Andrew W. Lee

Why Pledgemaster

Note: Many people reading this won't know what a pledge master is. It varies for each organization. In my experience, it is not at all what you would imagine from the movies like 22 Jump Street, with prospects being hazed and being forced to consume excess amounts of alcohol to join an organization. A better mental picture would be a camp counselor at summer camp, engaging in leading and helping the group to bond.

Being pledgemaster consists of leading and managing a group of individuals to improve themselves and bond over the course of a quarter at UCLA.

This was written for the bright and unique individuals I had the privilege of leading and managing with James. This is a reflection of my experience and some observations I've made between my pledging experience and my experience as pledgemaster. I believe some of my observations applies to any group of people that become closer together through concentrated shared experiences for a period of time like working on a startup that gets acquired.

“I ran because I wanted to help people become entrepreneurs, in the sense that they develop the know-how to to take any idea in their mind and make it become a reality.”

That's what I would have said if you asked me why I wanted to be a Pledgemaster.

It started with my own Pledgemasters, Theo and Jaz. I met with them privately towards the end of 7th week last spring. I don't remember what was said—it was not important. What was memorable was that during this meeting I saw the dedication my Pledgemasters had put in. Their time, their effort, and their thoughts were all on us. It was heartwarming and bizarre. Before, I had only seen them as Pledgemasters, not as two people. Seeing them there, sitting at a table in front of Bruin Cafe, in their normal clothes, I slowly began to register them as human beings. They had another meeting scheduled after mine ended, and it was in this moment, that I realized how they had sacrificed their Thursday to be there. They were so committed to pledge quarter.

I learned from them Pledgemaster was a position of service and sacrifice. It was their hard work and sacrifice that inspired me to run for the position. Reflecting on this now, I benefitted so much from pledge quarter and I hope I was able to follow in their footsteps and make a similar positive impact in all of your lives.

When James and I began talking about what outcomes we wanted, the only idea I had was based on an email that one of my bosses sent to his colleagues at my first job.

“Gang, my client is trying to do X and I’m not as experienced with it. Can you refer me people to reach out to? — Bob.”

Bob, well Robert, had been out of law school for well over 20 years at that point. The fact that he still kept in touch with former classmates impressed me—so much so that he felt comfortable asking for their help years later. This is my hope for the Mu class, that even 5 or 10 years out, you stay connected. More importantly, I hope that you can depend on another when you need it most. To do this some of you must overcome your selflessness and become momentarily selfish. For others it will be working around your scheduled day to make time for your pledge class. For the rest it means patiently listening to and understanding what your pledge sibling is communicating.

While at UCLA, this will not be a big challenge. Actually, it should be pretty easy. You will see most of your pledge class during the school year. The real challenge begins when you are miles apart, in different timezones, and in different phases of your lives. It gets tough when you are no longer conveniently close to each other. This will be the real test. There is not much I can do now to make this happen since this is going to be in the future. I am hoping that your experiences during Hell Week and beyond will help to make this dream become a reality. That would be amazing.

The effortless way to stay together is to reminisce about pledge quarter. When you gather it will be the shared thread that keeps you sewn together. You remember the good times and the bad, the sleepovers and the kickbacks, the punishments, the pledge meetings. But the thread can only keep you bound for so long; time passes and these events will become history. The challenge becomes finding ways to stay together and to make new memories. It takes going out of your way to set up events with Mus, and going out of your way to make it a priority to attend them. The latter is actually more challenging than the former.

You are all young adults soon to be living with your own set of priorities. SEP and your pledge class will lower in priority—it’s inevitable. It is not something sad, but just the way it is. Remembering to make a conscious and committed effort to your class is on you. If the Mus make it to the future still connected, let me know. The real test is if you are there at each other’s weddings. [1]

Going into the future, there are things to remember if you are to survive as a group. The first is to not let resentment and discomfort build up. If you ignore a problem so that it creates a division, you won’t make it. That is a guarantee. The best choice of action, then, is to take up that uncomfortable conversation and address each other and your issue with love and patience. You all have practice doing this. The second is to not give up on another. Be patient and loving towards your pledge class. You are the biggest pledge class and there is strength in your numbers. Stay together, work together, and as a group you will be unstoppable.

I’ve half jokingly said that being pledgemaster twice is the way to go. The first time around you learn so much and make mistakes. So the second time around you can improve on it. Thinking further, I believe pledgemaster should be done once. And only once. All of the little mistakes, the hiccups, and last minute planning is characteristic of pledge quarter. It’s the perfect microcosm of entrepreneurship. Nothing is perfect, and rarely does something go according to plan. [2]

But this journey has come to an end and Tim and Jayleen are the new Pledgemasters. Reflecting back, the reasons why I ran for pledgemaster have changed. Transforming you into entrepreneurs was my goal, but it’s become so much more. Being a part of your journey has become the most fulfilling reason for being pledgemaster. It’s the things that I had never expected, that have made being pledgemaster so worth it. [3]

And now, seeing many of you so close and comfortable with each other makes me truly grateful for the opportunity. I will make it a priority to be available to you all for the remaining time I have here. Feel free to send me a message to hang out. I really mean it.

[1] It’s rather arbitrary, but I think it’s a good benchmark for when you know you have all made it. If this happens, be sure to send me and James wedding invitations as well. I’m sure we’d love to be there.

[2] More often than not there were things I would have never anticipated. That’s life and you can’t predict it. So you just go with the flow of things when things don’t go according to plan.

[3] Me and James have remarked on how we would have never guessed that for some of you, having a pledge class created a significant difference to your UCLA experience. And we would have never guessed how much SEP and your pledge class would be such a big part of your life.