By Elise Schoening
Students inducted into the College’s prestigious academic honor society, Phi Beta Kappa, on Tuesday, April 14, were met with a standing ovation from the crowd.
“I must say, we’ve been doing this for eight years and we’ve never had a standing ovation,” said Elizabeth Borland, president of the College’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.
The induction ceremony, which was held in Mayo Concert Hall, was filled with friends and family members of the inductees. They all rose from their seats to applaud the accomplished students before them.
Phi Beta Kappa, which was founded in 1776 at the College of William and Mary, is the nation’s oldest academic honor society. It recognizes and encourages student achievement in the sciences and liberal arts.
“It’s not just about the GPA,” Borland said. “We’re looking for students who go above and beyond and really embrace the liberal arts.”
Today, less than 10 percent of colleges and universities in the nation hold a Phi Beta Kappa chapter. The College was approved for a chapter in 2006 and is currently one of only four higher institutions in the state that holds this honor.
The selection process for students admitted into the honor society is just as rigorous. In fact, membership is not open to all students and there is no application process.
Students must be nominated for consideration by professors before they are formally invited into the society, explained Rebecca Flores, a senior history and political science double major and new member of Phi Beta Kappa.
In order to be considered for membership, students must be of junior or senior standing with majors in the liberal arts or sciences. Not only must they maintain a high grade point average, but they must also demonstrate strong moral character and an affinity for the liberal arts and sciences.
“We’re looking for students that have that intellectual spark,” said Janet Morrison, department chair of biology at the College and a member of the selection committee for Phi Beta Kappa.
Morrison gave the final speech of the ceremony. Her address to the inductees encompassed the interdisciplinary nature of the organization. Phi Beta Kappa, she explained, was founded on the tenets of friendship, morality and scholarship and is rooted in the principle that “love of learning is the guide of life.”
She spoke of the connections between the arts and sciences and how inspiration can be found all around us. She argued that beauty is a source of inspiration for many, though it can take different forms. Some may find beauty in poetry and art, while others may find it in the intellectual thought of an equation, Morrison said.
Morrison urged the new members before her to find what inspires them, whatever it may be, and to let their vast knowledge from the arts and sciences guide their future.
After taking an oath to maintain the principles of the society, the inductees were granted membership into Phi Beta Kappa. They then signed the chapter reg- istry and received an official certificate of membership.
Membership into Phi Beta Kappa is life-long, Morrison said, and a number of notable public figures have been inducted into the honor society, including Bill Clinton, Eleanor Roosevelt and Sheryl Sandberg.
“Phi Beta Kappa is a great honor society that recognizes not only my academic successes, but also my love of learning,” junior philosophy major Payal Ved said. “I am honored to be a member of a society that has Presidents and Nobel Laureates in its rankings. Some of the greatest minds in the world have been a part of this society.”