Alpha Rho Chi returns to U campus

The design fraternity has been inactive for more than two decades.

Meghan Holden

A group of University of Minnesota design students has devoted more than a year to reinstating a professional fraternity, but many won’t be around when it’s recognized in fall 2014.

Alpha Rho Chi hasn’t been on the University campus since 1991, when it fell apart due to lack of interest.

But on Saturday, more than 20 students pledged the Alpha Rho Chi Mnesicles chapter, a professional co-ed fraternity for design students.

At Alpha Rho Chi’s national convention in 2011, University alumni approached members of the national organization to restart the Mnesicles  chapter.

That September, College of Design Dean Thomas Fisher put on a presentation for design students to see if there was any interest in the fraternity. Since then, a group of seven design students have worked to recruit new members and create goals for the

“I have to actually create something that I want to be a part of,” said architect senior and Alpha Rho Chi Treasurer Steven Lees.

The fraternity is now in the colony stage, a probationary period, and the founders will work for the next year to prepare for its official establishment.

Previously, the Alpha Rho Chi fraternity only allowed men to join, and they had the option to live in the fraternity house, alumnus Darrel LeBarron said.

He said the exclusivity may have led to its demise in 1991.

“It is a wonderful change,” LeBarron said. “It’s a breath of fresh air.”

LeBarron and Lauren Wold, both Mnesicles 1968 alumni, have been active in getting the fraternity up and running since 2011.

“I’ve been really impressed with the people and the level of enthusiasm and really the amount of work they have been able to put in it,” Wold said.

Chapter president and architect senior Garret Sletten said the College of Design has been very supportive of the fraternity.

“They all want to see this take off,” Sletten said.

There has been a nationwide trend of starting new Alpha Rho Chi chapters. The recent interest may be because of the current economic state, where it is harder for students to find jobs without prior experience, said Mara Braspenninx, national expansion director for Alpha Rho Chi.

Wold said the fraternity is important for design students because it acts as a way to develop leadership skills and promote networking.

LeBarron said participating in the fraternity helped him succeed in the architecture program.

“I would not have graduated if I wasn’t in Alpha Rho Chi,” he said. “This is the only group that will get you there.”

Sletten agreed.

“This is a supportive group.”

Although most of the founders will no longer be at the University when the chapter becomes official, Sletten and Lees said they’re happy they got the chance to start it for future students.

The founders will receive a special initiation into the Mnesicles chapter when it becomes official.

“It’s nice because we can leave a legacy,” Sletten said. “It’s bittersweet.”