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What is Phi Beta Kappa (PBK)?
Phi Beta Kappa is the nation’s oldest academic honor society. Since its inception in 1776, Phi Beta Kappa has been committed to fostering and recognizing excellence in the liberal arts. The UW-Madison Alpha Chapter honors undergraduates for outstanding scholarly achievement, coordinates member engagement and promotes understanding and appreciation of the liberal arts.
Why is UW-Madison’s Phi Beta Kappa society referred to as the Alpha Chapter?
UW-Madison was granted the first Phi Beta Kappa chapter charter in the state, making it the Alpha Chapter in 1899.
Why am I invited to join the Phi Beta Kappa academic honor society?
Students are invited to join based upon demonstrated academic achievement in breadth and depth of study across the liberal arts. The local Chapter generates transcripts of all eligible senior-standing students for review by the Chapter Membership Committee for fulfillment of the Phi Beta Kappa breadth standards in November each year.
High academic performance as demonstrated by course selection and grades; as well as curiosity and engagement as reflected in the breadth of study are required.
What are the eligibility criteria?
Eligibility criteria includes: 1) outstanding academic achievement demonstrated by both cumulative GPA and grades within the major; 2) minimum cumulative GPA of 3.80 for seniors with a minimum of 86 credits 3) foreign language competence; 4) average course load of 12 credits/semester; 5) college level math, statistics or logic course (200 level or above; or AP calculus or AP statistics) and 6) demonstrated breadth of study in the liberal arts. Transcripts are reviewed by the Chapter Membership Committee for fulfillment of Phi Beta Kappa breadth standards. See Election Process for more information on selection criteria.
How is breadth of study assessed for membership selection?
Successful candidates will have evidence of completion of coursework in the liberal arts in diverse subject areas distinct from studies related to the major at the intermediate (I) or advanced (A) level. Subject areas include: humanities, social science, literature, biological science, natural science and physical sciences. A minimum of 3 courses demonstrating breadth outside one’s major field of study are required.
Who makes up the Phi Beta Kappa Membership Committee?
It is made up of members of the UW-Madison faculty and staff (active or emeritus) who were elected to Phi Beta Kappa as undergraduates.
Is there a limit on the number of students that can be selected for membership invitation?
While Phi Beta Kappa national guidelines recommend that no more than ten percent of the graduating class be elected to Phi Beta Kappa, the Alpha Chapter of Wisconsin (UW-Madison) traditionally invites no more than five percent of the University’s senior class to join. Election and invitation are therefore quite an honor and signify excellence.
Is there an appeal process to the member selection process?
Yes, undergraduates not selected for membership may request a second review of transcripts by the local Chapter officers by contacting the Chapter Secretary.
What are the benefits of membership?
1) Membership is an accolade for inclusion on résumés, CVs and applications. In addition to Phi Beta Kappa being the oldest and most prestigious academic honor society in the country, it is also the most well-known. When graduate programs, professional schools and future employers see membership in Phi Beta Kappa, it is recognized as an extraordinary accomplishment. 2) Membership provides a scholarly community with others (undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, staff and employers) who embrace the pursuit of knowledge and understanding via the liberal arts. Opportunities for engagement and networking exist at the Alpha Chapter and national Phi Beta Kappa associations throughout the United States. 3) At the national level, opportunities for scholarships, internships and employment are available. (See National Phi Beta Kappa for more information on these and other resources.) 4) Phi Beta Kappa promotes the liberal arts at the Alpha Chapter level and within the national platform. Phi Beta Kappa is a springboard for helping the arts and sciences thrive.
How do I join Phi Beta Kappa?
Membership is by invitation only. There is no application process. When you receive an invitation to membership, follow the provided instructions for accepting membership.
What does the Alpha Chapter (UW-Madison) do and what’s expected of members?
