Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest and most renowned academic honor society, has elected 80 of Geneseo’s students to join its ranks. Geneseo is the only college in the State University of New York system to have a chapter; however, several SUNY universities have chapters. The pool of students is composed of predominantly seniors with some juniors also included. Ten percent of the nation’s higher learning institutions have a Phi Beta Kappa chapter, which amounts to 283 active chapters in the United States. The Phi Beta Kappa chapter of Geneseo was established in 2004, but the honor society was first founded at the College of William and Mary in 1776.
The society boasts an impressive cadre of alumni, which consists of 17 U.S. presidents and 136 Nobel laureates. Some notable alumni of the society include Bill Clinton, Benazir Bhutto, Ralph Nader and Theodore Roosevelt.
Faculty members of Geneseo who were inducted into Phi Beta Kappa as undergraduates conduct the selection process, and there are just over 20 Geneseo faculty members who are members of Phi Beta Kappa.
High academic accomplishment is not the only sought-after quality when looking at potential candidates for Phi Beta Kappa at Geneseo. Candidates must also have a diverse, robust life on campus. Larger institutions often have the restraint of only considering GPA, which sets Geneseo apart.
“On our campus, we actually do consider every student individually. There is a GPA cutoff for being eligible, but at least here, it’s not just GPA,” associate professor of English and President of Geneseo’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa Alice Rutkowski said. “Other colleges and universities use just GPA because they are so large – that job would be enormous.”
One major quality that is sought after when choosing a Phi Beta Kappa member is a wide breadth of interests and a clear display of academic curiosity. Those students with multiple majors in different departments exemplify the commitment to liberal arts valued in Phi Beta Kappa. Interests in different cultures and languages, academic experiences like studying abroad and academic performance all play into the selection of candidates.
Phi Beta Kappa caps the amount of students that can be inducted, which poses an ideological problem for Geneseo’s chapter.
“There are rules about we can’t go above a certain percentage of the graduating class. This makes things complicated because there are so many students at Geneseo that are amazing, and it’s hard to get [accepted to Geneseo] to begin with. So we want to admit as many students as we can,” Rutkowski said.
Last year, 75 students were invited to join the ranks of Phi Beta Kappa. Students will be inducted during a ceremony following the last day of classes, which will take place at the Big Tree Inn.υ