Once upon a time, joining a fraternity or sorority meant aligning yourself with a group of people who shared common interests and values to provide a supportive network of peers and mentors who promoted academic success, leadership development, community service and networking opportunities.
Somewhere along the line, that original mission fell from the public eye. However, at UC Merced, faculty, staff and students have a clear idea of what Greek life will be.
“As the campus grows, fraternities and sororities will help reinforce the sense of community and belonging that help people feel more connected to the university,” said Charles Nies, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs. “We are trying to create a culture around fraternities and sororities that centers on their original values and founding principles, namely scholarship and academic success,”
As the school welcomes its fourth freshman class, students are in the unique position of creating their own Greek culture. Rather than blend in or adapt to trends and traditions already in place, students are choosing for themselves which organizations to invite to their college experience. Fun events and family ties are no longer the chief motivators that drive membership. UC Merced students are looking for more.
At UC Merced, bringing Greek life to the community is a grassroots process that begins and ends with the student.
“Our intention is for the students to initiate this process. We want the students to explore why they are interested in joining a group, and how the group’s values align with their own,” Nies said.
Biology major Nick Nakamura embraced the opportunity to lead the way; he spearheads the group of students bringing the first fraternity to UC Merced.
Having worked through the university approval process and established a relationship of mutual interest with Alpha Sigma Chi Omega, Nakamura’s group recently obtained “colony” status, the precursor to receiving a charter, which is scheduled for Spring 2009. The colony has already sent members to leadership workshops and organized community service activities, such as co-sponsoring UC Merced’s California Coastal Cleanup Day event at Lake Yosemite last weekend.
“I think fraternity and sorority life have a lot to offer UC Merced, both academically and socially,” Nakamura said, “We already have the rigorous academic activities and now we can also plan extra-curricular activities so that there is more to do.”
As he researched the Sigma Chi fraternity, its history, and its values, Nakamura decided that this was the organization he wanted to bring to his campus.
“Alpha Sigma Chi Omega emphasizes friendship, justice and learning, which I think are very important pillars,” Nakamura said. “They actively seek out leaders and promote being a good person and being well-rounded. They fit the overall campus mission to set a model at UC Merced of what a fraternity should be in the 21st century.”
After graduation in May, Nakamura intends to stay in the area so that he can serve as an adviser to the Sigma Chi chapter.