La Communidad, la cultura Latinas, la hermandad
Latinx students make up the largest minority group at Western Carolina University. According to the 2022 WCU student body profile, 7.7% of students were Hispanic. This number has grown exponentially in recent years. According to the Fall 2012 Enrollment Survey, only 297 students claimed a Latinx background.
During Hispanic Heritage Month The Western Carolinian wants to highlight programs on campus that are empowering and strengthening Latinx voices. Hispanic Heritage Month starts Sept. 15 and ends Oct. 15. It began as a weeklong celebration in 1968 and was later expanded to a full month in 1988. The celebration spans across two months to align with the independence celebrations of various countries including Costa Rica, Mexico, Honduras and more.
Through sororities, clubs, and programs of study there are many avenues by which Latino and non-Latino students can get involved and learn more about Hispanic heritage.
Latinas Promoviendo Comunidad/Lambda Pi Chi Sorority, Inc. is a Latina-based sorority founded at Cornell University in 1988. The organization was founded with the goal of promoting community and the cultural legacy of Latina women. The organization also seeks to magnify and create opportunity for women and people of color with an emphasis on Latinx community.
In February 2020, thirteen women founded the Alpha Eta Chapter of Lambda Pi Chi at WCU. They joined hermanas, or sisters, across multiple universities including NC State and High Point University. The Alpha Eta Chapter is the most recent to join the sisterhood.
Ashley Rodriguez is the current president of the Alpha Eta Chapter of Lambda Pi Chi at WCU. She joined in fall of 2021, finding a community within the sisterhood.
“Being around people who had the same ideals as me, looked like me, definitely made me feel a little bit more comfortable being here at Western,” Rodriguez said.
Western is a PWI, or predominantly white institution. It can be difficult for people of color to find a sense of belonging. Lambda Pi Chi offered a feeling of inclusion for Rodriguez.
“Joining Lambda Pi Chi, I’m just even more proud to say I’m a Latina at a PWI and I’m able to wear those letters and represent the organization itself,” she said.
Not only does the sorority provide a safe space for Rodriguez, but it has also helped her develop a personal network. Chapters from across the country come together for regional meetings and national conventions. These events provide an opportunity for hermanas to get to know other chapters and create connections across different universities. Like many Greek organizations, Lambda Pi Chi helps women develop their skills as professionals and networkers.
Rodriguez’s main priority is bringing more women into the sorority. The COVID-19 pandemic halted the chapters recruiting efforts. Now, Rodriguez is looking to grow their numbers this year and spread word about the organization.
To become an hermana in Lambda Pi Chi, one must begin with a learning program called IÑACAS (Individuals Networking for the Advancement of Community, Academics, and Service) Program. This is a way to learn about the history of Lambda Pi Chi as a whole and more specifically the WCU chapter. The program has a focus on professional development and team building.
Students must complete IÑACAS in the spring semester. They can then receive and complete an intake application in the fall.
While Lambda Pi Chi is Latina-focused, it is not Latina-exclusive. All women are welcome to join. The goal of the organization is to bring cultural awareness and unity for women regardless of their background.
Lambda Pi Chi is working this semester to get their name and image out on WCU’s campus. They hosted a Lotería Game Night and Paleta sale during September to kick off Hispanic Heritage month. Lambda Pi Chi also hosted Owning Your Latinx Story where they discussed the experiences of being Latino at a PWI and sharing stories about being Latino in higher education.
“Just getting to learn more about each other is definitely important. Not only about each other but our different cultures,” said Rodriguez.
Lambda Pi Chi will also be hosting an event Nov. 1 to celebrate Día de los Muertos, Day of the Dead. There will be crafts and a discussion about the meaning of Día de los Muertos.
For Rodriguez, Hispanic Heritage Month is a time when she places extra emphasis on her Latinx roots. She is always proud of her heritage, but this month allows her time to learn about other Hispanic cultures.
To learn more about joining the sisterhood follow @lpc_wcu on Instagram or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.