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UM Phi Beta Kappa Chapter Receives National Recognition

The University of Mississippi chapter of Phi Beta Kappa honor society has been recognized as one of two outstanding chapters nationwide administered at a public university. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

The University of Mississippi chapter of Phi Beta Kappa honor society has been recognized as one of two outstanding chapters nationwide administered at a public university.

A Certificate of Recognition is given to just six “outstanding chapters” nationally every three years: two public universities, two private universities and two liberal arts colleges. Only 10 percent of U.S. colleges and universities shelter PBK chapters.

Officers of the UM chapter attribute the award to high levels of faculty participation, as well as a strong website. 

“Receiving this certificate, being honored as an outstanding chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, really shows how great a job our chapter is doing,” said Luanne Buchanan, instructional associate professor of Spanish who serves as the chapter’s secretary and treasurer.

“One thing we have is a really committed group of faculty. Our faculty involvement in the chapter, I think, is very high compared to other universities.”

Sandra Spiroff, associate professor of mathematics who serves as the chapter’s president, echoed Buchanan’s statement.

“The diligence of former President William Schenck and Secretary-Treasurer Luanne Buchanan in identifying and following up on students who qualify for membership has given us one of the highest acceptance rates among chapters nationally,” Spiroff said. “And (College of Liberal Arts program manager) Elaine Abadie’s assistance with our website and promotional material earned us praise at the recent Triennial Council meeting in Boston.”

Schenck, retiring president of the Ole Miss chapter who was on hand to receive the award in August at Phi Beta Kappa’s Triennial Council, said he was pleasantly surprised by the honor.

“I watched as the liberal arts chapters went up to accept their honors, and I wondered if these people had already been informed that they were receiving the award,” he said. “When I heard them call the University of Mississippi, I thought ‘Well, I guess they didn’t know!'”

Phi Beta Kappa, the country’s oldest undergraduate honors organization, was founded in 1776 at the College of William and Mary in Virginia. Since 2001, Ole Miss has been home to the organization’s Beta of Mississippi chapter.

Students cannot apply for membership; instead, they are identified by faculty for nomination based on their outstanding academic records in liberal arts classes.

“It helps that we’ve received tremendous support from the chancellor’s office and the College of Liberal Arts,” Buchanan said. “It’s an indication of the value that the university places on academics.”

By Jules Cook

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