Academic Strength

USF awarded chapter of prestigious Phi Beta Kappa national honor society

By Amy Harroun '05

Phi Beta Kappa gold key

Just weeks after being formally designated a "Preeminent State Research University," USF has again been recognized for its achievements as a nationally competitive institution. On Aug. 3, the university was awarded a chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Society (PBK), the oldest and most prestigious national honor organization in America.

PBK, founded in 1776, only awards a small handful of new chapters every three years and 64 percent of its member institutions are private. The three-year application process was a rigorous, multi-step review of the university's students, faculty, academics, campus life, financial stability, administration, and governance. The average founding date of PBK institutions is 1860, about a century before USF's 1956 formation. The application effort was led by Honors College Dean Charles Adams, and a USF committee of PBK faculty.

"Being home to a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa validates USF's growing national reputation. It gives our students and faculty access to a prestigious network of peers across the country, which will serve them now and well into the future," USF President Judy Genshaft says. PBK members include 17 U.S. Presidents, 40 Supreme Court Justices, and more than 140 Nobel Laureates.

The new chapter at USF, Eta of Florida, will have a formal installation ceremony, with high-achieving students from the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of The Arts eligible for induction, this spring.

"The awarding of this chapter is an affirmation of USF's commitment to the arts and sciences and exemplifies our dedication to academic excellence, advocacy for freedom of inquiry and expression, and the support for unfettered and civil discourse," says USF Provost and Executive Vice President Ralph Wilcox. "These are values that reach to the very heart of American higher education, and our democracy."

The PBK chapter at USF will offer inductees (called key holders) opportunities for merit-based scholarships and access to a network of distinguished professionals. Each year, PBK will send prestigious guest lecturers to campus through its Visiting Scholars Program.

This chapter is also an additional step toward eligibility for the Association of American Universities (AAU).

More about Phi Beta Kappa

According to the Society's website, the PBK Committee on Qualifications considers how well an applicant institution:

  • Recruits and retains good students and prepares some for graduate study.
  • Makes appropriate academic demands on those enrolled in its classes, including opportunities for honors studies for those who are especially capable.
  • Develops and maintains a faculty whose preparation and scholarly activity give evidence that they are able to establish and assess those demands.
  • Maintains sufficient financial resources to support the institution's academic programs.
  • Takes due precautions to prevent issues of governance, athletics, religion or politics from subverting the integrity of the institution's dedication to liberal education.

Learn more about Phi Beta Kappa.