The Phi Beta Kappa Society (ΦBK), the nation’s oldest and most prestigious academic honor society, has established a chapter at the University of Houston (UH). UH is one of three institutions chartered to join the 283 existing Phi Beta Kappa chapters at America’s most esteemed colleges and universities. The invitation to host a chapter at UH follows a rigorous six-year evaluation process.
“Phi Beta Kappa is the gold standard for undergraduate education in the United States,” said William Monroe, dean of the University of Houston Honors College and member of the UH Phi Beta Kappa organizing committee. “Only the very best colleges and universities qualify for a chapter. It is the oldest and most widely recognized measure of individual and institutional academic achievement.”
Each year, only one college senior in a hundred, nationwide, is invited to join the Phi Beta Kappa Society. Only about 10 percent of the nation's institutions of higher learning have Phi Beta Kappa chapters. And only about 10 percent of the arts and sciences graduates at these distinguished institutions are invited to join.
To qualify for a chapter, University of Houston faculty and programs had to demonstrate excellence in undergraduate liberal arts and sciences education throughout a multi-year review process. The selection process also required votes of approval from multiple bodies of the national organization. The organization extended its evaluation into every corner of the University, from the Honors College to athletics. Thousands of pages of documentation were compiled and submitted by the UH organizing committee, made up of faculty who earned Phi Beta Kappa membership through their undergraduate education. The committee also hosted a site visit by the national organization in 2014, which involved the participation of more than 100 UH faculty and staff members.
“The fact that a Phi Beta Kappa chapter is coming to UH is an important development in the life of the University of Houston. It is an indicator of the great academic progress that the University has made in recent years,” said Larry Faulkner, president emeritus of the University of Texas and a nationally recognized academic and business leader. “Its association with a university has often been a marker of leadership quality, of high standards of execution, and of high standards of undergraduate possibility.”
Founded in 1776, just five months after the signing the Declaration of Independence, the Phi Beta Kappa Society is the most widely recognized measure of academic achievements for individuals and institutions, said Monroe. Its mission “is to champion education in the liberal arts and sciences, to recognize academic excellence, and to foster freedom of thought and expression,” according to the organization. Phi Beta Kappa members have included 17 U.S. Presidents, 37 U.S. Supreme Court Justices and 131 Nobel Laureates.
By sheltering a chapter, UH undergraduate students pursuing certain liberal arts and sciences disciplines may be eligible for election to membership.
“For our juniors and seniors who are issued invitations to join Phi Beta Kappa, it means that they are students who have succeeded to the highest quality in all their academic endeavors,” said Paula Myrick Short, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost at UH.
UH President Renu Khator said the honor of a ΦBK chapter is something the entire UH community can be proud of and is the culmination of the achievements of everyone who has contributed to UH since its inception in 1927.“I take a lot of pride and I give a lot of credit, not just to everyone at UH, but also in the city of Houston and the state of Texas,” said Khator, “because it takes a whole village to lift an institution to this level.”