NPHC House creates a more inclusive community at Oak Lane
When the Virginia Tech National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) House opened last spring, it wasn’t just about dedicating a space to one of Fraternity and Sorority Life’s four governing councils. It also wasn’t just about more representation of diversity in fraternity and sorority culture. It was about creating a more inclusive and cohesive community for the 20 fraternity and sorority houses in Oak Lane, a residential area located on the northwest side of the Virginia Tech campus.
“I personally believe it adds a little flavor to Oak Lane,” said Kyle Baine, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering and vice president of NPHC at Virginia Tech. “Having the ability to travel to Oak Lane and see different organizations' houses makes it feel like a real community. With the addition of the NPHC House, fraternity and sorority life at Virginia Tech appears more unified. It also demonstrates that faculty within Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL) are willing to go above and beyond to make fraternities and sororities feel like a part of the FSL family."
“The National Pan-Hellenic Council is a collaborative council composed of historically Black fraternities and sororities, often called the ‘Divine Nine.’ Our aspiration is for each of these groups to be represented and to flourish at Virginia Tech,” said Frank Shushok, vice president for Student Affairs. “I can’t overstate the contributions that our NPHC organizations make to our campus culture, community, and leadership. The NPHC House is a beautiful step and physical representation of supporting and celebrating these remarkable organizations.”
The Virginia Tech chapter of the National Panhellenic Council was chartered on April 28, 1993. While NPHC affiliate organizations recognize the social aspect of collegiate and post collegiate life, the primary purpose and focus of member organizations remains community awareness and action through educational, economic, and cultural service activities.
“I am excited for the opportunity to have NPHC represented in the Oak Lane Community,” said Rohsaan Settle, director of Fraternity and Sorority Life. “Oak Lane is often seen as the symbolic center of our community. With the inclusion of the NPHC House, the community feels more complete and representative of our membership. It is long overdue.”
The fraternity and sorority community at Virginia Tech encompasses more than 5,000 students: about 20 percent of the undergraduate population. With more than 50 chapters and four governing councils, Fraternity and Sorority Life plays a significant role in the culture of the university.
During the 2018-19 academic year, Executive Vice President and Provost Cyril Clark commissioned a year-long study of Virginia Tech’s fraternity and sorority life experience, which resulted in the Fraternity and Sorority Life Task Force Report. One of the findings in the report was that “the housing and gathering spaces of fraternities and sororities, both on and off campus, are critical factors for student success, well-being, and town-gown relationships.”
The report also noted that, “despite societal changes, many Greek communities throughout higher education still resemble segregated neighborhoods, representing less racial and ethnic diversity than their campuses as a whole.” It went on to state that, “One of the greatest assets for learning emerges when students interact with, and learn from, peers from a rich diversity of backgrounds.”
Mon-Cheri Robinson, program and outreach coordinator for Fraternity and Sorority Life, is the advisor for the National Pan-Hellenic Council.
“Here, NPHC students will be afforded the social and programming amenities that come with having your own space,” Robinson said. “The NPHC House space represents a place for current members to gather and program, past members to come back to and reflect, especially during homecoming, and representation for future members. This house will anchor NPHC in the fabric of the Oak Lane community permanently, and we look forward to the new beginnings.”
“We use the NPHC House for many things,” said Baine. “We use it to host chapter events, executive board and general body meetings, step shows, study sessions, and any other events and performances we decide to do. Overall, it's a great space to plan and execute our goals.”
The NPHC House project was commissioned in October 2020 and completed in March 2021. It is in the space formerly known as the Gatehouse, which was used as a multipurpose community house for Oak Lane. Renovations and upgrades totaling $14,000 include storage lockers for each NPHC chapter, a kitchen, a multipurpose room, and a patio with picnic tables and grills.
The NPHC House committee, a group that included faculty, staff, and students, produced a floor plan and interior design for the NPHC House, as well as created rules and regulations for the House. “It has been fun to see our plans come to life,” said Baine.
The Virginia Tech Fraternity and Sorority Life Task Force Report said, “Acknowledging that higher education in the United States generally, and at Virginia Tech in particular, will continue to grow more diverse—and that this diversity represents a profound opportunity for student learning— Virginia Tech aspires to offer a national model of an inclusive fraternity and sorority community. To do so, Virginia Tech will need to take a multifaceted approach to strengthen diversity and inclusion within and among fraternities and sororities.”
Written by Sandy Broughton