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SOUL Sorority executive members Shawnnae Nguyen (left), Kelli Cox (center) and Katrina Lengsavath (right) pose for a portrait at the Miller Learning Center in Athens, Georgia on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. (Photo/Ryan Cameron rcameron@randb.com)

The University of Georgia is home to only two Asian-interest sororities — but that could change soon.

SOUL, a new interest group for an Asian-interest sorority at UGA, is seeking members who value female empowerment, scholastic excellence and the spread of Asian awareness.

Kelli Cox, a junior animal science major and president of SOUL, was inspired to start a UGA chapter of a particular Asian-interest sorority after befriending members from other chapters. However, SOUL and its members are not allowed to name this sorority or affiliate with it in any way until their chapter is accepted as official by UGA’s Multicultural Greek Council.

Katrina Lengsavath, a senior biology major and SOUL’s secretary, said this might be a difficult process. Several participating organizations on campus are already struggling to maintain enough members. SOUL’s acceptance into the MGC as an affiliated sorority depends on how many members they can get. MGC doesn’t want to waste a council spot on an organization that won’t last, Lengsavath said.

To Cox, many of SOUL’s members are new faces. Currently, more than 20 girls have expressed interest in joining. Although SOUL is an Asian-interest group, it’s not meant to be Asian-exclusive. All women, regardless of race or ethnicity, are welcome to join.

There are two pre-existing Asian-interest sororities at UGA — Delta Phi Lambda and Alpha Sigma Rho. Cox felt motivated to start a new one because she didn’t feel like she fit in with the others.

Find where you fit

While an array of Panhellenic sororities offer multiple options to help members find a sisterhood, the members of SOUL’s executive board believe women interested in multicultural organizations should have more to choose from.

Multicultural sororities tend to be small and offer the chance for minority women to build tight bonds focused on a common cultural background — an aspect not typically found in larger Panhellenic sororities, Lengsavath said.

Lengsavath helped organize the interest group because she wanted to be part of an organization that welcomes everyone while also spreading Asian awareness. Through this group, the women look forward to connecting with their culture and giving like-minded women an opportunity to find a sisterhood they belong in.

“You’re going to want to find the one that you feel best suits your personality,” Lengsavath said. “A lot of us have already viewed the other two but didn’t feel that connection. We wanted to give girls another opportunity to find who their personality connects with.”

‘A home away from home’

Bonding events, philanthropy work and collaborations with other Asian organizations on campus are all part of SOUL’s plans for the near future, Cox said. Lengsavath said many of the group’s events currently focus on bonding, but they will begin fundraising for their philanthropy as their membership increases.

Shawnnae Nguyen, a senior psychology major and SOUL’s public relations official, said she looked into joining each of UGA’s other two Asian-interest sororities but she didn’t feel an invested dedication towards their philanthropies. When Cox presented her with the idea of starting their own sorority, Nguyen was all for it. 

“I want to have a group of friends and that sisterhood here,” Nguyen said. “A home away from home.”

Nguyen said the organization’s docket includes an Asian potluck, the group’s first general body meeting and fundraising events. Potential events include a night market of various Asian foods hosted at the Tate Student Center and a puppy adoption.

SOUL’s executive board is planning to meet with UGA’s MGC next spring to present an overview of the interest group’s progress and a plan for the future. If SOUL’s proposal is accepted by the council, the group will be allowed to affiliate with its chosen organization and become the third Asian-interest sorority on UGA’s campus.

“They want a sorority that’s going to stay on campus ... [not] something that’s going to fizzle out when we graduate,” Cox said.

Cox and the rest of SOUL’s executive board have already dedicated much of their time to the group. But in the end, once they have created a new space for women to bond through their culture, their hard work will be worth it.

SOUL is particularly interested in finding freshmen and sophomores to take over the group’s leadership roles when the junior and senior members of the executive board graduate, Cox said.

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