he will juggle involvement with SigEp, the varsity swim team, and the Students’ Association.  With a sound mind and sound body in tow, Rosenkranz is more than ready to take on these many commitments as a balanced man.

Not Your Average Run

By Alayna Callanan ’14
University Communications

As a graduating senior at U of R, it was on my bucket list to eat a Garbage Plate at the original Nick Tahou’s. How better to do it than by participating in Sigma Phi Epsilon’s 11th annual Nick Tahou’s Run?

Now, I am not much of a runner. I ran one season of cross-country in high school but have not run consistently since. Only twice have I ever run more than a 5K, so even without factoring in the food, the 4.4 mile run was daunting. Even worse, my stomach is fairly sensitive; I never eat fast food and try to avoid greasy, unhealthy food at all costs. However, something about Sig Ep’s run was calling to me.

For anyone not familiar with a Garbage Plate, it is combination of meat, carbs and hot sauce. In this case, two cheeseburgers over heaping piles of home fries and mac salad, smothered in Nick’s signature hot sauce along with two slices of bread, which were all donated by Nick Tahou’s. Normally, the task of running and eating is split by a team of two or three people, but I was feeling crazy enough to undertake the event without aid.

The pride of becoming an Iron Woman, running the 2.2 miles to the original Nick Tahou’s, eating an entire Garbage Plate singlehandedly, and running back, was appealing in a bizarre way.  I must not have been the only one to feel this way! Nearly 50 participants, including many Iron Men and Iron Women, braved the “balmy” Rochester day with weather hovering around freezing and occasional flurries and strong winds on Saturday, April 5. It was a tough challenge physically, but the mental game was much worse. I could not imagine doing the race alone, so I enlisted Miriam Grigsby ’17 to pursue the Iron Woman challenge alongside me. Without each other’s support, we would not have been able to finish in an hour and six minutes; together we were able to keep each other motivated, run’s both ways, and suppress the overwhelming urge to spew.

Better yet, all proceeds of the race benefitted the Mt. Hope Family Center! The Mt. Hope Family Center works with the Clinical and Social Psychology Department to build strong families by providing intervention and prevention therapies to at-risk children and families.

This race is certainly not for the faint of heart… or stomach, but I would highly recommend it to anyone considering participating in the future! While supporting a great cause, I had a fantastic and highly memorable day. One less thing to do on my shrinking list of things to do before Commencement! I am sure the Class of 2014 can sympathize with the excitement and dread of May 18. So if you are one of those seniors who still has not consumed a Garbage Plate, get on it! The clock is ticking.

And, here’s a special shout out to Jane Clinger ’16 who was the first solo competitor to finish at an impressive time of 44:20! (Depending on how fast she ate, that’s about a 7-minute mile!)

Watch WROC-TV’s story about the event here!

Greek Leadership Association Honors Four at Rochester

Three undergraduates and one fraternity at the University of Rochester were honored with four awards at the Northeast Greek Leadership Association (NGLA) Conference, held in Hartford, Conn., last month. The NGLA provides opportunities for learning and leadership to members of fraternities and sororities throughout the northeast region.

Three students from the University, Kyle Coapman ’13 of Delta Upsilon Fraternity, Harini Morisetty ’13 (T5) of Delta Phi Omega Sorority, and Kelly Scull ’14, Sigma Delta Tau Sorority, were recipients of the Greek Leaders of Distinction Award. This award recognizes students who exemplify the ideals of their fraternity or sorority within their daily lives. Nominees were judged on several criteria, including leadership, scholastic and academic achievement, character as displayed through fraternity or sorority membership, and service to the University, to the individual’s organization, and to the fraternity and sorority community at large.

Sigma Phi Epsilon also was recognized with the Amy Vojta Impact Award for Philanthropy & Service; which recognizes programming and initiatives that made an impact on a chapter. The fraternity was honored for their work planning and organizing the 19th Ward Spelling Bee.

