by Emily Sugarman
Published September 5, 2017
“Once you’re in Phi Sigma Rho, you’re in it for life,” said Sabrina Casucci, a professor in UB’s Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering and faculty advisor for Phi Sigma Rho, a social sorority for women in engineering and engineering technology. Casucci was part of Phi Sigma Rho’s twelfth pledge class during her undergraduate years at Purdue University, where the sorority was founded.
The story of Phi Sigma Rho’s founding inspired Casucci to join; two undergraduate female engineering students wanted to join Greek life, but found the rush process too difficult to balance with their heavy coursework. They decided to found their own sorority solely for women in engineering that would provide a supportive, social environment that would help sustain their curricular demands.
“Those two students wanted to both excel academically and to enjoy what college is all about. They were also very philanthropic minded. I thought, ‘that’s the group I want to be a part of,’” said Casucci.
For Casucci, her Phi Sigma Rho connection has come full circle several years later. Two rising juniors at UB, Jessica Wilson and Samantha Ring, expressed interest in starting a chapter. As soon as Casucci found out, she hopped on board.
“I ended up uncovering some of my pledge materials, and I didn’t even know I had them! I’m grateful to be in touch with what I’d lost since I left Purdue, but also to rediscover the whole process and see how Phi Sigma Rho has evolved. I probably share with the group more than they want to know, telling them ‘when I was in your shoes…,’” Casucci laughed.
Interestingly, Wilson and Ring learned about Phi Sigma Rho when they were studying abroad together in Troyes, France. They met a student from the University of Michigan who was an active member of Phi Sigma Rho.
“She told us all about her amazing sorority. Jess and I thought, why not start a chapter at UB? Founded in in 1984, Phi Sigma Rho’s motto is, ‘Together we build the future.’ Together, Jessica and I are trying to build a strong, cohesive group of women in engineering who are motivated to leave a legacy behind at UB,” Ring said.
Local alumnae as well as current Phi Sigma Rho sisters from other universities travelled to Buffalo from all over the country for UB Phi Sigma Rho's first initiation event, at which eleven undergraduate women in engineering at UB became the alpha class.
“My hope is that we can create a group of wonderful alumnae every year so that our girls can start networking with someone in their field as soon as they become one of our sisters. We plan to hold not only social events, but academic events as well to help our sisters strengthen their skills so that we can all be strong leaders in our future careers,” Wilson said.
Wilson and Ring both attended the Phi Sigma Rho National Convention in St. Louis for a weekend in mid-July, where they gained valuable insight about their new sorority. They participated in a variety of activities and events such as an etiquette lunch, challenging team-building exercises, leadership workshops, and multiple platforms to connect with sisters and alumnae from across the nation. They listened to an alumna speak about her struggles as a woman working in an engineering field, and how she was able to overcome them and become one of the most influential people in her company today. Wilson and Ring left the convention feeling empowered —confident in their decision to bring Phi Sigma Rho to life at UB.
This fall, UB’s Phi Sigma Rho will welcome their beta class. Their five-year plan is to initiate controlled expansion so their amount of members will double every year, eventually becoming a large, active group on campus. When they have one hundred girls or more, they hope to continue the expansion of Phi Sigma Rho chapters in the Northeast, as the majority of Phi Sigma Rho chapters are located in the Midwest.
“Women can easily pull out of engineering —not because the work is too challenging, but because the work culture may be difficult to navigate and they may feel alone. If women who are studying engineering at UB are looking to feel connected and supported, this is a great opportunity for them,” Casucci said.
“Everyone at UB has been incredibly supportive, especially our adviser, Dr. Sabrina Casucci, as well as Dr. Christine Human, Associate Dean for Accreditation and Student Affairs and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences as a whole. We could not be where we are today without the help of all of these wonderful support systems,” Wilson said.
According to the Phi Sigma Rho national website, “Through Phi Sigma Rho, our sisters develop the highest standard of personal integrity, strive for academic excellence, and build friendships that will last a lifetime.”
Recruiting for the UB’s next Phi Sigma Rho class will begin as soon as the fall semester commences. Students must be enrolled in a major within the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the time of pledging. E-mail PhiSigmaRhoColonyUB@gmail.com for more information.