Fraternity strives to bring cultural awareness to UNL

Loss of cultural tradition is a struggle many Asian students say they face on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s predominantly white campus, but one fraternity is trying to change that.

Of the  26,000 students enrolled at UNL for the 2017-2018 school year, only 541 identify as Asian. Some Asian students said that because there’s so few of them on campus, it’s tough to continue cultural traditions such as the Lunar New Year.

“When I moved here I kind of got bummed out because they didn’t celebrate it as hard as we did in Vietnam,” said Phat Ntuien, a member of Lambda Phi Epsilon, UNL’s Asian fraternity.

Lambda Phi Epsilon is the largest Asian fraternity in the world. UNL’s chapter, which started in January 2016, now has 18 members.

“Part of our fraternity’s core value is to promote the cultural awareness on campus,” Ntuien said. “We just want to share our Asian culture with everybody.”

Lambda Phi Epsilon works to share its culture by holding different events, the most important of which is the Lunar New Year celebration, held on March 2 in the Nebraska Union.

The fraternity wanted to put on a Lunar New Year event so that they could not only celebrate their culture, but also share it with the campus community, said Trent Nguyen, president of Lambda Phi Epsilon.

“A lot of people don’t know what the Lunar New Year is and have misconceptions about it,” he said. “Some people think it’s just about partying, but for us, we really wanted to reach into the cultural aspects of it.”

The Lunar New Year begins with the first new moon of the lunar calendar, which was Feb. 16 this year, and it is celebrated for 15 days. It will end on Lunar New Year’s Eve on Feb. 4, 2019. Festivities include spending time with friends and family, eating lots of food and celebrating with parades, games, gifts and good wishes.

This year is “year of the dog.” The dog is the eleventh position in the 12-year Chinese Zodiac cycle. There are 12 different Chinese zodiac signs in the form of animals. Your sign is determined by the year you were born. You are a dog if you were born in 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006 and 2018. People born in the year of the dog are thought to be loyal, smart, unafraid of challenges and laid back.

UNL’s Lunar New Year celebration included Asian food, Chinese calligraphy and performances from the Vietnamese Student Association, Lambda Phi Epsilon, the Pom Squad and the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church.

Events like these are key in helping the fraternity accomplish its main goal: bringing diverse students together on a campus where people of color are a small minority, Nguyen said.

“I really want non-Asians to know about our culture because if they don’t have any Asian friends on campus, they wouldn’t know anything about us,” he said. “Same thing with us — we want to know your culture as well.”

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