Ashley Mikel first saw Gamma Rho Lambda tabling during their first year at ASU. They went up to the table, but didn’t stay.
"I ran away from the table in a panic because I wasn’t quite ready to accept that part of myself yet, to be truly who I was," Mikel, a senior studying microbiology, said.
Then, around a year and a half later, they saw a flyer for the LGBTQ+ inclusive ASU sorority on Facebook and then another flyer in the student union.
"I just decided I’d give it a shot," Mikel said. "I was looking to meet friends and to have connections to campus and connections to people, and I’d say it was like a lifeline for me."
Mikel ended up going through the interview process and joining the sorority.
They are one of nine active sorority members this school year – which will mark the 20th anniversary of the sorority.
Unlike other Greek life, Gamma Rho Lambda is an all-inclusive sorority regardless of gender. In 2019, it amended its recruitment language at the national level to include people of all genders who uphold the purpose of the sorority. Previously, the sorority only listed women and transgender individuals who upheld the purpose of the sorority as those who can be members.
"We have a lot of members who are or who have learned that they are (transgender) or gender nonconforming through their membership with GRL," said Sarah Jeter, the national vice president of external communications for Gamma Ro Lambda. "We never wanted our policies to be a block for someone who needed a space like ours."
Gamma Rho Lambda at ASU is known as the "Alpha Chapter" because it was the first of eight chapters to be founded under Gamma Rho Lambda nationwide.
After its founding in 2003, multiple women approached the Alpha Chapter, and the process of expanding the sorority to other campuses began.
In 2006, the sorority had enough nationwide alumni members to support a national council independent of the Alpha Chapter. Now, there are 113 active collegiate members and 121 active alumni members.
There are two chapters in Arizona, two in Texas, two in Iowa, one in California and one in Virginia.
Gamma Rho Lambda operates without a house, but its members are still able to connect.
"We have a bunch of casual events," said Hannah Roemer, who is the sorority’s member preservation officer and a junior studying global studies. "We have a Discord we use where someone will type out and be like, 'Hey, I’m at Hayden Library studying for the next three hours, come join if you want,' and it gives you the opportunity to choose when you want to see someone."
Sorority president Morgan Cividanes, a second-year graduate student studying information technology and forensic science, said not having a house is part of why the cost of membership is "a lot lower than sororities or fraternities that would have a house."
Members of the sorority can still receive many benefits outside of creating bonds with others, such as leadership positions, event managing experience, being a part of sorority committees and becoming a part of the executive board.
But members emphasized that a lot of the meaning of the sorority to them was in the connections they establish.
Angelyn Soto, a second-year graduate student studying transborder studies, said in their senior year as classes and events transitioned back to in-person settings, many of their initial friend groups had somewhat "depleted" due to the pandemic.
Having the sorority siblings there was important to them.
"It was nice to know that I had that assurance, like there was a group of people that were here for me still,” Soto said.
For Soto, it’s "really important" that people know Gamma Rho Lambda exists at ASU.
"One, it helps kind of like, push Greek life in general from that image of being this privileged sector that's all about partying and stuff. It also opens up that sort of institution to kind of start being ... restructured in a way that makes it open to everyone," Soto said.
Sorority member Roemer also cited anti-LGBTQ+ bills in different state legislatures as a reason of importance for the sorority.
"Just having a presence, showing that you’re there, that you’re happy to be yourself, that you’re happy to be able to express who you are in any way, just existing, I think that really shows a lot," Roemer said.
Within ASU Greek Life, Gamma Rho Lambda is one of over 70 different sororities and fraternities.
Sione Vaisa, a freshman at ASU studying business law, said that he feels like there are changes that need to be made to improve inclusivity in Greek life at ASU.
"I believe that there are some fraternities and sororities who are very much accepting, but there still are some that, there needs to be change," Vaisa said.
Like some other sororities and fraternities, Gamma Rho Lambda takes part in philanthropic activities meant to benefit the larger community.
On a national level, The Trevor Project is the sorority’s main benefactor, but at the ASU level, the sorority has other benefactors as well.
The sorority does volunteer work and also works with Aunt Rita’s Foundation, which funds local HIV and AIDS service agencies in Arizona.
Even with that work, Cividanes said that the average time commitment for a sorority sibling would be about four to six house a week maximum.
In the future, Gamma Rho Lambda hopes to expand itself and its goals to other universities around the U.S. Those goals can have a major impact on people.
"Even when I wasn’t necessarily clearly defined in who I was, there were people (at Gamma Rho Lambda) who were very clearly defined and confident in who they were," Mikel said. "Soon things that I was whispering about became casual conversations, became things that I would scream from the rooftops."
Interested students can still go through the sorority's recruitment process, which ends this upcoming Sunday. More information can be found on its Instagram. The sorority will have two events this upcoming weekend, including one Friday afternoon and one Sunday morning.
Edited by Grey Gartin, Sadie Buggle and Grace Copperthite.
Aaron Stigile is an opinion columnist at The State Press. He previously wrote for The Defiant Movement and is working toward a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication. He is also working toward a minor in Spanish and a certificate in Cross-Sector Leadership.