Soline McGee was an inquisitive sophomore when she attended TigerProwl — Clemson’s annual student organization fair — in the hopes of finding a social involvement opportunity. She came across a fellow Honors College student who was speaking with a representative from a new Latina-based interest organization, Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority, Inc.
McGee didn’t think much of it at the time, but stopped by the library a few days later when the organization held an interest meeting to learn more.
“They went into more details of what they told me at TigerProwl,” she said. “This was not yet an established sorority chapter; the way it was presented was that we could make it our own at Clemson. That was a huge factor that made me want to join.”
Up to that point, the idea of Greek Life never really interested McGee. She was part of the women’s rugby team and a member of the Clemson Vegan Club.
She was, however, interested in the organization’s motto: Culture is pride. Pride is success.
McGee is not Latina, she is Caucasian. Her mother is French, but she was raised in the United States. McGee wanted to find an organization that celebrated cultural differences, and Sigma Lambda Gamma seemed to be the right fit.
“Sigma Lambda Gamma brings together women from very different backgrounds and cultures and celebrates those differences,” said McGee, an animal sciences major concentrating in pre-vet studies. “It’s about being proud of where you come from, and that brings us all together.”
She took a liking to the group right away and joined their efforts in trying to establish the newest chapter of Clemson’s Multicultural Greek Council (MGC).
PROVIDING ALL STUDENTS WITH OPTIONS
Trish Robinson began her fifth year this Fall as associate director of Fraternity and Sorority Life at Clemson. The MGC formed in 2015 with the school’s first Latina-based interest sorority, Hermandad de Sigma Iota Alpha, Inc.
MGC policy only allows for expansion into a full sorority chapter through student interest work. Robinson said it’s fostered “sustainable and manageable growth” and Sigma Lambda Gamma is the latest example of a model that has proven to work.
“In December 2018, I had a student, Jennifer Cabezas, come to me and ask about bringing on another sorority,” Robinson said. “She wanted Clemson’s Latinx and Hispanic population to have options and had done a lot of legwork to see if other women were interested.”
Cabezas had served as president of Latinos Unidos in 2018-19. Before she even had a conversation with Robinson, she met with Jerad Green of Gantt Multicultural Center. He advised Cabezas to research Clemson’s demographics and national sororities to find one that may be a good fit.
She landed quickly on Sigma Lambda Gamma (SLG).
Founded in 1990 at the University of Iowa, SLG provides opportunities for lifelong empowerment to its members, thereby positively influencing the global community. It is grounded in five key principles: cultural awareness, academics, community service, social interaction and morals/ethics.
“In Fall 2019, Sigma Lambda Gamma was accepted as an interest group and began working to become an associate chapter of the organization,” Robinson said.
Cabezas — who transferred to Clemson in 2017 — had been privileged to be somewhat of a voice for Latinx students on campus. She felt a natural connection to SLG’s motto and its words truly resonated with her.
“There’s a sense of empowerment when you truly accept who you are as a person and live your life in that light,” Cabezas said. “That’s what SLG is all about, for me. Accepting and embracing each other’s differences and working to continue to be better than yesterday.”
The women of SLG were informed in May 2019 they were approved for associate chapter expansion at Clemson, but due to some hurdles with the national organization, initiation was to be delayed until the 2019-20 academic year.
A group of nine were set to be initiated in the Spring semester, but COVID-19 had other plans. A virtual initiation was held this past summer instead.
“They were ready to move forward, but COVID hit and put everything on pause,” Robinson said.
Cabezas was one of four initial members to graduate in in May or August, leaving a group of five women currently in SLG. She earned a bachelor’s degree in microbiology and was the 2019-20 recipient of the Almeda Jacks Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award from the Division of Student Affairs. She’s now a scholar in the post-baccalaureate research enhancement program at the University of South Carolina.
McGee was named SLG chapter president over the summer, just after initiation. She envisions a sorority interested in meeting new people and bringing in new members and working with other clubs and organizations on campus.
“We are proud of our cultural backgrounds and want students of all backgrounds to know they are welcome in SLG at Clemson.”
Cabezas hopes SLG is able to bring about change at Clemson for years to come and will serve as an asset to the Latina and multicultural communities.
“I hope it becomes a home and support system for women of different backgrounds who truly feel empowered in their own skin,” she said. “I hope the women who decide to join SLG understand why we love it so much and why we were so dedicated to bringing it on campus. We are excited to be part of the MGC family!”
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