UAS fraternity defies Greek stereotypes

Posted: Thursday, March 13, 2008

You won't see members of the University of Alaska Southeast's lone co-ed fraternity on double-secret probation.

Instead of dedicating time to high jinks, pranks and shenanigans, this motley group of college students commits itself to leadership, fellowship and community service. But don't think members are anything like Lambda Lambda Lambda (NERDS!); they still manage to have some fun.

The university's Alpha Zeta Theta chapter of Alpha Phi Omega opened in the fall of 2006. The chapter follows a mission set down in 1925 by national founder Frank Reed Horton, who established the fraternity as a response to the violence and chaos he witnessed during World War I. Today, Alpha Phi Omega is one of the largest service fraternities in the world with more than 350 campuses nationwide and 17,000 students in active membership. UAS has more than 20 members.

"It's a small campus, so it has a small fraternity," said Forest Kvasnikoff, the chapter's president. "Locally, we spend a good (amount of) time with ... people that are interested in similar things and who perform services that benefit the community, nation and the world. We're not a 'social' fraternity, we're a service fraternity."

Kvasnikoff enjoys how the fraternity operates and distances itself from fraternity stereotypes. There is no rush, no hazing or strange ritualistic initiations, and no alcohol-sponsored events.

But to define the fraternity by what members don't do is a serious error, Kvasnikoff said; it should be judged by its actions. Since its start, the fraternity has established itself alongside groups with similar missions, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boy Scouts of America, the United Way and the Juneau Food Bank. The fraternity recently helped renovate housing with the community service group SAGA.

"The amount of service projects we are able to participate in is just astounding; we're usually a pretty busy group," Kvasnikoff said. "On our last food drive, we donated 1,200 pounds of canned food to the Juneau Food Bank.

"It's good to do something for the community," he added.

Amy George, a sister in the fraternity, echoed that sentiment.

"Every project brings me that feeling (of pride), because we are a fraternity that cares for its community, and each other," she said.

Members say the fraternity offers good friendships, excellent leadership training and a great college experience. But it's not all about meetings and service.

"We do a lot of fellowship events as well," Kvasnikoff said. "We have game nights, movies, outings - it's beneficial for students that they know that they have a peer group."

Members say they keep a healthy balance between serious issues and indulging in some good old-fashioned fun.

When asked if the fraternity would ever host a toga party, the group's Secretary Ed Rivera said, "We didn't think of that. We should. I'll definitely bring it up next meeting."

The fraternity's next big project, however, is a conference on nuclear awareness April 18-20 at UAS. The group will team up with the university, the Hiroshima Peace Museum, the Skagway City Council, Juneau People for Peace & Justice and the Juneau World Affairs Council to bring guest speakers, including one who experienced the bombing at Hiroshima, as well as speakers on nuclear testing conducted in the Marshall Islands.

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