Multicultural sorority, student organization help enrich Miami Experience for Marianna Gay
By Jesús F. Jiménez, assistant director of digital content
Since high school, Marianna Gay has been heavily involved in just about every student organization imaginable.
Coming to Miami University, however, she had zero interest in one: Greek Life.
“You know, the stigma of party culture and all that stuff. I was not part of it,” said Marianna, a senior speech pathology major with a Spanish minor.
While serving as president of the UNIDOS, Miami’s Latin American student organization, she needed just one lunch meeting with the president of Sigma Lambda Gamma to change her heart.
Miami’s only multicultural sorority provided a new perspective into Greek Life and, along with UNIDOS, has fortified Marianna’s Miami.
“It’s historically Latina-based,” she said “So, seeing those roots and seeing how genuine they were really attracted me to them.”
Marianna, who is Puerto Rican, is now the president of both UNIDOS and the Pi Gamma Chapter of Sigma Lambda Gamma. Through the two organizations, she has explored a deeper sense in her own and other diverse cultures.
Contributions to UNIDOS’ UniDiversity Scholarship and the Pi Gamma Chapter of Sigma Lambda Gamma can be made at any time or as part of #MoveInMiami, the university’s annual day of giving traditionally held each year during move-in day. This year’s #MoveInMiami is Aug. 19 with a goal of 2,025 gifts in 20 hours and 25 minutes in honor of the Class of 2025.
“Not only are you giving back to your school, but you’re also giving back to multicultural efforts – raising people of color, people of different cultures up, so we can have that opportunity to hopefully be able to give back again,” Marianna said. “It’s all about using what you have to lift others so that they can use what they have and then lift others as well.”
Marianna’s parents met at Colegio de Mayagüez, a university in Puerto Rico and moved to the States when her father started working for IBM. The family moved around, eventually landing in Beavercreek, Ohio, right around Marianna’s freshman year of high school.
Marianna, the oldest of three sisters, jokes that she is the “most Puerto Rican” of the three, despite being born in New York. She eats the most cultural food, speaks the best Spanish and looks most like her grandfather. Her first sister was born in Puerto Rico, and the youngest of the three was born in Virginia.
Still, Marianna always felt like she missed out on Puerto Rican culture.
“All my life, I’ve grown up in places that are largely white-dominated, and I was missing that sort of culture that I really wanted,” she said. “My parents are fully Puerto Rican, my whole ancestry is from the island, and I never got that chance to experience it growing up in the States. That was a really big part of what I was looking for in college.”
She found Miami through the common application process and, ultimately, picked this university because of the scholarship offer. She was also hoping that Miami would provide the cultural diversity she had craved her whole life.
“I remember on the first day I looked around at everybody walking around and thought, ‘Where are my people? Where are the people who look like me?’” She said. “I was sad to say there weren’t a lot. … I don’t even remember how it happened, but I stumbled upon UNIDOS. I just found myself in the meeting room one day and I was like, ‘This is it. These are my people. These are the people who understand and know me.’”
UNIDOS works to promote and celebrate Latin American and Hispanic culture on Miami’s Oxford campus. It was also through UNIDOS that Marianna met Josephine Webb, the president of the sorority at the time.
Josephine presented to the group and while Marianna appreciated everything they stood for, her mind was made up.
“Forget about it,” she thought. That is, until she met the rest of the members and was drawn in by their genuineness.
Marianna was initiated during her junior year, but there was one small detail: all of the current members were graduating.
“It was me and another girl who came in together – we were just a class of two,” Marianna said. “Everyone else was leaving, so it came the time to pick a president. I was not going for it at all, and everyone just unanimously decided that I would be it, and I was like, ‘OK, why not?’”
The sorority’s mission is to empower sisterhood and community through the valuing of cultural diversity. It’s certainly done that for Marianna. While UNIDOS helped her get in touch with her culture, the sorority helped her become an advocate for others.
“Through (UNIDOS), I harnessed more my own individual culture, my Latina part of myself, but then with Gamma, I’ve harnessed more of this kind of need and pursuit for diversity and equity,” she said.
“Yes, I am Latina, and that’s a big part of who I am, but taking that into account, there are so many more cultures, there are so many more people – I need to fight for myself, but I also need to fight for them, as well.”
#MoveInMiami is a fun, fast-paced fundraising event on move-in day to welcome the incoming first-year class to Oxford. On Aug. 19, 2021, follow us throughout the day with live and pre-recorded content around campus and Uptown. Our goal is to raise 2,025 gifts in 20 hours and 25 minutes in honor of the Class of 2025 – no gift is too small! Learn about the projects you can support and donate now at MoveInMiami.org. Because sometimes the smallest act makes the biggest impact.