Phi Sigma Rho was founded in 1984 by Abby McDonald and Rashmi Khanna at Purdue University. Abby and Rashmi were unable to participate in traditional sorority rushes due to the demands of their engineering program, so they decided to start their own sorority instead. The Alpha chapter was founded with ten members.
In the years since, Phi Sigma Rho has grown to twenty nine chapters from coast to coast.
Charter Members of the Alpha Chapter
Remembering the Past
The following is an excerpt from the March/April 1986 U.S. Women Engineer Magazine’s article Phi Sigma Rho: Another Bridge Crossed.
Years ago, engineering careers were out of the reach of most women. As it is well known, times have changed and women are becoming important contributors to this technical field. It is now time for women engineers to cross another bridge. This step involves combining their strong career goals with another side of life – Greek life.
Phi Sigma Rho was the dream of two women engineers at Purdue University in 1984. They envisioned a social sorority comprised of women in engineering and engineering technology, supporting one another while living and working together. With the growing number of women entering these areas, the idea seemed feasible, and the future demand for this type of organization seemed certain.
The co-founders, Abby McDonald and Rashmi Khanna, spent the following summer in research of what a sorority involved. The name was chosen and a constitution drafted. Interaction with the SWE Purdue Section offered Phi Sigma Rho an opportunity to be introduced to a large group of women engineers through the SWE newsletter. In addition, Purdue’s SWE advisor, Jane Daniels, agreed to be the faculty advisor for the young sorority. During the next fall, charter members were chosen who also felt the enthusiasm and important to launch Phi Sigma Rho.
These new members set ambitious goals for the first few years. These goals were outlined as internal strength for the organization, campus-wide support, and national recognition.
The internal strength develops from establishing Phi Sigma Rho as a sorority as opposed to other types of campus organizations. This involves such tasks as designing pledge and active pins, organizing an efficient rush period, and eventually finding common housing for the members.
After creating this internal bond, the sorority will be concerned with involvement in the campus around them in order to gain its support. This is accomplished by applying for associate membership to the Panhellenic Association, organizing service projects and other activities with established sororities and fraternities, and publicizing these activities on the university campus.
After Purdue’s support is achieved, national recognition with be sought. This last endeavor may prove to be the most challenging because it involves seeking locations for additional Phi Sigma Rho chapters and obtaining financial support from alumni and industry to help back these new chapters.
While these goals are often time consuming, and academic demands are never ending, the group has not lost sight of the reason it was founded – to act as a source of encouragement to it members and to further the success of women in engineering. Possibly this is best stated by a few members:
The purpose of founding Phi Sigma Rho was to offer women engineers a new alternative to the existing sororities – an alternative that would provide the atmosphere of a social sorority, yet consider the demands placed upon engineering students.
Phi Sigma Rho is also a helping hand, a listening ear, and a gentle push to keep all of us trying our best [in engineering] as individuals as well as a group.