Features, Science

BU’s only environmental fraternity returns to in-person events

There are two types of fraternities on campus — the ones that are social and the ones that are professional. Of the latter, there’s one that has gained particular traction over the past few years.

Epsilon Eta at Boston University during rush week. Epsilon Eta, a co-ed environmental fraternity, was founded in 2018 with about 10 to 15 members. They now have over 70 members and are back on campus with in-person events. COURTESY OF BU EPSILON ETA VIA INSTAGRAM

As the only fraternity of its kind at Boston University, Epsilon Eta is a co-ed community for those who are passionate about environmentalism. It is primarily composed of Earth and Environment Department majors, co-president Michael Small, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, said.

Gwendolyn Heiler, one of the co-presidents of Epsilon Eta, said the selling points of the fraternity include a welcoming, tight-knit community for people invested in environmentalism and professional opportunities.

“Something that sets Epsilon Eta apart is it’s more of a smaller organization,” Heiler, who is also a junior in CAS, said. “There’s a lot of other environmentally focused things on campus, but … it’s more closed which is nice because then everybody gets to know each other and it’s a bit more professional and official.”

During this semester’s rush week, participating students got a chance to talk with fraternity members to see if it would be a good fit and vice versa, Heiler and Small said.

“We did a nature walk, game night, trivia night, painting, speed dating, and a conversation about urban gardening,” Stella Dzialas, treasurer of Epsilon Eta and a sophomore in CAS, wrote in an email. “We try to do things that are fun and engaging but also incorporate environmentalism for some of them.”

Epsilon Eta was founded in 2018 with an alpha class of about 10 to 15 members and subsequent classes of eight to 10 members, Heiler and Small said. Now, the latest class has doubled in size.

This spring, the fraternity accepted over 20 new members to its latest rush class for a record total of over 70 members, Small said.

The growth over these past few semesters is mainly due to word of mouth, he said.

“At this point, it feels like pretty much everyone that’s coming through and rushing is like, ‘Oh, I knew this person beforehand. They were so nice and they really hyped it up so much and made me want to join,’” Small said.

A considerable number of individual students also discover Epsilon Eta through Splash and social media, he said.

The fraternity has been remote for the past few semesters, but the e-board is now planning urban gardening events, a sustainable “makers’ fair” and even a formal as part of the transition back to in-person, Small and Dzialas said.

“With COVID kind of subsiding, we’re able to do a lot more things in person,” Heiler said. “We do cleanups, which is really nice, but we want to get more involved with the [Boston] community.”

The e-board, as well as members, also hosts “climate conversations” to discuss environmental topics and the intersections between environment and society, such as urban gardening benefiting low-income and BIPOC communities, Small said.

Ruby Rodriguez, a new member of the Zeta rush class in Epsilon Eta, and junior in CAS, said she was already passionate about environmentalism.

“During the rush event, we had a seminar of them explaining urban gardens which had a lot to do with environmental racism,” Rodriguez said. “That’s something I’m passionate about, and I’m glad that they are too.”

Ashley Duong, another Epsilon Eta member and freshman in the College of Communication, said she is hoping to “gain more experience in environmentalism” as well as connect with other members professionally and academically.

In addition, Duong said she is looking forward to developing friendships inside the fraternity through social events that Epsilon Eta has to offer, including walks and volunteering.

“The time where I was rushing was really incredible,” said Duong. “It was all social events to get to know people and truly get to know people … and connect with you about your hobbies and just be really nice people.”

One Comment

  1. Why are co-ed greek organizations called fraternities? Why not sororities? Better yet, a gender neutral Greek-rooted name meaning community.