‘Together We Shall Seek the Noblest’
UHD Welcomes a Unique Fraternity to Campus
By Ashley Kilday
Alpha Psi Lambda, the University’s only co-ed, Latinx-focused fraternity, believes in the concept of “familia” to create a support network for all members.
We spoke with José Vazquez, a graduate of University of Houston’s Moores School of Music and a member of Delta Upsilon, an international fraternity that bills itself as “the world’s oldest non-secret, non-hazing fraternity.” As Associate Director of Student Activities, Vazquez serves as a fraternity coordinator for Greek life at UHD and has helped double the number of Greek organizations on campus over the last decade.
UHD News also spoke with Alpha Psi Lambda President Yajaira Alonso Cruz, a senior graduating with a bachelor’s in Psychology and a minor in Spanish & Medical Spanish. “I started at UHD in 2019 and joined the Psychology Club and Active Minds in 2020,” said Cruz. “I was Psychology Club president for two years, and vice president of Active Minds for a few months before stepping down. I just became the president of Alpha Psi Lambda and also am part of a non-school-related organization called Courageous Conversations, which focuses on racial healing. I try to bring it home by networking with UHD faculty and staff.”
How did the idea for Alpha Psi Lambda come about?
Vazquez: “There actually was a call for this particular organization. A group of students went to Dean of Students Dr. Meritza Tamez and Assistant Dean Branston Harris and asked how to bring Alpha Psi Lambda to campus, and they recommended them to me as a campus-based facilitator. Over the last five years, we’d been trying to bring in co-ed organizations, but they didn’t happen for different reasons, and then the pandemic happened. After that, the stars aligned, and the students, who had already done their research, asked for Alpha Psi Lambda in particular.”
Cruz: “The first Alpha Psi Lambda president [David Ramirez] wanted UHD to have a co-ed fraternity. He wanted a fraternity that could bring everybody in, and you don’t have to be Latinx to join even though we are Latinx-focused. It was really about reflecting the diversity of the UHD student body.”
Why did you want to organize as a Greek organization rather than just a student club?
Cruz: "Greek organizations are very united. Clubs tend to be more focused on careers or different fields. Fraternity is more about friendship and bonds. Lots of people come to campus to go to classes, then go home. This group wants to be a home for all students, where they can be comfortable reaching out to anyone here.”
Vazquez: “Alpha Psi Lambda has the same look and feel of a traditional fraternity, from newsletter publications to a ritual book. The symbolism, mascot, motto, and founding values are all present. It isn’t a student club or honor society, and I think that’s something our Greek life community understands, and it is something our UHD community will come to understand as they get to know the organization.”
What are some challenges you faced as you organized?
Vazquez: “In the past, you had to go to either a full-fledged fraternity or sorority, but this organization offers something new. The members are high-achieving and driven, like the other fraternities, but they operate differently in terms of recruitment. The challenge is getting students to understand why Alpha Psi Lambda operates the way it does.”
Cruz: “Organizationally speaking, there was a lot of information we didn’t have at first. We needed to learn how to work within UHD and connect with the community and Greek life. I think the biggest challenge has been setting up events, from letting the University know we want to have an event, to booking a space and connecting with our national office. We have tabled only once so far, which is our opportunity to recruit and spread information. We want to make sure this semester that the community knows that Alpha Psi Lambda is officially established.”
She added, “Alpha Psi Lambda is an academic-focused fraternity, so we host events like study halls. We’ll also be hosting workshops. Our fraternity members have different majors, from Psychology to Math to Marketing to Fine Arts, and we want to host events that relate to each pathway.”
How has Alpha Psi Lambda been received on campus?
Vazquez: “They’ve been welcomed with open arms by the Multicultural Greek Council and the National Panhellenic Council students, and I’ve seen students approach the Alpha Psi Lambda table to ask questions. They are very active on social media. I think, actually, the group has one of the best social media presences of all our fraternities and sororities. We have been very impressed with how they’ve shot out of the gate. They seem to know what they’re doing and how to operate, even at such an early stage.”
Cruz: “As soon as we started tabling, we were welcomed. The established Greek organizations shared information with us. Mr. Vazquez has invited us to be very expressive in our needs and has been accommodating as we settle in. The UHD community has also shown they are happy there is finally a co-ed community.
“We’re taking a month to recruit new members. Every week we plan to host a new event to get information out there and let the community know we are ready to receive anyone who would like to join. We’ll be hosting other events like game days and hangouts. We want to build a bridge between the fraternity and the campus community.”
Cruz continued, “We want to focus a lot on mental health right now as our community recovers from the COVID years. We have also talked about volunteering with the Houston Food Bank and some of the local animal shelters, or even hosting a donation drive for different organizations.”
What makes Alpha Psi Lambda unique on the UHD campus?
Cruz: “We are the first and only co-ed fraternity, and we feel like that allows us to be more expansive with our recruitment, and we can focus on being diverse.”
Vasquez: “This a watershed moment for UHD. We are one of less than 50 campuses in the country that have Alpha Psi Lambda. We see this as a partnership and opportunity for students who may not want to join a traditional fraternity or sorority, because Alpha Psi Lambda is co-ed. When they lean into what makes them different, it makes them stronger, and those bonds become lifelong relationships.”
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.