Ryan Chartrand

Three years ago, Cal Poly’s Sigma Omega chapter of Alpha Epsilon Pi was chartered as a fledgling fraternity meant to strengthen the bond between Jewish men on campus, and to provide them opportunities and resources for career, personal and spiritual growth. Today, the chapter stands on the verge of serving as the hub of exploring such development not just at Cal Poly but for all of the western U.S. and Canada.

The Cal Poly AEPi chapter will do just that on campus Friday through Sunday while hosting the AEPi Western Regional Conclave, a three-day educational conference welcoming more than 500 fraternity brothers from 24 chapters hailing from elsewhere in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona and British Columbia.

Speakers at the opening session and banquet will include U.S. Congresswoman Shelley Berkley of Nevada, Rabbi Shalom Denbo and Elan Carr, a Middle East expert and linguist, prosecutor and U.S. military officer.

“The purpose of the entire conference is to develop future leaders,” said aerospace engineering sophomore Simon Iacob, Conclave Chairman and Lt. Master of the chapter. “It’s about developing students as leaders for the campus and community.”

In past years, the event has been held at UC Santa Barbara, UCLA, Arizona State and San Francisco State.

“We’re extremely proud to bring it to San Luis Obispo and expose everyone to what our school and our chapter are about,” chapter master and biology senior Alain Broulard said. “Not a lot of these guys may know a lot about Cal Poly, so to host this huge event and have them come here is really exciting.”

According to Iacob, Berkley and the others will be part of a career panel addressing entrepreneurship and occupations in law, business and medicine, among other fields.

In addition to the speakers, AEPi will present workshops on developing brotherhood, leadership and philanthropic ideals, as well as activities including a discussion of risk management and an athletic tournament.

The original Cal Poly chapter was established in 1972 before it went through a hiatus during the 1980s, Iacob said; its more modern inception began in 2003 through an interest group and was officially chartered in 2005.

Since then, Iacob explained, the chapter’s membership quickly increased to 65.

“We believe we’re doing huge things, developing the Jewish community on campus and in San Luis Obispo,” he said. “We’re making huge strides.”

Not just building a presence on campus, Iacob said, the chapter has increasingly reached out in the community, often working with a San Luis Obispo synagogue and partaking in special events for children during the holiday season.

Cal Poly was voted by other chapters as the host site for the western region at this past summer’s AEPi national convention in Palm Springs. Host sites for five regions are awarded annually.

“That in itself was an honor, to see other chapters honor our presence,” Broulard said.

Iacob pointed out San Diego State and UNLV, among others, as finalists.

AEPi, founded in 1913, is now comprised of 138 chapters across the U.S. and Canada. Its current undergraduate membership is greater than 6,000, and during its 94-year history, it has initiated 85,000 men.

“Usually the host sites are given to chapters well-established and recognized,” Iacob added. “But we’ve grown very quickly and this is very special for us.”

Broulard, who thinks the chapter’s presence alone has helped increase the campus’ and surrounding area’s Jewish population, said much of the conclave will be geared toward younger, newer members.

“There will be a lot of educational seminars about brotherhood, student fundraising and even being president one day,” he said. “These seminars are about how to become a leader and regarding Jewish heritage.”

The conclave, which is exclusive to AEPi members, begins 5 p.m. Friday, when regional chapters will arrive in San Luis Obispo before enjoying a first night of welcome involving bowling, billiards and touring downtown.

Most of the events take place Saturday, beginning with an 8 a.m. basketball tournament at the Recreation Center.

Seminars on aspects of leadership ranging from recruitment to management will take place through optional breakouts, as different rooms on campus have been designated for particular sessions attendees will be able to select from.

The opening session will be held at noon Saturday in the Performing Arts Center’s Harman Hall, followed by the first round of officer chairman breakouts, rushing, a pledge program, the career panel, the seminar on risk management, a banquet dinner and a social gathering which concludes at 2 a.m.

Sunday’s activities begin with a 9 a.m. general meeting, followed by brunch, the second round of officer breakouts and a closing session ending at 1 p.m.

Although it is uncertain what western host site will be named at the upcoming national convention in Chicago, Broulard voiced gratitude that Cal Poly was given host duties this time.

“It’s great they did that,” he said. “For us and others like us, it’s an opportunity for up-and-coming chapters to show our status and hard work.”

While Iacob agreed it may be some time before Cal Poly could host the conclave again, the chapter would be eager to repeat it in the near future.

“We’d be more than happy to host it again, in (likely) five years or so,” Iacob said. “We’re looking to grow as a chapter, and currently our brotherhood is amazingly strong.”

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