If you think Greek life is all hazing and hangovers, this Muslim sorority wants to prove you wrong.
Image via Facebook/Mu Delta Alpha, used with permission.

Greek life might be an old tradition in college campuses across the country, but a new dawn is emerging for one sorority in Texas.

Mu Delta Alpha is perhaps the only active Muslim sorority in the United States and the first to be established in Texas. It was founded in 2016 at the University of Texas at Dallas by Samira Maddox. Within a year, it opened a beta chapter at the University of Texas at Austin, and it has seen tremendous interest and growth since then.

Another Muslim sorority, Gamma Gamma Chi, had started to organize in 2005 in Virginia and Georgia, but the creation now of Mu Delta Alpha seems to have taken a quick hold. The beta chapter, which has a purpose of empowering women through professional development, received more than 100 pledges and inducted 10 new members in 2017.


This is a huge deal. Why? Well, it comes down to one thing: stereotypes.

Joining a sorority or fraternity has often been considered to be a rite of passage for certain kinds of college students. For decades, Greek life has been associated with secret societies, excessive drinking, wild party nights, and other unsavory behaviors.

But because practicing Muslims do not consume alcohol and are discouraged from premarital sexual relationships (even kissing), a sorority rooted in Islamic identity provides an opportunity for students to redefine what it means to be an American Muslim in a sorority.

Nisa Sheikh, the beta chapter’s financial officer in 2018, told The Daily Texan that Mu Delta Alpha is all about normalizing their identities as Muslim women into the college scene.

"The narrative right now is that Muslim women are oppressed and can’t pursue careers," Sheikh said. "When you have a professional Muslim sorority come up, it breaks that stereotype, and people have to reconsider what they believe."

One way the sorority is changing the narrative around Muslim women is through simple education and tweeting. The UT-Dallas chapter has often tweeted about powerful and remarkable women in western pop culture like model Halima Aden and Islamic history like Fatima al-Fihri. Fihri founded The University of Al Quaraouiyine, the first and oldest operating university in the world, in Morocco.

The sorority has certainly gotten a lot of media attention, including many local news affiliates, all of which its members consider as progress in their goal of getting the public to change their perception about Muslim women.

Mu Delta Alpha is not the only Muslim greek life organization in the country.

Alpha Lambda Mu, named after the first three Arabic letters — Alif Lam Meem — mentioned in 92 chapters of the Quran, was the first national Muslim fraternity.

It was founded at UT-Dallas in 2013, and since then, three more Alpha Lambda Mu chapters have been established across the country at the University of California at San Diego, Cornell University, and the University of Toledo.

One year ago today ALM and thousands of men in the Dallas Fort worth area came together to stand against domestic...

Posted by Alif Laam Meem - Alpha Lambda Mu Fraternity on Sunday, March 23, 2014

Like Mu Delta Alpha, the fraternity has gained wide coverage for its founding and its volunteer work in charitable causes like aiding refugee families and supporting survivors of domestic violence. In addition to features from The New York Times and HuffPost, Alpha Lambda Mu has been the subject of a documentary, "Brotherhood: America’s Favorite Muslim Fraternity."

Mu Delta Alpha and Alpha Lambda Mu aren’t only redefining the identities of young Muslim Americans. They also encourage each of us to examine how we perceive students involved in Greek life.

From "Legally Blonde" to "The House Bunny," sorority women are often depicted as dim-witted, boy-crazed Barbie dolls. In reality, women in sororities are some of the hardest-working and successful women in their fields. And while there have been innumerable scandals, there are men who join fraternities for the purpose of brotherhood and community service as well.

Mu Delta Alpha and Alpha Lambda Mu reminds us all of this. Moreover, they’re evoking an inspiring reminder that it is OK — even great — to be whoever we want to be. We shouldn’t let stereotypes, regardless of what background we come from, limit us from our fullest potential. We have the power to choose our own identity and future.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

via Jules Lipoff / Twitter

Weronika Jachimowicz, 17, is getting a lot of attention for subverting people's expectations of who excels in high school. And that's exactly what she wants.

Jachimowicz was named New York's Mattituck-Cutchogue Union Free School District's 2021 salutatorian. Her yearbook photo next to valedictorian Luke Altman is going viral because of her dramatic Goth makeup and attire.

It all started when assistant professor and writer Dr. Jules Lipoff tweeted out a photo of the valedictorian and salutatorian he saw in a newspaper and it went viral. How many salutatorians have you seen that wear pentagram hoop earrings, a choker, and black devil horns?

The juxtaposition of her next to the bowtie-wearing Altman, makes the photo even more amusing.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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