NPHC gears up for Greek Fest


Chris Jorgensen/Iowa State Daily

From left to right: London Suber, Malik Burton, Kierra White, Melia Romine and Amber Abogunrin.

Nik Heftman

Malik Burton didn’t know much about greek life upon his arrival at Iowa State.

He knew very little about greek traditions. Whatever exposure to greek life that he retained before attending Iowa State came from movies or television.

“My freshman year, I wasn’t interested in greek life at all,” Burton said. “I didn’t understand what was going on.”

Now, the junior in speech communication is a member of the Omicron Pi chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., the first intercollegiate greek fraternity established for African-American men.

“The values of [Alpha Phi Alpha] matched the values that I had for myself,” Burton said. “[Their values] matched the values that I would have more myself 15 years down the line. The brotherhood is a feeling you can’t put into words.”

Alpha Phi Alpha was founded in 1906. It is one of nine historically African-American fraternities and sororities that collectively make up the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC). The fraternities and sororities within the NPHC are often wholly referred to as the “Divine Nine.”

Six of the Divine Nine bear representation at Iowa State: Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Omega Psi Phi, Sigma Gamma Rho, Zeta Phi Beta and Alpha Phi Alpha.

You’d be at social gatherings and see someone start strolling and you’re like, ‘What are they doing? That’s kinda dope!’ But you’re still like, ‘What are they doing?’” Burton said.

The NPHC will host its annual step-and-stroll competition Saturday in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union.

The contest is dubbed Greek Fest. London Suber, junior in chemical engineering and member of Alpha Phi Alpha, said the event allows organizations within the NPHC to compete with one another and showcase their talent.

“Strolling, I would say, is an artistic form of our cultural dancing,” Suber said. “Dancing comes from [Alpha Phi Alpha’s] historical presence on campus. It’s what we do to solidify unity.”

Suber’s father was a member of Omega Psi Phi. He introduced Suber to greek life at a young age.

“He taught me just to uplift my community and also work with others that have a similar mindset, goal, perspective and values,” Suber said. “I knew I made the right choice [when I joined Alpha Phi Alpha]. No Regrets.”

Greek Fest is not associated with Iowa State’s Greek Week, a weeklong, activity-filled venture that the larger Collegiate Panhellenic Council (CPC) sororities and Interfraternity Council (IFC) fraternities traditionally participate in.

The Divine Nine organizations typically sponsor their own weeks of celebration. Suber said that the weeklong celebrations are traditionally the week of the founding date of the organization. Some organizations elect to organize a second week of celebration within an academic year, the later usually entailing philanthropic events.

Amber Abogunrin, junior in apparel, merchandising and design and member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., said each team will have about 10 minutes to showcase original strolls, chants and step routines. Undergraduate and graduate chapters within the NPHC are allowed to compete. Burton added that it wasn’t unusual for members of Iowa State’s Multicultural Greek Council (MGC) to attend Greek Fest to show support, though they are not allowed to compete.

Like Burton, Abogunrin was not exposed to greek life until she attended Iowa State.

“I was looking to get involved in something larger than myself,” Abogunrin said. “I didn’t know much about greek life beyond what you see at [Iowa State’s] freshman orientation, and they don’t introduce you to NPHC.”

Abogunrin said that after meeting the adviser for Sigma Gamma Rho, along with a few of the sisters in the sorority, she decided to join. She said that the sorority allowed her to become more involved in the community, an opportunity that she actively sought.

Melia Romine, junior in genetics and member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., said organizations within the NPHC are very selective when recruiting new members.

We’re about quality over quantity,” Romine said. “That’s the biggest difference between us and some of the other councils on campus. We take the time to get to know people before we allow them to join our organizations.”

Romine was also introduced to greek life at young age by her father, who was a member of Omega Psi Phi. As a freshman, Romine attended an event called Meet the Greek, which is an event for the ISU NPHC and MGC chapters to collaborate and provide an overview of what greek life has to offer.

Romine said it took her more than a year to receive an invitation to join Zeta Phi Beta. She added that this selective nature is part of the culture of NPHC organizations.

Some people don’t want to take that much time,” Romine said. “We’ll take in one member at a time if we have to. We’re lifetime organizations. You’re in it even after you graduate.”

Romine said that the strict adherence to a selective culture within the NPHC can be intimidating to prospective members, which in turn can present challenges in recruitment.

Kierra White, junior in animal science and member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., said that the NHPC does not always garner representation at Iowa State’s freshman orientation.

“Those who have never experienced our council won’t see us there,” White said. “We’re not big councils. Some of us only have two or three in a chapter. That’s a lot of work to be relevant on this campus.

To address this lack of exposure to their culture, the NPHC started a yearly event at Iowa State called NPHC 101, a public event that introduces members of the greek and non-greek communities to the culture and programs of the Divine Nine.

Another event created by the council is Step 101, another public event where members of the NPHC teach members of the CPC, IFC and general public how to step.

“All of the things we do have a meaning,” White said. “Just because you don’t understand our council does not mean you shouldn’t respect it. It’s a big part of our culture and our history.”

Burton, Romine, Abogunrin and Suber stressed the importance of prospective greeks doing research before joining a greek organization.

Understand why you’re joining an organization and what you want to get out of it,” Burton said. “At that point, think about what you want to contribute to as you journey through life. I know people who wish they would have done that before they joined their organization.”  

Burton added that organizations within the NPHC do a lot of work to make an impact at Iowa State. If Iowa State wants to see the NPHC as part of its greek community, then the NPHC needs to hold as much weight and respect as any CPC or IFC organization, Burton said.

Abogunrin said that she would like to see “the same consideration, respect and effort that [Iowa State] gives to other greek councils.”

Though we are small, we are making impacts for students and outside of the campus,” Abogunrin said. “We are just as mighty as these others councils.”

Suber urged potential greeks to become active members of the campus community before committing to a fraternity or sorority.

Take your time to learn your campus,” Suber said. “Anyone can tell you what they think is best for you, but it’s up to you and what your values are.”

Greek Fest will take place in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union on April 15 at 7 p.m. Admission will cost $5 for non-Greeks, $3 for Greeks.