Arts honor society inducts 41 members

Ashley Tate

Select members of the University community will be able to list their names alongside intellectuals such as Elizabeth Dole, George Bush, Francis Ford Coppola and numerous others when they are inducted as members of Phi Beta Kappa on April 28. These students are being honored for their achievement of excellence in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Phi Beta Kappa, the most prestigious national undergraduate honor society for liberal arts and sciences students, will welcome five juniors and 36 seniors into its Sigma Chapter.

During the induction ceremony held at the University Conference Center, Diane Kelsey McColley, a Milton scholar at Rutgers University-Camden, will address the new inductees.

According to chapter president and English professor Dr. Lauren Shohet, Phi Beta Kappa “is highly selective and only about five percent of graduating arts and sciences seniors are inducted into it.” In addition to the 30-40 seniors inducted each year, the University will also induct up to five juniors each year.

Phi Beta Kappa is unique in that individuals do not apply for membership. Rather, faculty members gather the information and recommendations needed to make the selection. In order to be eligible for membership, an individual must have completed three semesters as a member of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and be registered for a fourth semester. In addition, they must be juniors with a GPA of 3.80 or seniors with GPA of 3.50.

Villanova’s selection criteria is more rigorous than many other schools, as grade point average (GPA) is not the sole criteria for consideration. Faculty recommendations are heavily weighed for student selection into Phi Beta Kappa. Students are to display distinct, exceptional academic achievement, intellectual leadership, and also a diversified, difficult collegiate course of study. Those students who have undertaken challenges within the classroom and also with their class schedules are those who are recognized by the University’s chapter.

The Villanova chapter began in April 1986 as faculty members wanted to raise the profile of the University’s Liberal Arts and Sciences program. The awarding of the Sigma chapter to Villanova was considered an important step for the University. According to Shohet, “Historically, there were very few Catholic institutions that have chapters.” Since then, Phi Beta Kappa has been influential in numerous changes at the University. The chapter initiated the examination and eventual reconstruction of the core curriculum in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. After four years of review, a new core curriculum was implemented in 1992 by the college, which included many of the Phi Beta Kappa recommendations.

The chapter also sponsored the analysis and initiative to increase the number of fellowships awarded to University students.

Shohet said, “The fellowships used to be run out of Honors, but now as of 2001, we have an Office of Undergraduate Grants and Awards, which all developed out of a Phi Beta Kappa initiative.”

In addition, the University chapter of Phi Beta Kappa also sponsors and co-sponsors various events on campus, most recently Dr. Anthony Grafton’s two-day scholar-in-residency last year.

Phi Beta Kappa began in 1776 at the College of William and Mary in Virginia. Since then, the honor society has expanded to include 262 chapters across the United States. Once inducted, an individual has lifetime membership that provides members a medium to celebrate the life of the mind and the various disciplines of liberal arts and sciences.