Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article misidentified Zeta Phi Beta as an active organization on Tech’s campus. Zeta Phi Beta does not meet the required minimum number of members to be fully recognized by the Institute.
As American poet Kevin Young stated, “Black History Month is a time to celebrate the fullness of African American history and culture, but that cannot be contained in one month alone.”
To go beyond the February celebration, several organizations at Tech, as part of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), aim to raise awareness of Black culture and history throughout the entire year while also seeking to strengthen the Black community on campus.
NPHC is made up of nine historically Black fraternities and sororities, also known as the “Divine Nine.” Six organizations of the NPHC are currently active at Tech: Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. Two other organizations were chartered at Tech but are not active this semester: Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. and Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc.
According to its website, NPHC was founded in 1930 at Howard University while many of the NPHC member organizations were founded in the early 1900s “during a period when African Americans were being denied essential rights and privileges afforded to others.”
The majority of NPHC organization chapters at Tech were chartered in the late 1970s and early 1980s with the earliest being the Delta Kappa Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. in 1976. The Sigma Upsilon Chapter of the Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. was the latest NPHC organization to be chartered on Tech’s campus in 2013.
Jasmine Chrisp, fourth-year ME, is the current president of the Xi Alpha Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. which was chartered at Tech on March 4, 1978.
“The chapters are an essential source of belonging and community for those who participate in them and a strong advocate and representative of the African American community throughout Tech’s campus,” Chrisp said.
Tkeyah Anderson, EE ’15, and Camille Quick, ENVE ’21, were both involved with Gamma Rho, Zeta Phi Beta’s undergraduate chapter at Tech which was chartered on campus on February 26, 2000.
Anderson served as treasurer and new member coordinator for Zeta Phi Beta as well as treasurer and president of Tech’s NPHC, during which she focused on improving communication between all of the Greek Councils on campus. Today, Anderson serves as the undergraduate chapter advisor for Zeta Phi Beta and stays closely involved with NPHC activities.
During her time with Zeta Phi Beta, Quick served first as the academic excellence chair and then as president to help plan campus events, organize community service activities, raise money for various initiatives and coordinate sisterhood bonding get-togethers.
Anderson and Quick explained that NPHC organizations at Tech serve as a voice of Black students as well as a resource for personal, academic and professional growth.
On campus, NPHC promotes unity among the various fraternities and sororities while also working to highlight the efforts of non-Greek organizations such as the African American Student Union (AASU), African Student Association (ASA), the Caribbean Student Association (CaribSA), Georgia Tech Black Alumni Organization (GTBAO) and the Georgia Tech Society of Black Engineers (GT-NSBE).
“[NPHC] and the organizations within it represent a combined effort to create a haven and outlet for those within the African American community and those who want to support it,” Chrisp said. “Such a strong support system is essential, especially at a predominantly white institution.”
Anderson and Quick explained that, with its efforts, the NPHC values scholarship and academic excellence, professional development and community service.
Many NPHC members serve in leadership roles around campus such as President of GT-NSBE, Challenge Counselors, RAs and TAs, to name a few.
Through partnerships with other colleges and community leaders in the metro-Atlanta region, Tech’s NPHC also seeks to extend its commitments beyond the Tech bubble.
Some examples of community involvement for Zeta Phi Beta included March of Dimes fundraising, volunteering with Stork’s Nest for Prenatal Care and raising awareness for autism, elder care, sexual health and voter registration, among many others. Chrisp addressed some misconceptions of NPHC fraternities and sororities.
“Being a part of a NPHC organization is not just about strolling,” Chrisp said, referring to the cultural performance traditionally practiced by Divine Nine organizations. “There is a lot of work and time that goes into it, and being a part of it will make you grow in ways you would never imagine.”
Chrisp, Anderson and Quick all have had positive experiences as members of a NPHC sorority.
“Since joining the organization, I am stretched by it every day,” Chrisp said. “My sisters are constantly challenging me to grow and be a better version of myself and a better sister to them. I appreciate all that I have learned so far, and all there is to learn in a lifetime in this organization.”
Anderson echoed similar sentiments about her sorority’s encouraging effects on growth.
“As a member, I was challenged to do more than focus on grades and truly become a leader in the community,” Anderson said. “I learned valuable skills that have carried on to my professional career on managing my network, leading by influence versus title, refining mentoring skills and how best to fulfill the needs of my community.”
Anderson additionally discussed some of her personal and social development resulting from her sorority involvement.
“I was able to break out of my shell, introverted by nature, and participate in events I would never picture myself in such as step and stroll competitions or hosting showcases,” Anderson said. “The sisterhood formed during my time at Tech did not end with my time on campus. These ladies are considered beyond just best friends, but as family. My Sorors [NPHC sorority sisters] have been there for me through the best and worst of times, providing the mental and emotional support that is a rarity nowadays.”
Quick likewise explained skills gained from her experience as well as more personal benefits.
“I truly appreciate my experience as a member of [Zeta Phi Beta] during undergrad,” Quick said. “I gained professional and leadership skills, I learned about how to work with different people and most importantly, being in the sorority gave me a sense of purpose. Now I am a part of something so much bigger than myself and have more reason to serve those who are less fortunate.”
She continued by saying, “I have concrete principles to live by now and have a much larger family that will continue to grow and impact me wherever I go.
The many benefits of NPHC organizations are recognized even by non-members.
“The NPHC community is a very important part of Georgia Tech as the collective group of chapters provide a great deal of service both on and off campus, a strong sense of belonging, academic support and a network of alumni that mentor and advise students,” said Jamison Keller, assistant dean and director of fraternity and sorority life at Tech.
Mattie Smyth, coordinator of fraternity and sorority life, agrees.
“At a [predominately white institution] like Georgia Tech, having an NPHC is particularly important as a place to find community, feel included and valued, foster leadership development and scholarship and collectively organize around social issues of mutual concern,” Smyth said. “The students involved in NPHC experience a great deal of pride in their organizations and form a sense of belonging on campus.”