Greek Week here at UConn might be considered a little more tame than other schools. Events consist of a barbeque, a dance show, a pageant and a philanthropy event to round out the week. This year at the pageant, Phi Rho’s own Nicole Aquino took home the title of Greek Week Goddess. What makes her win unique is that her talent is not what you would think a pageant winner’s to be. Her bold move and win reminds us all (affiliated and non-affiliated community members) that Greek life is about joining “values based organizations,” and creating positive change.
What year/major are you?
I’m a senior mechanical engineering major.
How long have you been in Phi Rho?
All four years of college! I joined Phi Rho in the fall of my freshman year, back in 2011.
What do you love most about Phi Rho?
It’s hard to say, there’s so much to love about it. One of the most important things is how unbelievably supportive Phi Rho is, in everything from academics to things like this pageant. The amazing women in my chapter have really grown to be more than just friends, and are truly a family to me. After I won, I received congratulatory texts and facebook messages from alumni that graduated before I even came to UConn. It just really goes to show that it’s more than just something that you participate in during your undergraduate career, but something that truly lasts a lifetime.
What made you decide to participate in the Greek Week pageant?
I really just thought I could represent my chapter and my team well, and I wanted to be able to make my sisters proud. I’ve spent four amazing years in Phi Rho and in Greek Life, and I was always extremely involved. I’m graduating at the end of the semester and I thought it would be a good way to close out my Greek experience.
What was it like up there on stage?
It was so surreal to be up there in front of so much of the Greek Community! Interestingly enough, being on stage wasn’t so bad, but I was unbelievably nervous off stage! One of my sisters stayed with me for the whole pageant to keep me calm (and maybe to keep me from running away), but I had way too much time to think about every little thing that could go wrong. When I got on stage and heard my sisters and friends cheering for me, it really put me at ease.
What was your talent?
I showed a video of myself putting together and programming four circuits to play the song “Secrets” by One Republic. I had put together the arrangement myself and just converted it all so that it could be played by the circuits. While the video was playing, I spoke a little about why I wanted to do this talent and about women in engineering.
Why did you choose to show this talent?
It was actually the suggestion of some of my sisters. I really wasn’t sure what kind of talent I would do because I was WAY too nervous to actually play an instrument on stage, and it just seemed like a really interesting and different talent that could reflect my love for music and some of what I’ve learned in my engineering classes. I think some people were a little nervous about how it would come off and that it might be too nerdy, but I did my best to make it more than that and to send a really important message.
What was the message you wanted to send by sharing this talent?
I wanted to show people that engineering isn’t just pale, nerdy, antisocial guys sitting behind computers all day. There’s a lot more women in engineering now than there were just a few years ago, but only 20% of undergraduate engineering degrees are earned by women. Once you get into the workforce, the number of female engineers actually drops to about 11%. It’s not because women aren’t as good at engineering, but because it’s a tough environment for women to break into. Even at UConn, subtle things make us feel like we’re outsiders. The Engineering II building doesn’t even have women’s bathrooms, only men’s! It’s just so important that we stop thinking of engineering as something for guys and start to realize that women can make great engineers too. Women make up 50% of the population; when we make up 50% of engineers, it will literally change the world.
How do you think it impacts Greek community that you won?
I think that, in a way, it helped to remind people that we really are values based organizations, which is what we should be focusing on as members of the Greek community. I know it was a risky move to make my talent into a platform to talk about an issue which heavily affects me and my sisters, but I think that as leaders on this campus we need to address important issues in our society. I think more significant though is the incredible support I’ve received from members of so many different organizations about the talent alone. The fact that it was so well received really does show that our community cares about its members and the issues they face, regardless of affiliation. I think winning really just gave credence to the issue and showed that as a community we can and should be using our time and ability to address those which affect our members. I can only hope that participants in next year’s pageant will try to do the same!
How did it feel to have your name called as the winner?
It was unreal. I’ve spent so much time and effort working to improve the UConn Greek community but I NEVER could have imagined that I would stand a chance of participating let alone winning a pageant which I’ve seen some of the most impressive leaders in our community win over the years. The first thought I had though was that it was the first time a Phi Rho had ever won a pageant and how happy I was that I could make my sisters proud. Participating in the pageant was really more for Phi Rho than for myself, and I was just so happy that I could be such a positive representation of my sorority!
What would be a change you would like to see in the Greek Community?
I would really like to see the Greek community develop a better relationship with the rest of the UConn community. The rift between us has grown immensely over the last few years, and we really need to establish a better dialogue to address the stereotypes and issues within the community. In light of recent events, there has been a resurfacing of stereotypes, both grounded and ungrounded. The problem is that as a community we have not been handing these allegations properly. We go on the offensive and say things like “this person must not have gotten a bid” or accuse them of being ignorant. It’s not on the UConn community to accept us; it’s on us to show them our worth on this campus. When someone accuses us of something that isn’t true, we have to actually explain why it isn’t true, and when they bring up very real issues within the community, we can’t fire back with reasons that make it “okay” like philanthropy, service, and leadership. Instead, we have to acknowledge that maybe yes, it is an issue, and explain what we’re doing to address it, or ask what they think we can do to fix it. Once we can mend the relationship we have with the UConn community, our Greek community will really thrive!