The diversity and inclusion that is at the heart of the University of West Georgia was in full bloom recently with a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new National Pan-Hellenic Council Garden. Located at the UWG Oaks Amphitheater, the NPHC Garden includes a stunning monument consisting of nine pillars representing the NPHC, also known as the Divine Nine.
These Divine Nine are the 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.
Dr. Xavier Whitaker, vice president of student affairs and enrollment management, opened the morning ceremony with praise for students working in student affairs who initially proposed the project to then UWG President Kyle Marrero.
“I want you to know how important it is to be one of the best,” Whitaker said, noting that UWG is one of the few campuses in Georgia with a similar monument to African American fraternity and sorority life. “It is important to work with your students on worthy endeavors to be part of the best.”
Interim President Dr. Micheal Crafton followed with words that spoke to the distinct and enduring purpose of the NPHC Garden.
“With this garden we celebrate and amplify our university’s commitment to inclusion,” Crafton said. “It memorializes and concretizes our commitment to these values not just for today, but for as long as this stone shall last.”
Crafton spoke also of the positive, daily impact of the garden in providing a communal area for current students, alumni, and incoming students interested in fraternity and sorority life and other campus organizations.
“The garden will serve as a symbol of the value we place on organizations such as the Divine Nine,” he said.
Dr. Yves-Rose Porcena, vice president for equity and inclusion at Agnes Scott College and former senior diversity officer at UWG, returned West to tell of her time working with students on their bold vision for the garden.
“I knew then there was something special about black Greeks and student leaders, and I wanted to be part of that,” Porcena said. “I hope this monument gives current and future students the encouragement to stay on and do great things. The principles of diversity and inclusion it represents benefit the entire community.”
Student Government Association President Khareem Leslie spoke to the sense of purpose and belonging exemplified by the monument to the achievements made by African American sororities and fraternities.
“Today will be remembered not only as a great day for UWG, but for the Carrollton community,” Leslie said. “The location of this NPHC monument in a high traffic area serves as a reminder of the perseverance of these organizations and their benefit to the community.”
NPHC alumni Jordan Watson ’18 and Wesley Hammonds ’18 each had statements. Hammonds was represented by his mother, Faye Hammonds. Watson and Hammonds first presented the idea of the garden and its potential contribution to Marrero more than two years ago while enrolled as students.
Watson spoke to the campus and community service provided by the NPHC.
“We do numerous volunteer services,” he said. “We mentor. We bring culture to this campus. We believe this monument will spark interest among new students in representing all that the NPHC provides.”
“I want to thank UWG for what you have done with the child we sent you,” said Hammonds, whose son Wesley was traveling abroad and could not attend. “Parents send you their children with the expectation that you will care for them and help them succeed. UWG has gone above and beyond our expectations.”
Interim Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Stacy Boyd took the podium in a call to remember the importance of diversity and inclusion on campus as represented by the NPHC Garden.
“The University of West Georgia not only embraces diversity, but we also strive for inclusion,” Boyd said. “We strive for involvement and empowerment where the inherent worth and dignity of all people are recognized. An inclusive university like West Georgia promotes and sustains a sense of community and belonging.”
In closing the presentations, Whitaker noted the symbolic significance of the NPHC Garden in that it is never finished, but continually grows and changes.
“The best is yet to come,” Whitaker said. “It’s in the planting of the flowers and the blossoming of the trees. Each year there will be a colorful, beautiful outcome in the garden that our students had the foresight to create.”
The NPHC 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.