Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious academic honor society, has approved a chapter for UNC Charlotte. The University joins an elite group of just 10% of U.S. colleges and universities approved to shelter a chapter.
“Phi Beta Kappa status is one of the highest distinctions a university can achieve,” said Chancellor Sharon L. Gaber. “This honor acknowledges the dedication shown by our faculty and staff to student success, particularly through the enduring experiences that the liberal arts and sciences provide as students pursue their educational, career and life choices. I extend my gratitude to the faculty leaders who have dedicated countless hours to making our Phi Beta Kappa chapter a reality for our students.”
The 46th Triennial Council of The Phi Beta Kappa Society on Aug. 5 approved UNC Charlotte, Rollins College in Florida, and Providence College in Rhode Island to join Phi Beta Kappa’s existing 290 chapters. The council convenes every three years to carry out its business, including granting new chapters. The honor society awards the chapters to Phi Beta Kappa faculty at each approved campus.
The founding members of the UNC Charlotte chapter will organize the official chapter installation and the first induction ceremonies for new members in the coming months. More than 65 faculty, staff and administrators at UNC Charlotte are members of Phi Beta Kappa.
"I remember how excited I was to be elected to Phi Beta Kappa," said Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Joan F. Lorden. "I am delighted that we will be able to share the opportunity for this honor with our students."
The approval follows an intensive review process that started in 2018 and included submission of voluminous reports. During a campus visit in March 2020, reviewers met with students, faculty, staff and leadership from the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and from across the University. The team delved into academics, athletics, facilities, research, financial aid, faculty accomplishments, student achievements and other aspects of campus life.
“Our best students are as accomplished as any in the United States,” said Gregory Starrett, chair of the UNC Charlotte Phi Beta Kappa Steering Committee and professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology. “So, it’s fitting that they have this chance to be recognized for their academic excellence. Sheltering a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa is a way to honor great students and is an affirmation of the University’s commitment to teaching and research in the humanities and sciences.”
Nationwide, chapters invite just 10% of liberal arts and sciences students to join Phi Beta Kappa. At UNC Charlotte, seniors - and some juniors - in the liberal arts and sciences who meet qualifications will be invited as candidates for Phi Beta Kappa membership.
In addition to class standing, qualifications include grade point averages (GPA), foreign language and math courses requirements, breadth and depth of coursework in the liberal arts and sciences disciplines and other credentials. More information on qualifications for induction to the UNC Charlotte chapter will be available soon.
Those who accept the invitation will join a network of over 500,000 members. Phi Beta Kappa members include 17 U.S. Presidents, 42 U.S. Supreme Court Justices and more than 150 Nobel Laureates.
“Campuses that shelter Phi Beta Kappa chapters reflect their deep and abiding commitment to the liberal arts and sciences, for today and on into the future,” said Phi Beta Kappa Secretary and Chief Executive Officer Frederick M. Lawrence. “These institutions provide a challenging liberal arts and sciences curriculum for the enrichment of their students, and we look forward to recognizing the outstanding accomplishments of these students.”
Founded on Dec. 5, 1776, the Phi Beta Kappa Society’s mission is to champion education in the liberal arts and sciences, foster freedom of thought and recognize academic excellence.
The UNC Charlotte application leadership team, in addition to Starrett, comprised JuliAnna Avila (English); Joel Avrin (Mathematics and Statistics); Loril Gossett (Communication Studies); Karen James (Honors College); Joanne Maguire (Religious Studies); Stephanie Otis (J. Murrey Atkins Library); Malin Pereira (Honors College and English); Deborah Thomas (Geography and Earth Sciences); Gregory Weeks (College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Dean's Office); and Diane Zablotsky (Levine Scholars Program), with support from many others.