University of Southern Indiana

Students POV

Gamma Phi Omega International Sorority, Incorporated

Kassie Santos ’21, Tanya Cervantes ’20, Jessica Carapia-Cortez ’22, Lili Ayala ’19

plastic swan

1. Lili Ayala wanted to find her fit when she arrived at USI to study marketing, but the traditional Panhellenic sororities on campus didn’t feel like “home.” So she set out to create a home within her new USI home, leading to the establishment of Gamma Phi Omega International Sorority, Inc. as a prospective chapter on campus.

puzzel pieces

2. When Ayala shared her vision with Kassie Santos, communications studies, the pieces began to fall into place. Working with Gina Schmitz, USI’s international admissions coordinator and advisor to the sorority, the pair recruited fellow founders and also first-generation college students, Tanya Cervantes, dental hygiene, and Jessica Carapia-Cortez, social work.

plate of cookies

3. Service is one of the sorority’s four main missions, along with academic excellence, cultural awareness and sisterhood. While establishing the chapter at USI, the quartet baked chocolate chip cookies to donate to the Evansville Rescue Mission and walked dogs for the Vanderburgh Humane Society.

4. Upholding another Gamma Phi Omega International Sorority goal— academic excellence—the women hosted an event to provide fellow students, mainly freshmen, with study tips, and to let attendees know about various scholarship opportunities and resources on campus.

stuffed lioness

5. The creation of this new sorority gave rise to the women finding their voices and unleashing their inner roar. “I found my place of belonging,” says Carapia-Cortez. “Gamma Phi Omega has definitely empowered me to build up my confidence and let my voice out.”

6. Establishing a home for other USI women to practice their cultural identity can mean breaking stereotypes, as they work to bring cultural awareness to the campus community. “Stereotypes don’t get to define me,” says Santos, “and a stereotype doesn’t get to define my family.”

7. While the four founders are all from Indiana, their heritage and home lives are rooted in Mexico. At USI, they balance the two cultures supremely. “We have parents who speak Spanish and only Spanish,” says Santos, “but at the same time we’re [at USI] and we have to adopt the different culture. We embrace the best of both worlds.”

flags from several countries

8. The sorority is Latina oriented but not for Latinas only. The fact that they share similar but not exact heritages is a strength. “The fact that we’re smaller, it just helps us build those connections,” says Ayala. Connections today and tomorrow matter. “We get to leave a legacy for other young women,” says Santos.

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