National Pan-Hellenic Council profiles: Sigma Gamma Rho, Theta Psi chapter


Courtesy of Niyana Calhoun

Members of the Sigma Gamma Rho sorority Theta Psi chapter 2022.

Sigma Gamma Rho is one of the nine national historically African American fraternities and sororities within the governing body of the National Pan-Hellenic Council. 

When and how was your organization founded at Iowa State?

Our chapter, Theta Psi, was founded May 7, 1982, and has been rechartered multiple times. Three young women founded it on Iowa State campus originally.

Where does the organization meet on a regular basis, if it does?

With the pandemic, we have been having Zoom meetings, but typically we meet on campus in the MU. We reserve a room inside there, and we meet every other Sunday.

What, if any, traditions does your organization hold? And how did they originate?

We have different things we do nationally and just within the ISU community. Things that we do nationally include ‘Operation Big Book Bag,’ which is a national program for Sigma Gamma Rho sorority. It raises money and/or supplies to donate to different schools in the community. Typically for Theta Psi we donate to Meeker Elementary School. And for Sigma Gamma Rho the biggest thing we do is probably education-wise. Another example: educational programs that we do nationally include ‘Swim 1922’ and one of the leading causes of that is drowning amongst Black people. It is a swim camp to teach people how to swim.

What acts of philanthropy does your organization partake in?

Sigma Gamma Rho speaks out in support of the progression of Black women, especially showing the support for due offices like Ketanji Brown. Sigma Gamma Rho spoke out in support of her quick election to the Supreme Court. We speak out on a lot of things.

Theta Psi tries to cater to the moment. Other than ‘Operation Big Book Bag,’ I know we do a song for one of our sorors from way back, Hattie McDaniels. She was an actress who died of breast cancer. So typically in October we do a song for Hattie. I know in October 2021 we had a submission, so we started a Google Form for people to put in different quotes of affirmation and we printed them and decorated jars and gave them to Mary Greeley for their breast cancer patients.

Again, as far as catering to the moment, November is domestic violence [awareness] month so we usually try to give to ACCESS, which is an organization that helps with battered women, and they do somewhat cater to people of color.

September is national children’s books month, so we raised money and dropped off 47 books to the Ames Boys and Girls Club. 

What are the values/pillars of your organization?

Sisterhood or brotherhood, scholarship and community service. Those are going to be the pillars for most of the D9 organizations [other name for NPHC]. But again, for Sigma Gamma Rho, our emphasis is very much focused on education. One of our founders founded a school in Indiana; another founder works on the board of education. Our national motto is ‘Greater Service, Greater Progress.’ We believe that the only way to progress the community is to be a service to it. So Sigma Gamma Rho is not going to be an organization that writes a check and donates money. We are going to go out and do things.

Why should students join?

I’ll give my reasons for joining. I came to Iowa State as a minority student, and I wasn’t from here. I’m from Dallas, Texas. When I came here, it was hard finding people that looked like me, finding a community that had similar values to me, and I chose Sigma Gamma Rho because that’s where not only I found family, but I found more of a purpose than just going to school. I found that power in my ability to walk, talk and breathe and that I had the power to impact other people, and it gave me the platform to do so.

That’s why I would recommend a National Pan-Hellenic Council to anyone, but of course I’m always gonna say Sigma Gamma Rho is the best because I feel like we are very individualistic in the way that we serve. A lot of people have national programs, but there are a lot of chapters that don’t have specialized local programs. There’s not a lot of chapters doing things for the Ames community, the Story County community. They are just doing things for their national program.  

What does that process entail?

Find one of us. There’s not very much that I can disclose for public just because every different organization has their own national procedures. Definitely come out. We have events so much; there is no reason you shouldn’t see us out on campus. Reach out, even if it is just a DM to our Instagram. We want to know that every young lady that we accept is of quality and of value, that you are doing it because you love the community. You are doing it because you love Black people. You are doing it because you love Black women, not because you want to walk around in that jacket and look cute. So definitely getting to know you is a big part of that process. We have informationals at least once a semester, which are public, so you can learn more specifics about the organization. Private invites are sent out after that to the people that we would like. It’s a two way street: the same way you have to express interest in us we have to express interest in you.