Junior French and physiology and neurobiology major Elyse MacCall wanted different options for career development and leadership opportunities within French studies after arriving at the University of Maryland. 

While looking for resources that would help her expand interest in the French language into the professional world, she discovered that out of the thousands of fraternities and sororities in the United States, there are no professional fraternities or sororities dedicated to French language and culture, let alone at this university. 

The closest professional French organizations for students are French honors societies, which uphold strict academic qualification standards.

This absence of a professional French fraternity prompted MacCall to talk to Hannah Wegmann, the French undergraduate advisor and assistant clinical professor in the languages, literatures and cultures school at this university, about starting one on campus.

MacCall was partially inspired after seeing organizations supporting more popular majors, she said.

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“They’ve all had these organizations that help them,” MacCall said. “That was something I was looking for … kind of bridge the gap a little bit between those larger majors and the resources that they have, and add a few more resources to the French department.”

When MacCall proposed her idea, Wegmann originally pushed back due to the presence of existing French clubs and organizations. However, MacCall explained how her idea differed from these organizations, and soon Wegmann agreed to the idea.

Both MacCall and Wegmann share a passion for the French language and wanted to create a broader understanding of how French, and any language, helps students professionally. 

“I want a larger understanding of how French opens jobs to different careers in terms of developing soft skills and in terms of building networks with other people,” Wegmann said. “[To establish] less of a social or cultural-focused French body and more of a connection focus.”

With Wegmann’s support, the fraternity became active in October. After thorough research, MacCall decided to name it Lambda Pi Delta. 

The co-ed fraternity currently has 14 members, including MacCall as president and Celine Smith, the fraternity’s treasurer.

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“I thought it was a super cool idea and really creative that she would even think of starting that, and also really bold,” said Smith, a biological sciences major with a French minor. “I didn’t know that people just started fraternities.”

To join, students must be enrolled or have been enrolled in a French course, maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA in French and hold a cumulative 2.75 GPA. Other expectations include respect for other members of the fraternity and knowledge of the Greek alphabet, MacCall said. 

Members also received pins of the French flag and are expected to wear them every day, according to MacCall.

Overall, MacCall said she created the community she once desired.

“I interviewed all the pledges, and I asked them, ‘Why do you want to join Lambda Pi Delta?’” MacCall said. “I would say 90 percent of them said, ‘I’m just looking for a French community.’”