The annual event is a partnership between Sigma Phi Epsilon, the 19th Ward Community Association, Rochester City School District, Rochester Area Community Foundation, and University of Rochester Admissions Office. Throughout the academic year students in grades three through seven receive spelling bee support in their respective schools and attend monthly sessions where members of Sigma Phi Epsilon tutor them in preparation for the preliminary and the final rounds. Students’ hard work culminates with the final round, held in the spring. Prior to the competition students and their parents also have the opportunity to explore the River Campus and engage with members of the University community.

“By bringing students to our school and showing them what they are capable of, we believe that we intrinsically motivate them to learn and reach their full potential,” wrote Jonathan Macoskey ’15, Sigma Phi Epsilon president, in a letter nominating the fraternity for the award. “We hope that as these students near the end of high school, this event’s impact will be visible; encouraging the pursuit of higher education at a young age will hopefully aid in increasing high school graduation rates in the city of Rochester.”

Winners for each grade level receive a $500 scholarship given upon high school graduation and intent to attend college.

Tahou’s Run features Iron Men, Garbage Plates, and Charity

Univ. Communications – Like the Garbage Plate itself, Sigma Phi Epsilon’s annual Nick Tahou’s Run features an improbable mix of ingredients: fraternity brothers, a famous local eatery, a health clinic affiliated with the university, and participation in a race from the university and local community alike. It all goes toward a good cause: raising funds for at-risk children and families affected by abuse, neglect, violence, and other difficulties.

On Saturday, April 7th, about 100 contestants participated in the Tahou’s Run. It included representation from students, staff, members of the local community, and especially the brothers from Sigma Phi Epsilon, who organized the event. They come together for a relay race from the River Campus to Nick Tahou’s, a 4.4 mile round-trip run, which also features a meal of a whole Garbage Plate.

YNN Report: Tahou’s Fuels Runners

The run and relay race involve one person running two miles from the River Campus to Nick Tahou’s; one to eat a Garbage Plate; and a third to run back to campus. These roles can also be split between two people, or even a single person, who is given the title of Iron Man, “one brave soul who does it all.” The good-natured race is followed by an award for the top team.

Nick Tahou’s Garbage Plates have been a classic of Rochester for more than 50 years. Not for the timid of stomach, it is a mess of hamburger, cheeseburger, home fries, red hots, white hots, ham, chicken, fish, grilled cheese, macaroni salad, or eggs. One recommendation on says it all: “Eat this quickly or all the fat will gel the ingredients together!” Sixty of them were donated by Nick Tahou’s for this event.

The run this year raised more than $500 for the Mt. Hope Family Center, a Strong Memorial Hospital- affiliate that works to improve the lives of disadvantaged children and their families. It engages in both research and social services to make sure that children can develop, socially and emotionally. “The Mt. Hope Family Center is dedicated to helping at-risk children and families improve their lives by giving them the necessary resources to build strong healthy families and peer relationships,” said Sheree L. Toth, the executive director of the center. “Since we are part of the University of Rochester, we are thrilled the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity chose to support us as their charity for this great race tradition.”


Two runners this year ran as Iron Men: David Liesegang, a staff member at the University of Rochester Medical Center, and Travis Figueroa, a community member. While Kenny Hanchett ’14,  one of the race organizers admitted that “having to put your body through running 2.2 miles, eating a garbage plate, and running back is a difficult task,” turnout to the race was strong.

“I think it’s a uniquely college experience that everyone should do while at the U of R. Also, the money goes to the Mt. Hope Family Center, an organization Sigma Phi Epsilon has made strong ties with and a cause we feel worthy of public support and charitable donations,” he said.

The next Tahou’s Run will take place in spring 2013.

Article written by Dan Wang, a sophomore at Rochester, who studies philosophy and economics. Photos courtesy of the Mt. Hope Family Center.

Conference Creates Next Generation of Campus Leaders

Rochester Center for Community Leadership – In early November, nearly 50 University of Rochester undergrads participated in the day-long UR Rising Leader Conference, organized by the Rochester Center for Community Leadership, the Order of Omega, Sigma Chi, and Sigma Phi Epsilon.

