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Inside UCLA’s professional fraternities: career building, community and challenges

The John E. Anderson Graduate School of Management is pictured. Some professional fraternities are aimed at helping undergraduates enter careers in business. (Mia Tavares/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Alexandra Crosnoe

Dec. 3, 2023 6:33 p.m.

This post was updated Dec. 3 at 10:16 p.m.

Every September, hundreds of anxious UCLA students gather in formal attire with the same goal in mind: to receive a bid to join a professional fraternity.

These students await fall rush, the recruitment process to join professional fraternities. According to an emailed statement from UCLA spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez, UCLA has six professional fraternities registered with the Office of Student Organizations, Leadership & Engagement, which cater to students interested in fields such as business, health care and law.

Adrian Lieu, the vice president of the pre-health professional fraternity Delta Epsilon Mu, said his organization seeks to help its members gain experience in the medical world and ensure that they are ready to become healthcare professionals upon graduating. Lieu added that the fraternity teaches members professional development skills and offers career experiences, such as interview practice and research positions.

“We help members write their resume, and we help them prepare for research interviews (and) how to email professors properly to ask for research opportunities,” said Lieu, a fourth-year human biology and society student. “We also have many different job opportunities that become available, whether it’s through active members, alumni or through other recruitment managers reaching out.”

Rhea Chhabra, a member of the business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi, said the fraternity allowed her to gain experience in design technology, a field that she hopes to enter after graduating.

“I’m going into design and tech, so some of the people in there can help me with how I can create my website, how I should create my portfolios and what’s the strategy for doing that,” Chhabra said.

Chhabra, a second-year cognitive science student, said Alpha Kappa Psi’s alumni network has helped her access job referrals. In addition, the fraternity has assisted with her application to competitive clubs on campus, as many fellow fraternity members are already part of them.

[Related: Selective admissions processes for competitive clubs create challenges for Bruins]

In addition to the career-related benefits, some students seek to join these fraternities for the community. Emily Bautista, a first-year biology student, said she decided to rush the pre-health fraternity Alpha Epsilon Delta to find other students interested in health care.

“I don’t know what I want to do with my future, but I know I want to do something with health,” Bautista said. “I wanted to meet a ton of people that were in that same boat of not knowing what they wanted to do but then finding direction after joining this community.”

However, the fraternity experience has not always been positive for students. Hazing has reportedly been a part of the prospective member experience in various fraternities.

One student, who was granted anonymity because of fears of retaliation, said they dropped out of the business fraternity Pi Sigma Epsilon because it was too demanding. They added that the rush process consisted of social events, a group interview and an individual interview.

“The final interview for business frats is really intense. They asked me some really tough questions, and some of them are very unrelated to business,” they said. “They definitely apply a lot of pressure on purpose to all the potential pledges in order to see how you handle the pressure. It’s very exhausting after the whole process.”

The student also said the extensive time commitment included memorizing and reciting the names of the fraternity’s 50 active members.

“When you’re a pledge, it really does consume your social life,” they said. “I’m friends with people who are still pledges of PSE and it’s hard for me to see them even though I know they want to see me and see their other friends, because the frat makes you do so much to prove yourself.”

Vazquez said in an emailed statement that UCLA would not comment on ongoing conduct cases.

Bautista, who did not receive a bid from Alpha Epsilon Delta, added that trying to join the fraternity on top of transitioning to college life was exhausting, as she had to write three essays to be invited to the general rush process. After that, she had to attend events Monday through Friday for three hours after a full day of classes, she said.

However, Chhabra said though the prospective member process was time-intensive, it helped her form many connections with other pledges. She added that friendship has been just as important to her fraternity experience as academics.

“You’re spending a lot of time with the same group of people,” she said. “In the moment, it’s hard because you have so many other commitments in your life, but it ends up being worth it because those are the people you end up being really close to.”

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Alexandra Crosnoe
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