The University of West Georgia recently held a groundbreaking ceremony for its National Pan-Hellenic Council Garden. The garden, scheduled for initial construction later this summer, will be located at the UWG Oaks Amphitheater.
“This is a proud distinction of our university,” said Dr. Micheal Crafton, UWG’s interim president. “This garden will provide opportunities for all our students to be engaged in learning, which will serve as a permanent reminder to our community of the strengths and bonds we’ve created thanks to our commitment to inclusiveness.”
The NPHC Garden is the vision of UWG alumni Jordan Watson ’18 and Wesley Hammonds ’18, who presented the idea and its potential contribution to UWG’s former President Kyle Marrero more than two years ago while enrolled as students.
“The NPHC garden will give the university a place where prospective students, incoming freshmen and current students can visit and learn about us,” said Watson. “It’s part of history and knowledge, and is inclusive for all students, not just African-American students.”
NPHC President Earnest Rainer traveled to Waco, Texas, to visit Baylor University’s NPHC Garden to gain inspiration for UWG’s garden.
“It was imperative that we do the necessary research to determine if a garden would create a sense of ‘home’ for our sororities and fraternities,” said Rainer. “After my travels to Baylor, there was no doubt that the Oaks Amphitheater was the perfect location to make this dream a reality.”
NPHC, also known as the divine nine, represents nine historically African-American sororities and fraternities: 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., Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc., Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc., Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc. and Iota Phi Theta Fraternity Inc.
Over the years, UWG’s NPHC has completed thousands of service hours and worked with more than 50 local and national charities, while offering a multitude of educational programming and opportunities for students on campus and at local elementary, middle and high schools.
“This garden honors the amazing contributions of NPHC organizations, but it also extends beyond the campus because black Greek-letter organizations play a prominent role in our community,” said UWG’s Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Yves-Rose Porcena. “It acknowledges the historical and cultural significance of the black experience at UWG.”
NPHC students echoed those sentiments in their proposal to Marrero in 2017, stating they “needed a place that symbolically and physically represented each organization’s presence on campus while giving alumni a sense of belonging and a place for reflection and celebration. We want a place to call our own.”
Marrero, who returned to campus for the groundbreaking ceremony, commended the students for their tireless efforts and commitment to creating a project with lasting impact.
The garden is made possible through the combined efforts of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, University Advancement, Campus Planning and Facilities, and the UWG National Pan-Hellenic Council.
“This project is evidence of UWG’s commitment to hearing and understanding the experiences of students of color as emphasized through the center’s partnership with the Lumina Fund for Racial Justice and Equity in fostering a more welcoming campus environment,” Porcena said.