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About Phi Beta Kappa

Phi Beta Kappa was founded at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1776. It is the oldest and most prestigious national academic honorary society, which for 239 years has recognized high academic achievement (top 5-10 % of a graduating class) by students who pursue both a broad and substantive liberal arts curriculum. Selection to membership, therefore, is based not solely upon the evidence of achievement as measured by grades, but also upon the Chapter’s belief that a program of study has been consonant with the Society’s aims. There is no monetary award associated with election.

The University of Kansas is the home of the Alpha Chapter of Kansas of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. Kansas Alpha was founded in 1890 as the oldest chapter west of the Mississippi and only the 31st chapter in the nation (read more here). According to the national website, Phi Beta Kappa “celebrates and advocates excellence in the liberal arts and sciences. Its campus chapters invite for induction the most outstanding arts and sciences students at America’s leading colleges and universities. The Society sponsors activities to advance these studies — the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences — in higher education and in society at large.”

Election and Initiation

Elections take place in the spring each year. Committees made up of KU faculty and staff members of Phi Beta Kappa review transcripts from eligible students to make their selection, and students are notified in March of their election.

The Kansas Alpha Chapter hosts its initiation ceremony on Commencement day at KU. We meet at 8:00 a.m. in the Big XII room across from Woodruff auditorium in regalia (or business casual clothes for juniors) and proceed to Woodruff for an 8:30 a.m. ceremony featuring a student speaker and a newly elected honorary member. We finish with plenty of time for everyone to continue on to the main campus Commencement ceremony.

Initiation for 2018 will take place before commencement on May 13.

Campus Activities

The Kansas Alpha chapter occasionally hosts Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholars. Most recently, in February 2017, we hosted Visiting Scholar Nora Naranjo Morse.

Our most important activity is electing new members. We also meet once a semester with the prior year's elected students still in residence and elect student officers.

Current chapter board members:

  • President: Associate Professor  Associate Professor Meagan Patterson (Educational Psychology) 
  • Vice-President: Assistant Professor David Slusky (Economics)
  • Secretary/Treasurer: Anne Wallen (Office of Fellowships)

Other campus members involved in election have included:

  • Jennifer Harrison (Business)
  • Rachel Johnson (Office of International Programs)
  • Liz Kowalchuk (Art)
  • Jeffrey Moran (History)
  • Lesley Owens (Honors)
  • Robert C. Rowland (Communications)
  • Tracy Russo (Communications)
  • Anne Sawyer (CLAS Dean's Office)
  • C. Bryan Young (Honors and Civil Engineering)

2016-2017 Student Officers:

  • Ike Uri, President
  • Grace Phillips, Vice President
  • Rachel Benefiel, Secretary
  • Abby Fields, Treasurer

Course offerings are “among the most comprehensive in the nation,” according to “A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs”
98% of University Honors Program graduates are employed or accepted to graduate school within six months of graduation
40% of students in the University Honors Program conduct research before graduation
9 to 1: Average ratio of KU honors students to faculty advisors
1 of only 7 programs nationwide to receive a top rating from “A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs” in 2014
60% of University Honors Program students study abroad
KU honors students select their advisors from top-ranked KU faculty
Join us tomorrow for a CelebriTea event with Becky Mandelbaum, author of 'Bad Kansas'! RSVP to honorsrsvp@ku .edu. https://t.co/SmYEDcu4LX

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