Student Groups Spotlight honors organizations during Black History Month

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Finding one’s niche at a large university like Penn State is important. With more than 870 clubs and organizations for students to join at the University Park campus, students definitely have options.

In recognition of Black History Month, this edition of the Penn State News spotlight series shines a spotlight on a few representative University Park organizations, presented in no specific order, among 64 multicultural and international-related organizations for students. The full list can be found at the

Black Graduate Student Association

Penn State’s vast array of organizations doesn’t apply exclusively to undergraduates. The Black Graduate Student Association (BGSA) was started many years ago as a way for graduate students of color to build a community and feel at home at Penn State.

BGSA President Shakira Nelson said the group helped her meet more people pursuing graduate studies. Nelson received her undergraduate degree from Penn State in 2006 and came back from Rochester, N.Y., in 2008 to attend graduate school here.

“In many cases, students are the only student of color in their program, making them feel uncomfortable, ‘looking in from the outside,’ ” Nelson said. BGSA provides a great opportunity for those involved to gain a sense of community and belonging and also discover great opportunities to make friends, network and learn more about other cultures. If you’re interested in joining BGSA, feel free to contact Nelson at or check out the group’s Facebook page or Twitter account

Alpha Kappa Alpha

Alpha Kappa Alpha celebrates its 60th anniversary at the University Park campus this year. Alpha Kappa Alpha was founded on the principles of and dedication to service. President Courtney Rose, a junior from Detroit majoring in health policy and administration, said that a lot of members’ time is spent focused on the organization’s philanthropy, Pencil and A Dream. An Alpha Kappa Alpha alumna founded Pencil and A Dream; its goal is to supply underprivileged students in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia with school supplies.

Alpha Kappa Alpha is also involved with THON and other events and activities on campus. This spring, Alpha Kappa Alpha is participating in the National Pan-Hellenic Council Step Show, scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday, April 20, in Eisenhower Auditorium.

While there are many reasons to join Alpha Kappa Alpha, Rose believes she has gained professional and social development by joining the sorority. “Yes, of course you gain sisterhood, but it’s so much more than that,” Rose said. “You gain leadership experience, exposure and a broader network that’s beneficial socially and professionally.”

Those interested in joining Alpha Kappa Alpha or learning more about the National Pan-Hellenic Council Step Show can email Rose at

Kappa Alpha Psi

Kappa Alpha Psi came to Penn State’s campus in May 1952 and has since fostered a group of young men committed to excelling at everything they do. Chapter President Quamayne “Rocky” Collins, a junior majoring in public relations and marketing from Deptford, N.J., says he was intrigued by the members of Kappa Alpha Psi and what they stood for so he reached out and joined the fraternity.

“The members of Kappa Alpha Psi hold ourselves to be premier gentlemen and to achieve in every aspect of our lives professionally and socially,” Collins said. “I suggest any male that aspires to be great to join.”

Collins believes that those who join Kappa Alpha Psi will gain the network, support and mentorship of many award-winning and successful men along with some amazing memories within a lifelong brotherhood.

Along with Alpha Kappa Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi also will be performing in the National Pan-Hellenic Council Step Show Competition April 20.  Additionally, March 17-24 Kappa Alpha Psi will be hosting its Kappa Week focused on achievement.

Those interested in joining Kappa Alpha Psi should contact Collins at or check out the organization through its website and Twitter account.  

Black Caucus

The Black Caucus was formed on Penn State’s University Park campus in October 1967 as the Frederick E. Douglas Association to petition for equal treatment and the development of an African-African American Students Program, according to Black Caucus President Ryan Brown. Brown is a senior from Philadelphia majoring in integrative arts.

Brown suggests all students join the Black Caucus regardless of cultural background to gain an understanding of Penn State history and the changes Penn State students have enacted through advocacy.

“I got involved with Black Caucus my first semester at Penn State,” Brown said. “I was looking for a group of students to speak about some issues I was facing as a first-generation college student, as a student from a multicultural background and ultimately a student who was looking for a home here in Happy Valley.”

Black Caucus provides plentiful opportunities for students to gain family and friends as well as professional development and leadership skills. In April, Black Caucus will be hosting its fourth Annual Music Lounge. For more information about the event and for those interested in joining Black Caucus, contact Brown at, or check the Black Caucus on Twitter and Facebook.


The NAACP chapter at University Park got its start in Happy Valley in 1948 to help establish a climate of equality. NAACP chapter President Celiena Bady, a senior from Philadelphia majoring in international politics, said that in 1948, barbershops downtown refused to cut students of colors’ hair. As a result, the NAACP and Penn State's Commission on Racial/Ethnic Diversity, or CORED, helped to organize a protest and raised money to open a barbershop that would serve students of color.

According to Bady, the NAACP is committed to improving the lives of students on campus. “In joining the NAACP, I am surrounded by people who legitimately want change and are willing to put forth much effort to that cause,” Bady said.

The NAACP is very involved at the University Park campus and has a lot going on this semester. Recently, the organization hosted its annual founding week filled with various events for the community, such as a Black Wax Museum. In March, the NAACP will be working with the Human Rights Coalition and Decarcerate PA for an event regarding the prison industrialized complex. In April, the NAACP will be hosting its first camp-out for the homeless event as well as its annual fish fry.

For more information about the NAACP chapter at University Park and its upcoming events, feel free to contact Bady at or check out the chapter's Twitter and Facebook sites.

The aforementioned organizations are only a few of the great clubs Penn State offers at Penn State’s University Park Campus. To learn more, visit the Student Affairs website.

Last Updated February 19, 2013