There aren’t many American college traditions older than Phi Beta Kappa.
Since its founding in 1776, America’s most prestigious academic honor society has flourished through wars, depressions and now the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since 2010, Phi Beta Kappa has also prospered at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University. And this year, 53 students from CSB and SJU make up the list of inductees to Phi Beta Kappa’s Theta Chapter of Minnesota.
This is the 12th cohort of students who have been inducted into the chapter, which now counts just under 800 members.
A virtual ceremony to honor the inductees is at 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 21. CSB Interim President Laurie Hamen will provide opening remarks. Jennifer Schaefer, associate professor of biology and the department chair at CSB/SJU who received Phi Beta Kappa recognition while attending St. Olaf College as an undergraduate student, will speak on “Astrocytes, Allostasis and the Liberal Arts” about the importance of the liberal arts for scientific advancement and in students’ lives as they leave CSB/SJU.
This year’s group includes 42 seniors and 11 juniors, and they represent five countries and 11 states. Those selected are Phi Beta Kappa members for life, and receive a certificate to honor their achievement.
In addition to the 53 students in the 2021 Phi Beta Kappa cohort, 10 students who were juniors in the 2020 cohort will be recognized as well. The ceremony for the 2020 cohort was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Students are chosen based on their grade-point average (3.85 for juniors, 3.65 for seniors) and must be a liberal arts and/or sciences major. The selection committee also looked at the breadth and depth of the student’s program and other achievements, such as a thesis or other research; interest in other cultures or languages; extracurricular activities; and academic performance.
Delegates from more than 200 chapters and associations of Phi Beta Kappa voted to establish the chapter at CSB and SJU Oct. 2, 2009, during their Triennial Council in Austin, Texas.
The CSB and SJU chapter was the eighth Phi Beta Kappa chapter established in Minnesota at the time and was named 'Theta' after the eighth letter of the Greek alphabet. In 2010, the Theta Chapter inducted 81 CSB and SJU students into its first cohort.
Phi Beta Kappa is the nation’s oldest academic society, having been founded in 1776 by several students from the College of William and Mary during the American Revolution. It was originally intended to promote freedom of inquiry and liberty of thought and expression.
There are now 290 chapters at select American colleges and universities, with more than 500,000 members who come from diverse backgrounds and experiences. According to the organization’s website, 10 percent of U.S. colleges and universities have Phi Beta Kappa chapters. Over 20,000 juniors and seniors are inducted every year.
Past members have included 17 U.S. Presidents, 42 Supreme Court justices and over 150 Nobel Laureates.