Asian heritage fraternity gets a start at UNL

When you come to college, you expect to meet the best friends of your life.

You join clubs, Greek houses and honor societies and form strong bonds with those people.

But what happens if none of those offer the right fit?

For a group of 10 University of Nebraska-Lincoln men — all of Asian backgrounds — that meant forming a new fraternity on campus.

“I always pictured myself in Greek life but I never really pictured myself in traditional Greek life,” said Tanner Nguyen, the internal vice president for the fraternity.

The fraternity — Lambda Phi Epsilon — is small and made up of the original group of friends. They are working together and with UNL to expand their brand.

There are a lot of logistics involved in that quest, Nguyen said.

“Working with the national fraternity heads, UNL’s Greek office, going back and forth,” he said. “There’s obviously a pledging process that goes with it. It’s just kind of like being franchise owners.”

The national organization started in 1981 with a focus on men with families of Asian descent.

“We talked about this in our fraternity ourselves but we’re Asian interest, so we’re targeting people with Asian heritage,” he said. “But we’re not Asian exclusive;  we can take anybody from any race or ethnic background.”

The national organization has 50 chapters in the United States; the closest is the University of Kansas in Lawrence.

“Lucky for us we didn’t have to travel much,” Nguyen said. “They came up here. They really wanted us.”

Fraternity member Matthew Pham says the experience of starting a new house has been rewarding and fun.

“We were always friends but there was never the closeness that there is now,” he said.

The fraternity is in it’s second year at UNL. As it has grown, members have created philanthropies and other events to get people involved.

As part of one of those philanthropies, the fraternity recruits bone marrow donors.

“Bone marrow is different because the way it genetically matches is through ethnicity,” Nguyen said.

The philanthropy also is important to the fraternity because a brother from another chapter lost a battle with leukemia after a bone marrow match could not be found. Nguyen said this year they had many people sign up to help the cause.

Nguyen said he hopes to continue to grow their fraternity on campus to give students who don’t think they would fit in a traditional Greek house a chance to join a brotherhood for life.

“We toss around the word authentic a lot,” he said. “We want people to go where their friends are and be who they really are.”

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