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Friday September 1, 2000

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UA students start Arizona's first Asian American sorority

By Mindy Jones

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Alpha Phi Gamma tries to change greek representations

Six UA female students are making history this year with the creation of the first Asian-American sorority in Arizona.

After attending the UA's New Start Multicultural Fair in 1999, Soogyung Cho, the Alpha Phi Gamma junior colony president, said she noticed a lack of Asian-American representation in the greek system.

"We didn't see any sororities or fraternities dedicated to Asian-American awareness, so we went online and looked for one," said Cho, a finance and accounting junior.

The six women, all Asian Americans, are active in multicultural clubs on campus and selected Alpha Phi Gamma based on its small membership and willingness to send active members out to survey the UA campus.

According to the national Alpha Phi Gamma Web site, the sorority was founded at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona six years ago by seven Asian American students.

Their goal, which is similar to that set forth by the UA actives, is to unite women of all nationalities through the traditional greek system of sisterhood.

"Sometimes, greek life gets a bad rap and we want to change that," said Jennifer Gardetto, a biochemistry junior and Alpha Phi Gamma rush chair. "We want to provide a strong support group for students with a multicultural background who may not feel as comfortable in a stereotypical sorority."

After Alpha Phi Gamma gained colony status through their national sisterhood, the six women applied to the Panhellenic Council for official UA recognition.

"The women are now associate members of the Panhellenic Council, which gives them the same rights as any other sorority on campus. They can vote and have a say as to what greek life consists of on the UA campus," said Marci Dobrow, a political science senior and president of the Panhellenic Council.

Before the women earned this privilege, they had to prove themselves to their national sisterhood as well as to the Panhellenic council through their assistance in philanthropic activities held by the Asian American Cultural Association and the Korean American Cultural Association.

"We teamed up with Omega Delta Phi, a multicultural fraternity, in their Easter-egg hunt and we plan on helping them out at their annual Halloween bash at the Boys and Girls Club of Tucson," Cho said.

Gardetto, who also serves as Alpha Phi Gamma's ritual chancellor, said the women have not felt any exclusion by the rest of the greek community.

"The brochures put out by the Panhellenic may not have a large amount of Asian women and men represented, however, they accurately represent the fact that we only make up approximately five percent of the UA," she said. "This was a major factor in our decision to start the first Asian-American sorority in the state."

However, Gardetto was not the only Asian American on campus to notice a lack of representation in Panhellenic fliers.

"I was anti-greek before I joined Chi Omega. I noticed there wasn't a lot of Asians in the greek pamphlets, but I never felt excluded by the traditional sororities," said Lisa Cheng a senior majoring in marketing, Chinese and international relations. "I got everything out of this experience and more."

Along with making history, the women have made themselves visible on campus through the distribution of fliers and a separate informal rush concluding this week.

More than 30 girls have rushed for this sorority and seven will be accepted. All are of Asian-American or multicultural descent.

"I didn't rush this year, but I don't think it would have made a difference had I known about this Asian-American sorority," said Vicky Sim, a pre-pharmacy freshman, who identifies herself as an Asian American. "If I joined a sorority, it would be because I liked the girls, but I am sure some people would like to be in a sorority where they could meet people with the same culture and traditions."

Although members of Alpha Phi Gamma hope to promote awareness of Asian-American student issues, they have also adopted their national sisterhood's philanthropy dedicated to helping women in emotional and physical danger.

They have not chosen a local volunteer organization to sponsor, however, they have temporarily adopted Casa Maria Soup Kitchen as their official philanthropy.

"They are a very philanthropic group," Dobrow said. "They seem to be focused on helping others and promoting awareness."

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