Students form new organization to bring Caribbean and South American students together

A brand new student organization named Vybz brings together students from Caribbean and South American backgrounds.



Samantha Murray, News Reporter

The new University of Iowa student organization, Vybz, brings together students of South American and Caribbean descent. Despite the struggles of being unable to meet in person, Vybz continues to recruit new members and build up the club.

President and co-founder of Vybz and UI junior Alexander Persaud said the idea for the club started last semester when he and cofounder Hariram Saravanan were brainstorming ideas for getting more involved in the community.

“We decided that making a student org would be the best option because there’s no other orgs – at the time there weren’t any orgs – on campus that really encompassed the Caribbean and South American culture,” Persaud said.

He said Vybz has had to make adjustments to its initial first semester plan, using online communication such as Zoom sessions and Instagram in particular to get the word out to other clubs and potential members.

Part of this adjustment has been starting a podcast associated with Vybz called 4 the Culture, which will be released once every two weeks on Spotify.

“We decided that a podcast is probably one of the better ways that we could have other people there as a podcast guest or have other people from other organizations on as guests,” Persaud said. “We can have conversations about different things related to our cultures and different backgrounds.”

Vice President and co-founder of Vybz and UI junior Hariram Saravanan said he and Persaud have been thinking about starting a student organization since their freshman year.

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Saravanan said he co-hosts 4 the Culture alongside Persaud and another individual, where the hosts will usually invite one guest on each show that is knowledgeable about the topic of conversation.

“We’re using [the podcast] as a secondary marketing extension tool, kind of being something to still connect with the community but talk about things that aren’t all like tropical and stuff like that,” Saravanan said. “It’s an opportunity to talk about anything, because it’s freedom.”

Saravanan said he works with students from underrepresented groups as part of his role as an Iowa Edge peer leader, but with Vybz, he is looking forward to building and contributing to a new type of community at the UI.

“This is a niche that isn’t focused on,” Saravanan said. “There aren’t a lot of orgs or communities for people that are Caribbean and/or South American.”

Vybz social media coordinator UI freshman Lilliana Sánchez Aguilar said she originally became involved when Saravanan, who was her Iowa Edge leader, talked about the organization during one of their meetings.

As social media coordinator, Sánchez Aguilar said she runs the Instagram page and is excited about the growing response to the page.

“I’m not from here, so I know nobody in the university, so that was another reason why I wanted to join because I felt like I could meet other people and hopefully other people that are also from the Caribbean,” she said. “I’m just excited to meet people that can share at least a little bit of my culture.”