At 7:22 p.m. on a mild spring night, a group of students dressed in royal blue and gold walked in a line across Back Circle. A crowd filled with students and guests from the community looked on as the members of Transylvania’s newest fraternity and sorority life organization were revealed.
Sigma Gamma Rho is one of the Divine Nine, the member organizations of the National Pan-Hellenic Council representing historically Black fraternities and sororities. The Transylvania chapter, Upsilon Lambda, includes five charter members who participated in the April ceremony.
The arrival of Sigma Gamma Rho on Transy’s campus is the result of a collaboration between the offices of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Student Life, as well as a growing partnership with the NPHC community in Lexington. Earlier this year Kappa Alpha Psi, a Divine Nine fraternity, recruited and introduced members at Transy.
The Sigma Gamma Rho charter class includes M’Kiyah Baird ’25, Trize Gipson ’23, Alena Jenkins ’25, Kennedy Kniffley ’25 and Camae Mason ’23.
“It means so much to me to now have Sigma Gamma Rho Inc. here on campus,” Mason said. “A few of us had been working to get National Pan-Hellenic Council organizations here since I was a freshman, but to be a member of ΣΓΡ means even more to me than I can note. Being a part of a sisterhood that strives to better society is such a unique experience.”
While students at Transylvania have a nearly 50-year history with NPHC organizations, there haven’t previously been any groups on campus for them to join. In the past, Transylvania students were accepted into chapters based at the University of Kentucky. Among the first were Rosz Mack Akins ’76 and Vanessa Newman Moore ’76, who joined Alpha Kappa Alpha’s Iota Sigma chapter in 1974. Others continued joining chapters through the 1980s and as recently as the early 2000s.
But according to Candy Rivera Evans, assistant director of campus and community engagement, Transylvania now has the student demographics that encourage expansion into these new organizations. “Students have been asking for NPHC representation,” she said.
Deidra Dennie, Transy’s vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, helped organize an information session in April 2022 with representatives from the NPHC organizations. After the session, Transy students identified Sigma Gamma Rho and Kappa Alpha Psi as groups they would be interested in inviting to campus. “Being a member of a historically Black Greek organization is a unique experience and one I want to share with others on our campus,” Dennie said.
That experience is not lost on the new members.
“I hope our chapter makes a great impact when it pertains to doing community service and bettering our community,” Mason said. “I hope future new members understand that they are joining a much bigger community than just their new chapter — they have sisters for life that will continue to encourage them to be the best they can be.”