By Layla Pena, The Daily Iowan
A group of UI students dress in Halloween costumes at a pumpkin carving event for international students in October 2012. A new UI sorority will give Asian students another outlet for social and cultural interaction.
When Lisa Thai started her freshman year at the University of Iowa last fall, she had no intentions of joining any of the sororities on campus. It was not until a friend, UI junior Vanessa Au, approached her about starting a chapter of the Asian interest sorority Delta Phi Lambda that Thai reconsidered.
“I wanted to be involved with the community and express my interest for Asian awareness,” Thai said. “After looking through the Delta Phi Lambda website, I thought it was a good organization to express my interest and to also be more social.”
Thai, Au and five other women founded the UI colony chapter of Delta Phi Lambda on Nov. 18, 2012. Au currently serves as the chapter’s president, and Thai is the vice president of records.
Prior to being recognized as a colony of the organization, the group was known as E.I.G.H.T, an Asian-interest group on campus founded in 2009. After three years of struggle and tireless searching for a sorority that fit the group’s interests and values, the women found their match. They decided upon Delta Phi Lambda, an Asian-interest sorority established at the University of Georgia in 1998.
The sorority is not only the universities’ first Asian-interest sorority, it is also the first of its kind in the state. Purdue University is the only other Big Ten school that has a Delta Phi Lambda chapter.
The Multicultural Greek Council, which includes Delta Phi Lambda, has considerably fewer members than the sororities within the Panhellenic Council at Iowa. Kelly Jo Karnes, associate director of the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership, said whereas the average membership of a multicultural chapter is 20 to 25 members, the average membership for a Panhellenic sorority is 110.
While there are not an overwhelming number of Asian-interest greek members or organizations, Karnes believes this is a changing.
“We’re seeing a huge surge across the country in terms of culturally based groups,” she said. “There have been historically Asian chapters on the West Coast since the 1920s. They’re not exactly new. They’re just talking a little while to get to the Midwest.”
This surge in multicultural greek organizations is not unique to Asian-interest groups. Iowa is also home to six traditionally African American fraternities and sororities, two historically Latino organizations, and two progressive LGBT organizations.
Karnes believes that multicultural organizations are an important part of campus life, and she vowed to ensure Delta Phi Lambda’s success.
“Multicultural chapters are beneficial to students whose culture is really important to them and still want the social aspect of greek life,” she said. “It’s a mix of both worlds and it’s a really nice way for them to do that.”
Although Delta Phi Lambda currently only has seven members, they hope that their commitment to Asian awareness and philanthropy will be attractive to students with similar interests during their recruitment next week.
“It’s important for us to continuously expand to support the growing cultural community on campus, especially with so many international students,” Au said. “We want to create a place for us to expand our culture by learning from each other while creating a family away from home for our members.”