By Sanjana Venkatraman
Sanjana Venkatraman is currently a sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill studying Environmental Science (B.S.) on the quantitative energy systems track, and concentrating in energy management. Her current minor is urban planning. She is also involved with Renewable Energy Special Projects Committee on campus.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is known for many different things. The basketball team, stellar academics, and being one of the top public universities. However, did you know the first nationwide environmental honors fraternity, Epsilon Eta, was founded here at Carolina? With multiple chapters in various universities such as UC Berkeley and University of Michigan, Epsilon Eta (EH) has grown a diverse network of students and alumni passionate about environmental science and sustainability.
So what exactly does Epsilon Eta do?
Epsilon Eta strives to “foster awareness of the intrinsic relationship between people and their environment through academics, the community, and service” and to “create a networking environment that enables members to utilize the society as a means to enhance their actions as stewards of the environment.”
So, what exactly does this all mean? Well, there’s a lot to explain! The members of EH are all hardworking and dedicated students, who come together and share their mutual passion for the environment and sustainability. This passion is showcased in a variety of ways. Members of EH are involved in a variety of professional, career, and academic development workshops. This includes, but is not limited to, professional guest speakers hosting events during meetings, connecting members with internship opportunities, resume and interview workshops, study hours and study groups, networking events, etc.
Not only that, but all members of EH are required to do environmental science/sustainability community service throughout the semester. Members are required to do 2 service projects that are offered by EH, or to log 10 hours of community service on their own. This can range from trash cleanups to invasive species removal at the Botanical Gardens. Epsilon Eta also partners with other organizations on campus such as Edible Campus and Compostables for community service projects. Members also participate in bonding experiences such as hikes, dinners, and retreats!
Epsilon Eta’s History
Founded in 2006 by Liza Schillo, an undergraduate student at UNC, Epsilon Eta strived to bring the environmental science community together. As the years went by, Epsilon Eta’s membership grew at an increased pace to grow a class of roughly 90 members. Along with this, the interests of the society broadened to include not just environmental science, but sustainability as well. However, in the fall of 2020, the members and executive board made the decision to shut down the Alpha Chapter.
Two years after the disbandment, five students came together to restart the Alpha Chapter with a refined vision after seeing the numerous benefits and opportunities the organization provided in the past. These five students, Sanjana Venkatraman, Gregory Mink, Zachary Miller, Sarah Masters, and Tayton Alvis, became the co-founders of the renewed chapter. In early September of 2022, Epsilon Eta was officially re-founded through the university. Currently, the executive board holds 8 members, including the co-founders.
So, can I still join?
Yes! Epsilon Eta welcomes all students who have a tangible passion for environmental science and sustainability. The selection process happens twice a year at the beginning of each semester and consists of a few social events to meet the current members and executive board, and an application/interview.
For more information on upcoming dates, be sure to follow our Instagram @uncepsiloneta!