Sorority founded on culture, friendship

Five best friends, two years and lots of determination.
That’s what it took for the founding sisters of Delta Phi Omega to establish a chapter of the national South Asian sorority at the university.
The girls, with varied backgrounds from Bangladesh, India and other South Asian countries, became best friends while living together in Stanford Residential College. Proud and tied to their cultural backgrounds, they recognized a void at the university for South Asian culture.
“There was no organization we could call our own,” said sorority vice president Mashail Manzur.
But then they stumbled upon Delta Phi Omega.
“We met sisters from other chapters in Florida and decided we wanted to start our own chapter here,” said president Nisha Chowdhury. “It was something that we could take pride in.”
DPO was first founded in 1998 at the University of Houston and his since grown to over 30 chapters nationwide. The sorority strives to foster unity among South Asian women, build community awareness and gain a greater understanding of oneself and others by instilling strong leadership traits and emphasizing high academic performance. It is founded on the five pillars of sisterhood, respect, loyalty, honesty and friendship.
The girls began establishing the Miami chapter in the spring of 2009. It was officially recognized this March and now falls under the Multiethnic Greek Council. But their work is far from complete.
The founding members are all juniors with tough course loads, four of the girls are pre-med and the fifth is pre-law. So their goal for next year is to “recruit, recruit, recruit” to ensure that their hard work doesn’t go to waste.
“DPO has a name among South Asian women and we see the interest here already,” said Chowdhury. “We know our membership will grow.”
The sorority gives members an opportunity to make social connections, learn about South Asian culture and contribute philanthropically. But the girls stress that members don’t have to be of South Asian decent to be a part of the sorority.
The Miami chapter will also participate in DPO’s national charity event that is aimed at eradicating child illiteracy rates in South Asian countries. Literacy through Unity week is held every spring. In the past, the national sorority raised over $25,000 to donate to programs that help teach children in developing countries to read. In India, the overall literacy rate is 65 percent, with a female literacy rate of 54 percent.
“Literacy and education is something we’re very passionate about. If you start teaching children early, then they will succeed and help transform the developing countries,” founding member Priyanka Surio said.
All first generation Americans, through DPO these girls hope to find a blend between their South Asian backgrounds and American culture. And one of their biggest obstacles was convincing their parents that “going greek” wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“Initially our parents had reservations about it because sometimes ‘Greek’ has a negative connotation to it,” Chowdhury said. “But now that they see how close we’ve all become and the relationships we’re creating, they’re okay with it.”
Greek life is about making friendships that last and building a support system. Delta Phi Omega just adds a South Asian twist to the friendships and the camaraderie.

Heather Carney may be contacted at