Beginning this fall, the Thomas Arkle Clark Memorial Chapter House Corporation will be working with Alpha Management Group, a company that specializes in assisting fraternities with managing their facilities and finances, and in creating successful cultures and experiences within their chapters. Alpha Management Group is excited to begin this relationship with Gamma Zeta Chapter as it marks the fourth group we are working with on the University of Illinois campus. AMG currently also serves fraternities on twelve other campuses across the country and oversees fraternity housing for over 1600 men.
AMG and the local alumni leaders started planning for this transition this spring. Initially, the program will focus on improved operation of the facility though better maintenance, repair and day-to-day operations. This year, the emphasis will be for AMG to work cooperatively with the chapter members to improve the ongoing care and upkeep of the chapter house.
The chapter is already seeing the benefits of AMG’s involvement. The chapter house underwent substantial cleaning and repairs immediately prior to move in this fall. Chapter leaders commented that move in this year was much improved over previous years. Additionally, this fall’s inspection with the University of Illinois Certified Housing program went very smoothly this year. AMG’s staff prepared the chapter house prior to the inspection so inspectors found few violations. The inspector commented that this was the best inspection that the property had seen in his 11 years as an inspector for this program. The minor violations that were cited have already been addressed. Alumni house corporation leaders report that this is a big step forward from the inspection struggles experienced in prior years.
In the upcoming months, AMG will work with the house corporation leaders to develop an ongoing preventative maintenance program so the chapter house will be properly cared for on an ongoing basis. After some of the deferred maintenance has been addressed, this program should reduce long-term repair expenses as properly maintained building systems and equipment run more efficiently, last longer, and break down less frequently.
In the future, AMG’s involvement could also be utilized to improve the food service program, oversee rental collections, assist with financial management, manage the lease signing process and other operational tasks. The alumni leaders will evaluate the progress of the program and add additional services we become confident that AMG can deliver the high level of service desired.
We are optimistic that through AMG’s program, the members will have a better and safer housing experience, that the alumni volunteer’s day-to-day operational burdens of overseeing the property will be eased, and that the Thomas Arkle Clark Memorial Chapter House will be preserved for future generations of Alpha Tau Omega members.
Chris Gutting, Ret.(USN) BA MS CPO is the Alpha Management Facility Manager who is working directly with our undergraduate members on a day to day basis. Here is a brief interview with Chris.
Can you first tell us a little bit about your background?
After high school, I joined the United States Navy where I served on several ships as and Operations Specialist as a Hazardous Materials Technician. Later in my career, I was a recruiter and was an Administrator at the Nuclear Weapons Station. I retired after a twenty years of service the Navy. Following my retirement, I attended Eastern Illinois University and the University of Illinois at Champaign receiving a bachelor’s degree in Adult Education and a Masters in Science of Technology. Prior to joining AMG, I managed hotel and apartment properties, and taught computer classes at a community college.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in West Point Illinois with my 5 sisters and my mother.
What other sorts of things have you done?
I have been a taxi service dispatcher, Certified nurse assistant, Operated hotels, Chief Engineer , College instructor, Apartment complex general manager, Certified counselor of the Department of Labor, General Manager of retail stores and my greatest feat was being the best at what I do. I now work for Alpha management as a house director and a facility manager for fraternity houses in the states of Illinois and Indiana.
How did you get involved with Alpha Management?
Alpha Management came into my life when I came across an advertisement that Alpha wanted a house director, I applied for the position and went through the hiring process and was hired for 2 positions with Alpha , a resident director and as a facility manager.
What does Alpha Management do for ATO and what is your specific role?
As the facility manager, I oversee the day-to-day operations of the building and grounds. I oversee the move in and move out process, conduct regular inspections, coordinate repairs and maintenance and work with the chapter members in an effort to see that the property is properly cared for and that they have a good housing experience.
In the past, our fraternity operated with very little adult supervision. The older members provided strong leadership and things worked pretty well. Operating the fraternity provided excellent leadership development and team building opportunities. What’s changed? Have we lost that by getting you guys involved. Do the guys still have opportunities to learn, grow, make mistakes, learn from their mistakes, lead, follow etc.? Some worry that we’re just doing it for them rather than teaching them. How do you guys address this question?
AMG’s program was developed to support the concept of fraternities being a place in which young men can learn leadership, gain experience in running organizations and build life-long friendships. The chapter leadership is still involved in the day-to-day operations of the chapter house and has specific responsibilities that promote the development of skills and gaining valuable experiences. However, AMG provides a safety net so that critical services are still taken care of in the event chapter leadership cannot adequately manage these activities. Additionally, AMG coordinates the day-to-day operational issues so that repairs and maintenance are properly performed, and so that the house is in a better condition for the members.
What is it like working with 19/20 year old Fraternity guys vs. 19/20 year old Navy recruits?
It is surprisingly very similar. They just need guidance, responsibility placed upon them, and set expectations clearly communicated to them. It is an honor to be in my position. I take pride in doing this and in helping young men to grow to their potential.
Does your Navy training and experience translate well to this environment?
It does, I’m a certified counselor which helps me handle most situations that arise with young men and it calibrates me as well to stay involved with the younger people who strives to do their best and take on responsibilities in the Fraternity. My teaching experiences have helped tremendously in my efforts to bring the fraternity into a team atmosphere.
Can you describe what you do on a typical visit to ATO?
My typical visit is to walk the house to ensure the property is maintained properly. I try to visit with the guys and ensure everyone’s questions are answered or problems are taken care of. Communication is a big part of my job while in the chapter house. I’ll meet with the Executive Officers to ensure all is well or help them develop solutions to their problems or concerns. Advising the members is a great part of my visit.
How frequently are you there?
I am at the ATO every week, every day if needed.
I realize that I’d just been a few weeks since you got started with Gamma Zeta but based upon first impressions, how is it going?
This house and the members are a great group to work with. I would have to say this is the best house that I have worked with so far that has accepted us with open arms. They are ready to meet the challenges and goals they have for themselves and the house.
Are you getting good cooperation from our undergrads?
Yes, best ever cooperation.
Is there anything else that you’d like to say to our alumni?
I look forward to a great year and thanks for having us as part of your team.