UTRGV’s Phi Iota Alpha fraternity and members earn national accolades

BY J. Edward Moreno

The UTRGV chapter of the national Phi Iota Alpha Fraternity Inc. earned awards at the fraternity’s 85th national convention, held July 26-30 at the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, D.C.

Though the chapter was not able to attend the convention, they were informed via livestream that they had been named “Undergraduate Chapter of the Year” and had won an award for “Philanthropy of the Year.” Individual members named were Lawrence Earl Pabalinas – “Undergraduate of the Year,” and Sergio Barrera, “Alumni of the Year.”

To be considered for the awards, the chapter had to provide essays and supporting documents of events they have hosted. For the UTRGV chapter, those events included “Phiota Week,” in which they spend a week identifying community needs; “Phiota College Experience,” where they help Latino high school students who have average academic performance gain access to college resources; and “Bellezas del Mundo,” where they host a woman-empowerment-themed beauty pageant.

Established in 1931, Phi Iota Alpha Fraternity Inc. is the oldest Latino fraternity in existence; the UTRGV chapter is the only one south of San Antonio.

Giovanni Escobedo, 28, a senior political science major and president of the fraternity, said he hopes these awards can help change the stereotyped view many people have of college fraternities, and help bring representation for Latinos in the process.

“We are trying to change the way people think of fraternities, and how they look at Latinos in particular,” he said. “We want to show people who don’t usually think about the Valley that there are some great things going on here. We want to give them our perspective.”

Pabalinas, former president of the fraternity and recipient of the “Undergraduate of the Year” award, said it is nice to be recognized, but the real award was the experience of helping others.

“Throughout the year, we were only focused on delivering the events,” he said. “The things in between our meetings and our accomplishments – the experience of that – is more important for us than the awards.”

More Information

– Undergraduate Chapter of the Year

– Philanthropy of the Year

– Undergraduate of the Year

– Alumni of the Year