UMKC Divine Nine Garden Deepens Community Connections

Placement in the heart of campus reflects an environment of invigorating multiculturalism, globalism and inclusion

The University of Missouri-Kansas City celebrated the new Divine Nine gardens in the heart of campus with a ceremonial unveiling.

Hundreds of people from across the Kansas City region representing the Divine Nine Black Greek organizations that make up the National Pan-Hellenic Council gathered in the Quad, proudly dressed in the colors –  crimson, emerald, gold, royal blue, black and beyond – that represent their fraternity or sorority.

A tribute to the contributions and presence of the Divine Nine fraternities and sororities, the garden is also a gathering place for students and alumni to reflect on and celebrate the achievements of their respective organizations.

For more than a century, the Divine Nine have championed progress, tackling challenges from civil rights to racial justice and leadership cultivation. Those who are members of this council know their membership goes far beyond college years, offering lifelong chances for networking and leadership.

“I am humbled to be here today to share in and witness the unveiling of the UMKC Divine Nine Garden monuments,” said Michele Smith, Ph.D., vice provost for Student Affairs and dean of students.


“The UMKC Divine Nine Garden celebrates the work of our hands and the legacy of kinship, allyship,

interdependence and impact the Divine Nine inspires across our campus and within our communities.”

Groups stood next to the tall granite monument emblazoned with the Greek letters of their organization.

  • Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity
  • Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority
  • Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity
  • Omega Psi Phi Fraternity
  • Delta Sigma Theta Sorority
  • Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity
  • Zeta Phi Beta Sorority
  • Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority
  • Iota Phi Theta Fraternity

Increased visibility of the Divine Nine organizations was one initiative developed with Chancellor Mauli Agrawal’s work with student leaders in the African American Cultivating Excellence Program to generate positive change on campus. Contributions by the Sunderland Foundation, the UMKC NPHC students, the Chancellor and Provost offices, Hollis and Miller Architects, among others, supported the conception and creation of the garden.

 “Establishing this garden on the Quad – the very core of our campus – is symbolic of our recognition of these important fraternities and sororities, their significant national contributions, across the Kansas City area and here at UMKC,” Agrawal said. “We are proud to commemorate the opening of the Divine Nine Garden, with recognition for each organization.”

 Calvin Flemons, Alpha Phi Alpha Delta Rho chapter president, addressed the crowd and recognized the support of the UMKC community in the garden’s creation.


“I speak for us all when I say, with so much gratitude and joy in our hearts, that being a part of this history at UMKC will be unforgettable,” Flemons said. “So let it be known that today and for years to come, NPHC will continue to make an impact on this campus and in our community.”

Keichanda Dees-Burnett, assistant dean of students and director of Multicultural Student Affairs, expressed her pride in being a Divine Nine member and a UMKC alumna.


“When I reflect on my experiences as a UMKC Black Greek alum and staff member, I am proud to have been able to contribute and witness how far our university has come,” Dees-Burnett said. “The campus has grown and there are now so many more people and spaces where Black students can find their sense of belonging. Starting today, the Divine Nine Garden will serve as an additional space and a symbol to current and future African American students at UMKC that they belong here.”

Following the dedication, participants visited the Miller Nichols Library and Learning Center lobby to view, “Legacy in Bloom,” a Divine Nine exhibit designed to coincide with the opening of the garden,  which showcases each of the nine Greek organizations’ history and their connection to UMKC. The exhibit will run throughout this academic year ending in May. It is on display in the lobby of Miller Nichols, as well as on the fourth floor in the Dean’s Gallery.

Published: Sep 11, 2023

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