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Engineering sorority emphasizes combination of social, professional activities

The inaugural members of MU’s chapter of Alpha Omega Epsilon pose for a group picture after the candidate initiation from last winter’s recruitment. This year begins the first full academic year for members of the women’s engineering sorority.

The Beta Zeta chapter of the international engineering sorority Alpha Omega Epsilon (AOE) will mark its first full semester as an official chapter at Mizzou starting this month.

The sorority began after the director of expansion for AOE contacted women in leadership roles for student organizations at Mizzou. One of those who received an email was Sarah Smith, then a biological engineering senior. Smith, who was serving as vice president of the Biomedical Engineering Society, said she contacted a few friends to get started.

“It just took off from there,” Smith said. “The idea really appealed to people.”

She was contacted in October, the colony was started in January and Beta Zeta became the 30th chapter of AOE on April 21, 2012. The Mizzou chapter has 40 charter members — the most of any chapter. AOE is the oldest engineering sorority, started in 1983 at Marquette University in Wisconsin.

Sheila Grant, an associate professor of biological engineering, is the faculty adviser for the sorority.

“Sarah Smith did a tremendous job. She’s so enthusiastic,” Grant said. “Last spring they were very busy.”

Smith, now a graduate student, is emeritus director of the sorority and senior Banoo Amighi serves as the current president of the sorority. Amighi has been active in the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) at Mizzou but both she and Smith emphasize that the sorority is not the same thing as SWE and is not meant to compete with it.

“It isn’t just an engineering honors society,” Amighi said. “It has a social side.”

Students who want to join the sorority must go through an eight-week candidate education process and cannot be involved if they join another sorority. In addition to social events — such as trivia nights, game nights, and gingerbread house construction — the sorority will also have professional and philanthropic events, Smith said.

For the first professional event, the sorority hosted a fashion show. For its philanthropic event, the sorority made valentines for veterans at the VA hospital.

Smith said the sorority also helps connect women in engineering.

“Everyone’s become really close,” Smith said. “Some of the girls didn’t know many people in engineering but now they have a big group of girls that they know really well.”

Amighi said she met many of her best friends through the sorority.

“Not only do you get to truly spend a lot of time with them, you just get to do everything together,” Amighi said. “You’re surrounded by people who’ve gone through the same thing — they had the same courses.”

Sorority sisters will understand the academic difficulty of engineering coursework and also be able to mentor each other, Smith said.

“When you’re younger, you’re intimidated [to ask older students for help] but when you’re sorority sisters, you’re not intimidated,” Smith said. “It is a really good support system.”

Smith said that unlike other social sororities, the time commitment is more flexible and Grant agrees.

“As a social sorority it allows them to also have time to study,” Grant said. “It gives kind of more cohesiveness to females in engineering without all the worries that you might have with the other sororities.”

Since the engineering sorority is so new, Amighi and Smith said they feel pressure to get things right.

“We’re actually making up traditions. So hopefully we don’t mess that up,” Smith said. “It’s like we’re making history.”

For questions about AOE, e-mail betazeta@alphaomegaepsilon.org.

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