The Alabama Panhellenic Association elected Deborah Oberkor of Montgomery as its 2023-2024 President. She is the first black woman to hold the role in the more than 100 years since the APA’s inception.
The organization remained separate until 2013, when a Crimson White investigation found APA sororities barred at least two black women from recruitment. National news attention and demonstrations later prompted the organization to resume its bidding process.
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Since then, Panhellenic sororities have made some strides in diversification, but still do not reflect campus demographics. APA student body was about 89% white in 2021, according to university data, up from 96% in 2011. Chapter members and officers are now required to complete a variety of diversity training courses centered around the recruitment process.
Oberkor said she was encouraged to join a Panhellenic sorority after seeing friends from high school and other women of color involved in the APA. Now she wants to be that example for others, she said.
“Just being someone they can see and see, ‘Oh, well, if she can do it, I absolutely can do it. I can track whatever I want’ – I think that’s really the most important part for me,” said Oberkor, who is a current member of Kappa Delta’s Zeta Chapter. “I just really want to be someone that people can see as representation.”
Oberkor, a junior major in chemical engineering, also held several posts on the student council. She is currently Vice President of the APA.
“To know Debby is to love her,” UA’s Kappa Delta Chapter wrote in an Instagram post. “She’s the hardest worker and the most compassionate friend. We can’t wait to see her lead the Panhellenic community.”
Oberkor will officially take over as APA President on November 15. She plans to continue her work to enact sexual assault awareness, mental health improvement and professional development programs in sorority chapters. She also plans to improve collaboration with each of the four Greek councils on campus.
But most of all, she wants to be accessible to others.
“I really want to be someone who’s known for always being there for people and being a resource when they need it,” she said. “I want that person to be known going forward as being genuinely personable and genuinely caring about their constituents and the people around them.”