Honors Society Not a Fraternity

Laura Pham is excited. Yet the communications major did not always feel that way when attending classes at Santa Monica College. "I wanted to find value with my college experience," says Pham. "I did not feel excited coming to school," Pham says.

Four semesters ago things changed. Pham began to gain a new sense of purpose. She attributes this to her involvement with Alpha Gamma Sigma.

Founded in 1925, Alpha Gamma Sigma is the California junior college honor scholarship society. The motto of AGS is "add to good character, knowledge, and judgment."

The SMC chapter was founded in 1938.

According to its constitution, "The purpose of the chapter shall be to foster, promote, maintain, and recognize scholarship among the students of Santa Monica College; to develop programs offering cultural, social, or enrichment experiences; to promote service to the college and the community; and to emphasize the development of leadership, character, and judgment."

Mathematics professor Terry Green has been involved with AGS for a long time. In 1966, while a student at SMC, he was voted vice-president of AGS. In 1988, as a math instructor, Green became a co-advisor.

With so much experience and knowledge gained over time, Green has become somewhat of a walking encyclopedia. "I'm sort of advisor emeritus," says Green, now the head advisor. Green has seen membership of AGS grow from 25 in 1966, to its current roster of over 250.

Green says that in AGS, "The two cornerstones are academic excellence and community service."

Mathematics professor Brian Rodas became an advisor after being recruited by Green. In AGS, Rodas sees numerous similarities to his own time in college.

"The thing that struck me was community service," says Rodas "When I was an undergrad in college that was the thing that I did all four years," Rodas says.

AGS has built a solid reputation over the years as a reliable and dedicated source of aid and assistance. From the Revlon Run/Walk to food banks to Upward Bound House to pet adoptions, the list of organizations and events assisted by AGS is immense.

"I have organizations calling me all time asking me for help," says Green. We're very well respected for our service," says Green.

Members who complete certain requirements, including 20 community service hours and a 3.0 grade point average, receive a notation on their transcripts. Such esteemed academic recognition inspires many students to join the club, including a sizable amount of international students.

"It helps because many UCs and CSUs think highly of Alpha Gamma Sigma," says Green. "It's an honor to get that on your transcript," Green says.

To accommodate its large membership, AGS has two meetings every Thursday to discuss pertinent issues.

At one recent meeting Santa Monica police officers spoke to members about safety, in regards to the recent sexual assault incident on campus. A video was then shown of AGS members displaying several self-defense techniques.

Initial membership in AGS has a number of conditions, including completion of 12 semester units, a cumulative 3.0 grade point average, and a $10 application fee. This is a small price to pay for the impact that membership can have on one's future.

Aside from helping others, AGS also knows how to have a good time. The club has numerous fun activities throughout the year, including trips to Magic Mountain, bowling, and an annual banquet.

It was at one where banquet Pham was voted "Most Spirited Member." The southern California native has gone from new member to publicity officer to her current role as president.

Pham says that AGS has benefitted her in numerous ways, including making her more comfortable with her intercultural communication.

It took some time, but Pham's excitement about coming to school has become unmistakably genuine. "Within AGS people really support you, so you're never quite alone."