I first had the pleasure of meeting Kellen Paparella ’25, at this year’s Sig Ep Alumni Picnic at Wickham Park in Manchester, CT. Kellen, who is a sophomore studying Finance in UConn’s School of Business, recently succeeded Ethan Lovallo ’23 to become CT Alpha’s youngest chapter president. I was impressed and intrigued to learn more about this young man, especially knowing the amazing lineage of former SigEp chapter presidents that UConn has produced over the past 60+ years. What follows is a transcript of our conversation that is lightly edited to ensure flow and accuracy.
What is your hometown?
I was raised in Colchester, CT.
Describe a favorite memory growing up?
I was an only child, so to entertain myself I loved to learn new things, including juggling, the Rubik’s cube, and new sports. You could say I have a joy of learning.
How did your childhood influence your outlook on life?
I have a very supportive family. Both my Mom and Dad were always all in on whatever I wanted to do. This gave me the confidence to expand my comfort zone and try new things. A favorite quote growing up was “get comfortable being uncomfortable.”
Why did you decide to go to UConn?
When I started thinking about college, UConn was not my first choice, despite my being a third generation Husky. However, once I visited campus, I loved the atmosphere. Another big plus was following the UConn Group Chat on Facebook. I felt very comfortable with the other kids from UConn, who helped show me the type of community I wanted to be a part of.
DECISION-MAKING PROCESS TO JOIN SIGEP
How did you first get involved with SigEp?
When I first arrived in Storrs, I was not expecting to join a fraternity. However, my first semester I went with my roommate to open rush at the Greek Expo. I was impressed with the specific leadership development opportunities SigEp offered, including the retreats and the Balanced Man Program. Aiden O’Connor ’22, who was VP of Recruiting at the time, was also a big influence on my decision to join SigEp.
How has your view of Sig Ep changed since you pledged?
After joining SigEp, I was able to engage in several different activities. This experience, including receiving the Balanced Man pin and participating in other rituals, helped me better understand that joining SigEp is a lifelong commitment.
When did you know you made the right decision to join SigEp?
As soon as I accepted my bid, I was with two of my close friends, Justin Schneider, current Chapter Secretary, and Zack O’Connor, current VP of Recruitment, and all three of us knew right away that this was a good decision. In fact, I would say joining SigEp is one of the best decisions I’ll ever make.
How would you define leadership?
In two ways. First, by setting up those around you for success. Second, by ensuring continued success after you are gone. When I was younger, I read two important books on leadership. The first entitled, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t, by Jim Collins. The second was entitled, Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t, by Simon Sinek. My key take-away – it is not just about good management; you also have to show passion for your people and your work.
What skills do you think it takes to be a successful leader?
Personability, empathy, a strong sense of passion toward what you believe in, and accountability for yourself.
Has there been a particular person in your life who has inspired you?
My Dad is one of my biggest role models. He was always pushing me to go above and beyond. He instilled this in me at a young age.
Can you give an example?
Sure – my Dad was my lacrosse coach growing up, and the best way to develop stick skills was a drill called Wall Ball. During the summer, he started something called the Wall Ball Challenge. If you did a certain number of repetitions, then you would get a shirt. But if you reached your goal, then he would set an even higher one. He also has been super open with what he wished he had done when he was a kid to develop himself for the future. So, this pushing and prodding, both on and off the field, has given me a great path to follow.
Describe your decision-making process to seek the role of President of CT Alpha?
I have a strong passion for leadership. For example, another lesson my Dad taught me is that you are an average of your five best friends. So, if you hang out with high achievers, then you will be a high achiever. I’d like to create this environment for all the brothers of our chapter, which was one of my biggest motivations for running. This attitude also helped me to become the President of my high school class as well.
What was your campaign platform to become Sig Ep President?
It was built around the fact that I got engaged in the Fraternity from the beginning. For example, I ran for Exec my first semester, becoming VP of Communications. I also have encouraged younger brothers to seek leadership roles, which ties back to going the extra mile. Another favorite book of mine is entitled, Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell. This book shows why people succeed, including always taking advantage of every opportunity and working hard.
What are the top 2-3 things you most want to accomplish during your time as chapter president?
First, I want to set the next president up for continued success, including setting a high bar for future presidents to follow. For example, watching Zack Caporale ’26 as the new VP of Communications pick up where I left off has been very rewarding. Second, I want to establish accountability for everyone to follow in their own respective friend groups. For example, I want to lead by example in speaking openly, honestly, and respectfully with brothers, and encourage them to do the same. Finally, I want to continue building a strong alumni networking program to better support the chapter undergrads. For example, I am very interested in further developing our alumni/undergrad mentorship program, and encourage brothers to get involved. Click here for more information.
What advice would you give someone thinking of running for a leadership position in SigEp?
Don’t sell yourself short! Based on my experience of running for VP of Communications, I didn’t think I had a chance to win. I knew it would be a stretch. However, after winning I realized that this set me up well for future leadership roles. Opportunities are there, and it is up to you to make the most of them.
How have the Sig Ep alumni most helped you be a successful leader?
Seeing everyone interact at this fall’s SigEp Alumni Picnic was great. Just watching guys pick up where they left off gave me a strong sense of camaraderie. Also, seeing the strong sense of chemistry among the leadership team and how guys rallied after Ed’s (Kaplan ‘87) passing showed the importance of being a SigEp for life.
Is there more that the CT Alpha alumni can do to support you and the other Chapter leadership be successful?
Yes. Having alumni help with our upcoming Spring 2023 undergraduate networking program, which is still under development, would be a great opportunity to help brothers find internships and jobs upon graduation.
“PICK ONE” SPEED ROUND
To wrap up our interview and have some fun, I took Kellen through a rapid-fire speed round of questions and possible responses. Highlighted below are Kellen’s responses.
Favorite Season – winter, spring, summer, or fall
Best Choice to Break a Tie – rocks, paper, or scissors
Most listened to music genre – jazz, rock & roll, country, hip hop
Power animal – bear, eagle, dolphin, or tiger
Most frequently used phone app – music, camera, GPS, or text
Most productive time of day – morning, afternoon, evening, or night
Best exercise – running, swimming, biking, lifting
Best entertainment – movie, comedy show, concert, or athletic event