Though many Greek organizations emphasize brotherhood, sisterhood, service and scholarship, the pre-professional fraternities that make up the Professional Fraternity Council have a central focus on the professional development of their members.
PFC governs the four pre-professional fraternities that exist under the council: Alpha Epsilon Delta, the pre-med fraternity; Alpha Kappa Psi, the business fraternity; Phi Alpha Delta, the pre-law fraternity; and Sigma Phi Delta, the engineering fraternity. But USC is known to have additional professional fraternities that are not within PFC, with focuses including leadership, architecture, cinema and accounting.
One of the two business fraternities on campus, Alpha Kappa Psi demonstrates how chapter requirements vary from fraternity to fraternity.
Unlike its counterpart Delta Sigma Pi, which is known for only accepting accounting, business, economic or international relations (global business) majors, AKP accepts students of all academic backgrounds and focuses on more general skills, no matter the member’s desired career path.
“Our program provides students with the soft skills of business not learned in class, for example, how to write a resume or how to do a cover letter,” said AKP President Sam Loke. “During the pledge program, you are exposed to different kinds of workshops — public speaking, how to do a case competition, debate. We offer very concrete, hands-on activities and events. [New members] don’t just learn the theory of it — they also have to execute it.”
Though the application and recruitment process for professional fraternities varies from chapter to chapter, it’s typical for the fraternities to require an application and an interview.
Alpha Kappa Psi’s process includes an additional weeklong rush process that includes meeting with the chapter as well as attending a professional workshop, an alumni panel about the pledging process and benefits of active membership and a social event. Rush is completed with an interview and potentially the offering of a bid.
Professional fraternities look for a variety of characteristics in their potential new members.
“What I look for is someone who is very eager to learn,” Loke said. “The chapter wants pledges who are looking for a sense of brotherhood, someone who comes in on day one and at the end of the process has gone through personal and professional development. We do emphasize personal development a lot, a lot of self-reflection — working on a team and then reflecting on your role and how you can better yourself when you work in another team.”
Phi Alpha Delta, the pre-law fraternity, is another participating member of PFC that welcomes students of all majors and grade levels. Though the organization’s focus is professional, members also attend football games together and host social events. Students do not have to be positive they want a career in law to be a part of the fraternity, and many use this group as an opportunity to learn more about the field.
PAD has guest speakers who range from test prep company representatives advising on how to prepare for the LSAT to current law students and professors discussing life during law school to lawyers from different fields who give examples of the many areas of law.
“We always try to have one speaker a semester come in and talk about other options similar to law but not necessarily law,” said junior Jordan Gary, secretary of PAD. “As we like to say, PAD is kind of a place to figure out if law school is right for you. I’m really interested in sports law, and PAD definitely helped me figure that out.”
Gary said she was inspired by a talk given by an entertainment lawyer who discussed how one of his colleagues worked for the Dodgers during their owner transfer.
“This made me realize that was an avenue available to me,” Gary said.
Engineering fraternity membership requirements are different — Sigma Phi Delta only accepts undergraduate Viterbi School of Engineering students.
Junior Ashtyn Chen, former SPD secretary, said many of their activities involve networking with alumni so it is critical that members are actually interested in working in that field.
“A bunch of our alumni are at Boeing, Tesla, Intel, you name it — all of them come back and tell us about opportunities,” said Chen. “This semester, we have a friend who works at Microsoft, and he came down and set up all the Hackathons down in Long Beach, and we basically [brought] Microsoft Hackathon down here.”
Though many of the engineering firms are not immediately located in Los Angeles, the alumni connection brings them back to home base.
“A lot of alumni still come by because Boeing is down in Long Beach, Chevron is down in [El] Segundo,” Chen said. “A lot of companies are in this area. The house sponsors bowling events and going to Six Flags — trying to integrate the young people with the alumni. The connection base is very good.”
In addition to helping students get a foot in the door job-wise, professional fraternities offer a system of support for its members outside of the classroom or the office.
“Everyone who rushes Alpha Kappa Psi has a different reason,” Loke said. “It could be wanting to gain a brotherhood or sense of family, or network the opportunities because our alumni is pretty strong within the L.A. region, in terms of investment banking, consulting, marketing and so on and so forth. It really depends on the individual and what they want to get out of it.”
Though he joined as a freshman after realizing that few of his friends held the same academic interests he did, Chen said the fraternity has become much more than a group of students who share professional goals.
“It’s very rare for me to find people in my major, so I came out for a barbeque during rush week,” Chen said. “I met a lot of the brothers here, and they all seemed chill. It feels more like a family than this club that meets every week to fulfill an agenda. We actually care about the success of each one of us.”
As with any large organization, professional fraternities are not immune to misconceptions — one of which, Gary said, is that there’s no difference between them and the other Greek organizations.
“They have that stigma that all they do is party. I personally don’t think that’s all that [IFC] fraternities are — I think they do a lot more for the USC community — so that’s a bad stigma to get, but I think we get caught up in it when it definitely does not apply to us.”
One aspect of the IFC fraternities and Panhellenic sororities Gary admires is their strong sense of community.
“I’d like to see [professional fraternities] come together as a group more,” Gary said. “I think that we could do philanthropies — maybe not necessarily go out to the soccer field and play soccer drunk every Friday — but I think we could definitely make it fun and group-oriented. I think all of the professional fraternities, even though they each have their different focuses, all serve the same general purpose for their members.”