During her sophomore year at NYU, Gallatin senior Wendy Koranteng had every intention of transferring. For Koranteng, the transition from her underserved Bronx high school to NYU was jarring and lonely.
“For the most part, at the [high] school I went to, everyone was black and brown, so I was very comfortable,” Koranteng said. “Coming to NYU was like a huge culture shock, and I definitely wanted to transfer.”
Koranteng is one of countless students of color who feel disillusioned by NYU’s predominantly white community despite the university’s reputation for diversity. Unlike many of these students, Koranteng eventually managed to find a community on campus: the Tau Epsilon chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., the only one of the four historically black sororities chartered on campus.
Despite having once been both the chapter’s president and only member, Koranteng helped the organization grow to include 14 female undergraduate students, one graduate student and seven alumni. In the fall, they will move into one of the penthouse suites reserved for fraternities and sororities in Lafayette Residence Hall.
In the meantime, the chapter is focusing on increasing its presence on campus to help other black women find community, according to College of Nursing junior Gabrielle Babson, who will serve as the chapter’s president next year.
“Our priority and what we try to facilitate is depicting what black women are capable of at a [predominately white institution] and so all the work that we do in terms of events — it’s really just us trying to get the word out in that sense,” Babson said. “Whether it’s community service or we’re co-sponsoring with other organizations on campus, it’s just us trying to kind of give other black women an idea of what could be.”
For CAS junior Sobrel Okpo, her sorority sisters in Sigma Gamma Rho are more than just her support system — they’re her career coaches, too.
“Prior to joining, I knew the women that were involved, but to see them as leaders in Sigma Gamma Rho and how they were able to perpetuate sisterhood and the scholarship was a great experience,” Okpo said. “It’s priceless for me, and I will definitely say that the girls that I joined with this year are my motivation … I’m taking on leadership positions myself and I feel like if I had not joined Sigma, I would have never taken the initiative.”
While the chapter plans to continue its philanthropy work and to begin working with underprivileged high school students, Koranteng is sure that it will not stray from its original purpose at NYU: providing community for women of color who are otherwise overlooked.
“Sigma Gamma Rho was my home and is my home, and on a predominately white campus, students like us really needed things like this,” Koranteng said. “I personally really needed Sigma Gamma Rho, and I know that a lot of members in this chapter really feel the same way.”
Email Taylor Rogers at [email protected]