Part of ENCORE (the Early November Orientation Revisited program), the conference was geared towards freshmen and sophomores who are interested in becoming active contributors to the campus community. Throughout the day, students worked to identify goals for personal develop—both as students and as future leaders. The conference was led by facilitators from the LeaderShape Institute who provided attendees with tools they can use to achieve their goals.

The conference also was co-sponsored by the Dean of Freshmen, the Dean of Sophomores, Wilson Commons Student Activities, the Student Association, Residential Life, Office of the Dean of the College and Orientation Encore.

For more information about leadership opportunities at Rochester, visit the Rochestr Center for Community Leadership on the web.

Article and photo courtesy of the Rochester Center for Community Leadership

Sigma Phi Epsilon Collects Toys for Mt. Hope Family Center

Mt. Hope Family Center – When Dan Peterson ’12 and Yan Nuzbrokh ’14, learned that the Mt. Hope Family Center, where they both volunteer, was in need of new toys for the children they serve, the two Rochester undergrads went straight to their Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity brothers. With Meliora Weekend right around the corner, they planned an impromptu toy drive, and members of the fraternity called home, asking their parents to raid their toy closets and bring as many gently used and new games, toys, and stuffed animals with them as they could when they came to visit for the weekend celebration. On Friday, Oct. 28, Sigma Phi brothers Matt Skurnick ’13 and Bjorn Ahbel ’13 (pictured above) dropped off the toys collected during their drive.

Story and photo courtesy of Mt. Hope Family Center

Fraternities, Sororities Honored at Conference

Univ. Communications – Members of the University of Rochester’s fraternity and sorority community were recognized last month with six awards and one honorable mention at the Northeast Greek Leadership Association Conference in Stamford, Connecticut. The NGLA provides opportunities for learning and leadership to members of fraternities and sororities throughout the northeast region.

University of Rochester award recipients include Drew Alessi ’11, of Chi Phi Fraternity, Katarina Gardner ’11, of Gamma Phi Beta Sorority, and Luis Soto ’11, of Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity, who each received the Student Greek Leaders of Distinction Award. This award recognizes students who exemplify the ideals of their fraternity or sorority within their daily lives. The individuals were judged on several criteria including leadership, scholastic and academic achievement, character as displayed through fraternity or sorority membership, and service to the University, to the individual’s organization, and to the Fraternity and Sorority community at large.

Two Rochester Greek organizations also were recognized with the Amy Vojta Impact Award, which is presented to groups that created an original program with an impact on the community. Chi Phi Fraternity won the Multi-Cultural Initiative Programming award for its Ise Lyfe Program, during which renowned spoken word artist Ise Lyfe performed for the Rochester community in honor of Black History Month. The entire fraternity and sorority community was honored with the Public Relations Award for “Greek Glow Out,” an event during Orientation 2010. The program introduced freshmen to the fraternity and sorority community through a carnival-style event on the Fraternity Quad.

Sigma Phi Epsilon was awarded an honorable mention in the Chapter Development and Leadership category for its Epsilon Challenge, a program that encourages initiated brothers to develop leadership skills.

John DiSarro, assistant director of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs at Rochester, attended the conference with members of the Interfraternity Council Executive Board. He congratulated the recipients, saying, “These awards reflect the commitment of our entire fraternity and sorority community to strengthen campus life at the University of Rochester and provide outstanding leadership development for its members.”

Monica Miranda Smalls, the director of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs, was honored with the Philippi Award at the conference. Given to a fraternity and sorority affairs professional who has been nominated by an undergraduate, the Philippi Award acknowledges the role Smalls plays in the daily operation of campus life, programs that she has enacted throughout her tenure, and the relationship that Smalls has cultivated with the students in the community.

“Many of our undergraduate student leaders exemplify the true purpose of fraternal organizations,” said Smalls, who was recently elected president of the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors. “It’s nice to see others recognize and reward them for the good work they are doing to enhance the overall student and community experience at the University.”