College honored with Phi Beta Kappa chapter

Phi Beta Kappa, the oldest and arguably most distinguished academic honor society, announced that the College, along with five other colleges and universities, was selected to establish a campus chapter. This puts the College in the ranks of less than 10 percent of the country’s higher education institutions.

The announcement was made at Phi Beta Kappa’s 41st Triennial Council held Oct. 25-29 in Atlanta.

“This recognition is a type of reaffirmation,” Nancy Freudenthal, assistant provost, said. “It’s a symbol of excellence that reaffirms what kind of school we are.”

To gain its membership, the College participated in a three-step process that included a preliminary application, a general application and an on-campus tour, combined with interviews with faculty, staff and students.

Freudenthal, associate professor of English David Venturo, and over two dozen other faculty and staff members who are members or key holders of Phi Beta Kappa honor society, worked together to complete the application. Overall, the application process took three years and, according to Venturo, was both time-consuming and challenging.

“The preliminary application alone was 70 pages and it requested information about student enrollment and admission, campus programs, the school’s curriculum, the athletic department and much more,” Freudenthal said.

This was the College’s second attempt for Phi Beta Kappa membership after failing to get past the preliminary stage in 2000. In Fall 2003, Venturo and Freudenthal spearheaded the College’s application the second time around, with help from fellow key holders at the College. “We thought that given the College’s growing recognition and the recent academic transformation, we were in a good position and a strong candidate for membership,” Venturo said.

Several key holders at the College, including Venturo and Freudenthal, will create a formal body to govern the College’s campus chapter.

According to Venturo, the key holders’ plan on meeting soon to define office positions, elect officers and write bylaws. Because the chapter is not fully established yet, student inductions will not begin this year. The chapter seeks students who not only exhibit academic excellence, but who are well-rounded, especially in areas of liberal arts and science.

“(Prospective members) will be in the top 10 percent of their class, mostly in their last year of undergraduate (studies) and majoring in liberal arts or science, and must have earned no (fewer) than 90 hours of liberal work,” Freudenthal said.

According to Venturo, an institution on campus with such high standards as the Phi Beta Society will be beneficial to the students. “Phi Beta Kappa will encourage students to stretch themselves more and work harder because they will aspire to achieve (the society’s) standards,” he said.

Inductees are lifetime members and receive a gold charm in the shape of a small key, as well as the society’s quarterly newsletter, The Key Reporter, published by the national office.

After graduation, members can join any one of the Phi Beta Kappa associations that emphasize learning through cultural and educational programs and service-based projects.

Since its establishment in 1776, Phi Beta Kappa honor society has founded chapters at 276 colleges and universities that celebrate and advocate excellence in the liberal arts and sciences. Currently, there are three other academic institutions in New Jersey with campus chapters: Drew University, Rutgers University and Princeton University.