A look into the National Pan-Hellenic Council at App State


Kara Haselton

Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Incorporated members Jaylen Sturdivant and Izaiah Hamilton and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated members Kyra Scott and Nadia Jenkins (left to right) stand next to their organization’s plots located outside I.G. Greer Monday, Feb. 7, 2022.

Lily Kincaid, Associate A&C Editor

Even though the National Pan-Hellenic Council has only been at App State for 30 years, the organization’s history at the university is rich. 

The NPHC was established at Howard University May 10, 1930. Today, it is often referred to as the “Divine Nine,” as it is made up of nine historically Black fraternities and sororities

Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Incorporated was the first NPHC organization chartered on campus in 1983, but the council didn’t officially have a presence at App State until 1992. Willie Fleming, former Chief Diversity Officer and member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated, was “instrumental in bringing Black Greek life to App State,” Chancellor Sheri Everts wrote when she announced Fleming’s retirement last year. 

The university is now home to seven of the nine NPHC organizations: Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Incorporated, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Incorporated, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Incorporated and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated. 

Kyra Scott, secretary and treasurer of the Mu Omicron chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated, described NPHC as a “safe haven” for students. The organization can help members find their inner selves and connect with other students on campus with similar goals and values, she said. It provides Black students with a community — a “home away from home.” 

“I think NPHC definitely does lack the recognition on campus, especially being at a PWI. It makes it a little bit harder,” said Scott, a senior sociology major. “But I think as a council, we’re all kind of able to come together and truly uplift our Black members of our community on campus and truly provide, like, a safe space for students, especially our members of our respective organizations.”

In 2007, App State’s NPHC proposed a plots and garden project to SGA. The establishment of plots is a Black Greek-letter tradition that can be traced back to both slavery and the division of Confederate land after the Civil War, according to the university’s NPHC website. Each NPHC organization gets its own plot, and the space represents its presence on campus and provides a place for members to reflect and celebrate. 

After years of both NPHC and SGA advocating for the project, App State designated a space next to the Veterans Memorial garden for the NPHC Plots and Garden in 2017. A year later, the plots and garden were revealed in a ribbon-cutting ceremony as part of Homecoming Week in 2018.

Since the plots are fairly new, they’re something that NPHC members are continuously trying to teach people about, said Karolyn Martin, president of the Omicron Kappa chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated.

“We really love having that as a place where we are able to commemorate the people that brought our organizations to this campus and our organizations as a whole,” said Martin, a senior communication studies major. 

Izaiah Hamilton, first vice president of the Alpha Alpha Rho chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Incorporated, said that their favorite thing about the fraternity is the brotherhood they’ve been a part of. 

“They’ve just really been a family,” said Hamilton, a senior sociology major. “The alumni members are really close with us, and they’re here when we need support, and the undergrad brothers are also there.”

Phi Beta Sigma actively gives back to the community and stresses the importance of taking care of each other and coming together with everyone, Hamilton said. They said the members of the university’s Phi Beta Sigma chapter also keep in touch with the members of other chapters at different universities.

Hamilton said that anyone who hasn’t found a community on campus yet should find and consider joining one of the NPHC organizations or something similar. However, anyone thinking about joining an organization should get to know the people in it first, they said. 

“We’re all approachable, everybody in NPHC, and you can come ask questions,” Hamilton said. “Please don’t be afraid to ask questions. I feel like that is a large misconception, that you can’t ask questions.”

While the organizations are all part of the NPHC and may have some similar principles, Scott said each sorority or fraternity has its own unique values. Scott, Martin and Hamilton emphasized the importance of looking into each organization before joining and finding the one that fits best. 

“We join because we care about the values,” Hamilton said. “A lot of people say that our values are similar within the organization, within, like, the different organizations of NPHC, and that may be true, but the organization that you pick is because those specific values and the people within that organization resonated most with you.” 

For example, Zeta Phi Beta operates on the principles of scholarship, service, sisterhood and what they call finer womanhood. Finer womanhood represents a woman’s character and integrity and includes serving as a role model in the community, being determined to reach personal goals and persevering to the highest standards of excellence to reach those goals, Scott said.

“Our organization definitely capitalizes on the ability to empower specifically Black women but just overall women everywhere,” she said. 

Similar to Hamilton, Scott and Martin said they appreciate the sisterhood they’ve found in their respective organizations. Scott said that in her sorority, she always feels like someone has her back and is looking out for her.

One thing Martin loves about her sorority is that the members are “women that are constantly breaking glass ceilings.” She said this can be seen in Alpha Kappa Alpha member Kamala Harris, the first woman and the first person of color to serve as vice president.

Martin joined her organization as a freshman and said now, as a senior, has seen NPHC grow a lot.

“I think hopefully, we grow as the university grows, and we have more students of color,” Martin said. “And we’re able to continue to be a place where diverse minds and diverse thoughts can gather and do amazing things on our campus.”