WKU’s first multinational fraternity hosts inaugural rush

Freshman Caleb Tamminga from Glasgow, Kentucky listens to Flavio Chavarri, the chapter president of Beta Gamma Omega speak about what their fraternity is all about on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017 in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Beta Gamma Omega was founded by Chavarri in February of 2016 in hopes to unite the different cultures of Western Kentucky University.

Griffin Fletcher

GLOBAL BROS

WKU’s first multinational fraternity Beta Gamma Omega looks to expand and thrive.

The Beta Gamma Omega fraternity was created at WKU during February of 2017. It is the Alpha chapter in the United States, meaning the first of its kind anywhere, and is the first fraternity ever created on WKU’s campus.

Beta Gamma Omega is also the first multicultural fraternity at WKU, as deemed by its president and creator, senior Flavio Chavarri, and is open to all international and American students.

Chavarri is not only president of Beta Gamma Omega but also chairman of the Council of International Student Organizations (CISO), chairman of the International Student Diplomats, president of Business Without Borders, part of the Student Advisory Council, founder of the English as a Second Language International (ESLi) Council and an ESLi ambassador.

ESLi, a semester-long program by which international students can study and learn English before attending regular classes, is actually what brought Chavarri to WKU.

Born in Peru, Chavarri knew he would need to study English before he could attend an American university. Of the seven universities offering ESLi at the time of his search, Chavarri chose WKU for its academic programs and international scope.

“I saw that Western is a leading American university with international reach,” Chavarri said. “Thanks to ESLi, I’m here.”

Despite his success at WKU, Chavarri recognizes that many international students feel out of place and struggle to adjust.

Senior David Camargo was born in Colombia and is a Beta Gamma Omega founding father. He came to Bowling Green without friends or the ability to speak English.

“It’s hard. It’s hard to just come in and have people like you,” Camargo said. “I know some people who come here lost.”

On behalf of international students who feel as Camargo did, Chavarri created Beta Gamma Omega with the intention to integrate.

“Sometimes they [international students] feel afraid to be in an American fraternity because there are not people like them. We just want to do something so they can actually feel more integrated,” Chavarri said.

In order to achieve this goal, Chavarri discussed his idea to establish a multinational fraternity at a CISO meeting during the 2017 Spring semester.

Sophomore Reuben Tang was at that meeting.

“As for me, I kinda came to Western for international students. And so, it was just, like, that dream, that goal of internal campus integration,” Tang said while recalling Chavarri’s initial proposal.

Now a Beta Gamma Omega founding father, Tang is a Chinese-American who was born in Manhattan, New York.

As opposed to Chavarri’s journey to WKU through ESLi, Tang ended up in Bowling Green largely by chance.

Due to a family decision to start a restaurant in Glasgow, Tang left Manhattan before starting college.

“My relatives asked my family if they wanted to come down to Glasgow and start this restaurant together,” Tang said. “And just by pure circumstance, I came from that giant city to little-town Glasgow.”

Tang considered attending the University of Kentucky, the University of Louisville and Lindsey Wilson College but decided on WKU because of its modest size and international focus.

In just his second year on campus, Tang is already a Beta Gamma Omega founding father and philanthropy chairman, president of the Chinese Music Club, an Office of Scholar Development (OSD) ambassador, secretary of the Chinese Culture Club and a member of CISO.

Along with Tang, Camargo and Chavarri, six other students established Beta Gamma Omega at WKU, including junior Pedram Pishbin.

Pishbin is from Iran and believes Beta Gamma Omega will serve as a “bridge” between cultures and students of all ethnicities.

“With the values we share, with our differences, we make the experience unique,” Pishbin said in discussing the brotherhood he has experienced at Beta Gamma Omega.

Beta Gamma Omega is still not recognized as a legitimate fraternal chapter by the Interfraternity Council (IFC) at WKU.

To become part of IFC, a chapter must have a minimum of 20 members and a constitution approved by a lawyer.

“Last semester we focused a lot on starting this fraternity, and this semester we’re focusing on having members,” Chavarri said. “And the main goal is to be on IFC.”

With that goal in mind, Chavarri and other founding members began writing Beta Gamma Omega’s constitution and bylaws last semester and also worked to create a fraternity logo, symbol and shield.

The members of Beta Gamma Omega chose the wolf as their fraternity animal and established a system of dues.

Dues will start this fall 2017 semester and will only be $50 per semester. With the money accumulated through dues, Beta Gamma Omega aims to buy flags, shirts and a crest.

Since Beta Gamma Omega currently has no alumni and does not receive money from outside donors, the fraternity is not yet able to buy its own house. However, once the chapter is further established and resources are more plentiful, a house on campus will be of top priority.

Until then, Beta Gamma Omega will hold meetings at the Zuheir Sofia-Dero Downing Building along State Street, which will serve as their “house.”

Aside from necessary finances, Chavarri wishes to keep Beta Gamma Omega away from excessive monetization.

“We’re doing this not for money, not for nothing. We’re doing this for the future of international people,” Chavarri said.

In keeping with this mission, Beta Gamma Omega’s philanthropy is through the International Center of Kentucky, where its primary focus will be aiding refugees and donating money raised via fundraisers and events.

Beta Gamma Omega is dedicated to its philanthropy and mission to serve international students nationwide, but is also just like any other fraternity on campus.

“We don’t want to look like a club. We are a fraternity at its core. We just want to add something to it,” Pishbin said.

Beta Gamma Omega’s first day of rush took place Tuesday at the Zuheir Sofia-Dero Downing Building.

Arranged in a circle, seated on maroon plush couches and chairs, was an ethnic assortment of founding fathers and eager rushees, getting to know one another and laughing all the while.

“We wanted to explain we’re building this from the bottom,” Chavarri said after the first day of rush. “We want a group of guys we can hang out and have fun with.”

Pakistani senior Muhammad Khan was one of 15 rushees present.

Khan said he loves meeting people from different cultures and hopes to make Beta Gamma Omega a competitive fraternity.

“I believe that American students and international students have a very fine line, which is just waiting to be crossed. Once that line is crossed, there is no difference in cultures,” said Khan when asked if international and American students struggle to understand one another.

Beta Gamma Omega’s next day of rush will start in front of the Preston Center on Friday, Sept.1 at 4:30 p.m. and move to South Lawn, where activities like soccer and frisbee will be held.

“With us, we can do a lot for Western, we can do a lot for internationalization,” Tang said. “We are always hopeful, positive, and we’re trying to spread that message to our guys.”

Reporter Griffin Fletcher can be reached at 270-745-2688 or [email protected]