The Alpha Chapter coordinates on-campus events for engagement, community, networking and intellectual growth. Events are optional and at no cost to student members. Examples of Chapter activities include faculty lectures and panels, informal brown bag gathering, wellness events, study tables, arts outings, film festival viewing and annual Chapter anniversary event and keynote.
Is there a fee for joining Phi Beta Kappa?
There is a one-time $130 fee. This supports the national Phi Beta Kappa Society and provides the member with lifetime privileges associated with membership. Membership fees also support the local chapter costs of Induction Ceremony, membership certificates, annual Teaching Award and Chapter supplies. Each year, the Alpha Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa awards 10-15 need-based membership fee scholarships. If the membership fee constitutes a financial hardship, please contact the Chapter Secretary. We are committed to ensuring that membership is not declined due to financial hardship.
What is the Induction Ceremony and Reception?
As the spring terms concludes each year, a formal ceremony of initiation into membership takes place (Induction Ceremony). Inductees may invite guests to these events. The history of Phi Beta Kappa and the meaning of this high honor are conveyed to the new members and guests. The program includes procession across stage with individual recognition, student speaker, keynote and presentation of the annual Teaching Award (nominated by inductee class). There is a reception following the ceremony. Students may invite guests to attend the festivities!
If invited to membership, am I required to attend the Induction Ceremony?
It is strongly advised that new members attend the induction ceremony if at all possible. These events provide an opportunity to experience the meaningfulness of the honor and learn about the purpose of Phi Beta Kappa. It is one of the few times that exceptional students are personally recognized in our large College. Since this honor only occurs once it can neither be rescheduled nor reconstructed.
Who else is a Phi Beta Kappa member?
Your Phi Beta Kappa membership will include 500,000 members worldwide. Notable national members include: PBK national members. At UW-Madison we proudly hail the following present and past members: Dean Eric M. Wilcots, Provost John Karl Scholz, John Bascom, Edward Birge, Harry Steenbock, Helen C. White and Nellie McKay – and many of your current professors. Please see the following: UW-Madison Phi Beta Kappa faculty officers: PBK faculty officers, student fellows: PBK student fellows and past inductee classes: UW member lists.
Who can I talk with about Phi Beta Kappa?
You are welcomed and encouraged to ask your advisor and professors about Phi Beta Kappa. You may also want to connect with any of the Phi Beta Kappa student fellows at: PBK student fellows or contact the Phi Beta Kappa Secretaries at Chapter Secretary. We welcome you to follow us on Instagram, uwmadisonpbk.
How can I tell if this honor society or others are legitimate and worthy?
We understand that excellent students are contacted by many organizations claiming to be honor societies. Some key strategies to determine a legitimate academic honor society are: 1) invitation from a known source or email lexicon; 2) ability to review local and national websites with comprehensive information pertaining the society or organization; 2) ability to communicate with on-campus resources who can verify the legitimacy of the society or organization; 3) ability to locate an on-campus office or active local chapter associated with the society or organization; 4) invitation based upon individual achievements or performance with criteria explicitly available for review; 5) readily available examples of national and UW members; 6) readily available opportunities for on-campus engagement; 7) limited requests for payments associated with membership.
What is a Phi Beta Kappa undergraduate fellow and how can I apply?
Undergraduate fellows collaborate with Chapter officers to promote the liberal arts, facilitate on-campus member engagement and increase Chapter visibility. Each summer, newly inducted members are invited to apply for the paid role of fellow for the upcoming academic year.
I am a graduate or professional student who is Phi Beta Kappa. How do I get involved?
Graduate and professional students are welcome to participate in society events and provide a valuable resource to the successful functioning of the Chapter and undergraduate engagement. Please contact the Chapter Secretary or graduate PBK fellow to let us know of your interest and contact information.
I am a faculty or academic staff person who is Phi Beta Kappa. How do I get involved?
UW-Madison faculty and staff are welcome to participate in society events and provide a valuable resource to the successful functioning of the Chapter and undergraduate engagement. Please complete the faculty and staff survey to let us know your areas of interest.