April 24, 2021
Good afternoon. Thank you Nyla and Israel, and thanks to:
- Lori Reesor, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, who has been a tireless advocate for our students, particularly in this very challenging year
- Cheryl Gittens, Interim Deputy Vice Chancellor for Diversity & Inclusion (and a member of Delta Sigma Theta)
- The National Pan-Hellenic Council
- The alumni and Council members who have advocated for, and supported, N-P-H-C for many decades
- The generous donors who are making this project possible – especially Lou Holland, Jr., for his leadership gift in celebration of our students’ efforts. Lou’s father, Lou Holland, Sr., was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi here at UW-Madison.
- And the students who continue to inspire us with their talent, resilience, and determination.
This is a unique space that we are dedicating. The plaza that will be here has been planned and organized by students in the past two years. And students are helping us raise the money to create the space we all want here.
Five years ago, we did a campuswide survey to help us understand how people of color experience this university, so we could make it better. And again and again, our students told us:
I’m tired of being the only person with brown skin in every class – I want to be able to look around and see people who look like me.
We’ve worked hard to bring in more diverse faculty, staff and students – and we have more work to do on that front. But attracting diverse scholars (while important) isn’t enough. We have to be intentional about making people feel welcomed and included.
That starts with creating places where every person can see themselves and be themselves.
The student cultural centers are a good example – but they are (intentionally) a bit tucked away.
The Divine Nine Garden Plaza is just the opposite. This space will anchor one of the busiest corridors on campus. Thousands of people who pass through here will learn about the rich history and impact of the six NPHC chapters that have been an important part of the Wisconsin Experience for generations of UW students.
For many, this will be the first time they’ve heard of Black Greek life at UW. Because although historically Black fraternities and sororities have been on this campus for 75 years, they have been largely left out of the university’s official history.
For others, this will be like seeing an old friend in an unexpected place and feeling instantly more at home.
And for all us here today, the Divine Nine Garden Plaza will be a reminder of the many values N-P-H-C and UW-Madison share – a commitment to education, community-building, public service, and creating connections between people.
To everyone who has played a role in bringing this dream to life – thank you. I look forward to watching the garden plaza come together this summer, and to celebrating the grand opening in the fall.
And now, please join me in welcoming our Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Dr. Lori Reesor.