Illinois welcomes professional fraternity


Nimisha Singh

Madeline Barone, junior in LAS, is the president of a new-to-Illinois professional fraternity called Epsilon Eta. The fraternity’s new chapter focuses on sustainability and is working to promote a more environmentally friendly consciousness on campus.

By Megan Bradley, Staff Writer

Madeline Barone’s interest in the environment stems partly from her citizenship in Costa Rica, an environmentally conscious country ranked the happiest in the world because of its sustainability practices, according to the Happy Planet Index.

Now, the junior in LAS has found a way to bring some of that environmental consciousness to campus.

Epsilon Eta, which Barone discovered by spending time at another university, is a professional environmental fraternity that is open to any student with an interest in sustainability or the environment.

“I wanted to start Epsilon Eta at Illinois because I knew it existed at other schools and there are professional fraternities for so many other majors, so why not environment?” Barone said. “There was nothing for environment majors, and I think doing environmental service is extremely beneficial to our campus.”

The fraternity focuses on three pillars: academics, community and service. Recruitment interviews will start soon, and then Barone said she hopes to organize events and begin volunteering in the community.

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    Barone, along with the rest of her executive board, has been working on bringing Epsilon Eta to campus since the summer. She keeps in contact with Epsilon Eta nationals to ensure all the correct paperwork is done for the Illinois chapter as well as working with the University to register Epsilon Eta on campus.

    Sydney Spencer, junior in LAS and Epsilon Eta’s vice president, said she had been in the process of looking for an environmental organization to join when Barone asked her to become involved with Epsilon Eta.

    Although Spencer is excited to be part of the founding class for the fraternity, she said she is surprised an organization like this did not already exist on campus, especially because of the University’s sustainability efforts.

    Because sustainability is becoming relevant to many fields of study on campus, Epsilon Eta is an organization for any student to join and be able to network.

    “Sustainability is being implemented more in every single major — architecture, industrial design, engineering — there are so many different majors here that are really starting to focus on it,” Spencer said. “I’d tell people that no matter what major you’re in, there’s always a way to tie it into sustainability.”

    People sometimes avoid conversations about the environment because they can be disheartening, but Spencer said talking about these issues is an important way to initiate change.

    Students who join Epsilon Eta will reap the benefits of a professional organization through speakers who will be brought in and other networking opportunities. Epsilon Eta members will also be volunteering in the community to fulfill the second pillar of the organization.

    Jimmy Liberto, junior in LAS and Epsilon Eta’s treasurer, said the opportunity to be part of something that promotes and protects nature while being surrounded by students with similar passions made the decision to join Epsilon Eta easy.  

    “Epsilon Eta is an important organization to have on campus because it allows like-minded individuals who care for the environment and want to make a career out of it to have a place to meet, grow together and help the environment together,” Liberto said.

    Barone, Liberto and Spencer all believe Epsilon Eta’s main goal, for now, is to attract the best new member class possible to have a successful year. Barone said she’s excited for the opportunity to talk to and meet many new people through Epsilon Eta.

    Members can expect to be part of an organization with a low time commitment and a diverse group of people.

    “I’m really excited to be able to talk to everybody and see — business-wise, architectural-wise, engineering-wise — what sustainability means to them,” Spencer said.

    The environment is an important part of people’s lives, no matter where in the world they live.

    Experiences such as Barone’s citizenship in Costa Rica and the year Spencer spent as an au pair have allowed them to see the sustainability practices and environmental issues that occur in other countries like South Africa, where there is extreme water stress, and India, where Spencer saw beaches littered with garbage.

    Students can apply environmental interests on campus and in the Champaign-Urbana area, which can create a larger impact over time.

    “Nature gives us many benefits, such as clean air and recreation,” Liberto said. “Our service to helping nature will allow the whole community to benefit.”

    Spencer said she wants students  to do their part in environmental issues and to feel comfortable acting in environmentally conscious ways, which being part of Epsilon Eta will help make possible.

    The Illinois chapter of Epsilon Eta plans to have an impact on the community, students and the environment in general. The executive board is excited to foster informative environmental discussions and activities.

    “If we can educate people on stuff that they don’t know about and get them to act on that outside of Epsilon Eta, I think that would be the one thing that I want most for this,” Spencer said.

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