Latino University: Never Too Late

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Three Latino Greeks on Becoming Members Post-Grad

While studying at Iowa State University, doctorate student Juan Guardia craved a connection to the Latino community. The Cuban-American felt the options available to do so were few and far between. Until he discovered a network the piqued his interest: Latino Greek fraternities. As a post-graduate, Dr. Guardia, now a director of Florida State University, became a member of Phi Iota Alpha Fraternity, Inc., in the Spring of 2005.

Many Latino professionals today like Guardia, didn’t about Latino Greekdom while they were undergraduates, but still saw the value in membership. Thanks to graduate and professional chapters, they now have a way to be a part of Latino Greek organizations (LGOs). Amongst Latino organizations there are more than 50 graduate chapters and counting. Speaking with several members we found out what and why going Greek is always an option, even at the graduate level.

When Puerto Rican Manny Cortes attended the State University of New York at Stony Brook in Long Island in the late 1980s, being Greek meant choosing between Black and White. “It wasn’t until the early 1990s that most LGOs arrived in New York,” says Cortes, the coordinator for conference housing and special projects at Stony Brook.

When he returned to the institution in 1995 to get a master’s degree, a group of students asked him to be an advisor for their then-newly established fraternity, La Unidad Latina, Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity, Inc.

He agreed and soon Cortes saw aspects of himself in the men and decided he wanted to become a member. Some organizations allow graduates to join through existing undergraduate or alumni chapters; others have created chapters just for graduates/professionals. Although LUL had a graduate chapter in New York City, Cortes asked to join at the undergraduate process and became a brother in the Spring of 1998. While most undergraduate new member classes have several participants, many professionals undergo the process alone. Although Cortes opted for an undergraduate process, he was one of those individuals. In addition to competing his process solo, Cortes also worked from 4 p.m. to midnight every day.

“LUL allowed me to be that person that I never had-a mentor and example for others,” Cortes says. “I was a first-generation college student and I wish I would’ve had a ‘Manny’ to mentor me.” Cortes is still active through LUL’s Gamma Lambda graduate/professional chapter in Long Island, which he helped establish.

Laura Yamin noticed a leadership transformation in her students while she was a graduate advisor at the University of Maryland after they joined Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc. All it took was one informational session for this Boricua to decide that she wanted to join. “I immediately connected with the alumnae and graduate sisters,” says Yamin, assistant director of campus activities at Pace University in New York.

Yamin became a sister of Lambda Theta Alpha’s Alpha Epsilon graduate chapter in the Fall of 2006. She says that LTA has served as a family and empowered her. “Graduate chapters are great for professionals,” she says. “Most people don’t get jobs because they’re posted; they get them because they hear about the job from a contact and LGOs offer those contacts.”

Another distinction that sets the graduate intake is the amount of the time put into membership education activities. Advisors are usually more flexible to accommodate a graduate/professional’s schedule, however prospective members are still required to mange their time efficiently.

“Joining required me to balance my married life, doctoral studies, work life and my intake program,” Guardia says. “I worked during the day went to class at night and underwent my new member education program as a prospective solo member.”

Guardia says that he benefited from the support of his wife, boss and dean. But the support grew and being a member has allowed him to be part of a extended family. “Phi Iota Alpha allowed me to connect with other college-educated men of different cultures who share the same struggles,” he says.

–Ashley Cisneros
Ashley Cisneros is a co-founder of Chatter Buzz Media, an Orlando Internet marketing firm that helps companies and organizations engage with their target markets through inbound marketing via the Internet. Chatter Buzz Media, which won the Social Madness competition for the Orlando small business market, is a full-service digital marketing firm specializing in website design, search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing and content creation. Prior to founding Chatter Buzz, Ashley worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine editor, technical writer, marketing manager, public relations practitioner and freelance journalist. To see Ashley’s content writing, visit You can also reach Ashley on her Google profile.

About the Author:

Ashley Cisneros Mejia is a journalist, entrepreneur and marketer. She began her career as a newspaper reporter and later as an editor at Florida Trend business magazine. Ashley has worked as a professional freelance writer since 2009, as a technical writer, marketing manager, and public relations practitioner. She also founded two digital marketing agencies in Orlando. Named one of Orlando’s 40 Under 40 and honored by the Women’s Executive Council of Orlando for achievements in media and communications, Ashley earned a B.S. in Journalism and an M.S. in Entrepreneurship at the University of Florida.

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