Tapping Ritual Invites Students to Join Academic Honor Society
Sep. 24, 2012
When Lye-Yeng Wong’s name was called out in biochemistry class Tuesday as a candidate for a highly selective academic honor society, she was excited to be recognized before her peers.
Provost Hobson Wildenthal and Dr. Denise Paquette Boots congratulate student John Hamati on his invitation to join Phi Kappa Phi.
Wong was among 572 juniors and seniors at UT Dallas who were invited last week to join Phi Kappa Phi, the nation’s oldest, largest and most selective collegiate honor society for all academic disciplines. Her invitation came through a tradition known as “tapping.”
Just a few minutes into the class, Executive Vice President and Provost Hobson Wildenthal and Dr. Denise Paquette Boots, both Phi Kappa Phi members, showed up in full academic regalia. They visited the classroom to invite, or “tap,” some of the juniors selected for membership; other students were tracked down via email.
Wong’s classmates applauded as 14 honor society candidates were called to the front of the room in Hoblitzelle Hall.
“It was nice to be rewarded for all our hard work in front of our peers,” said Wong, a junior neuroscience major and a McDermott Scholar. “I really appreciated that the faculty took time out of their day to do this.”
Neuroscience junior Lye-Yeng Wong was one of 572 students invited last week to join Phi Kappa Phi.
Having a Phi Kappa Phi chapter is part of UT Dallas’ effort to highlight academic achievement and continue its drive toward becoming a Tier One research university. Membership is invitation only.
The UT Dallas chapter has more than 300 active members, with 41 faculty and staff, 221 students, 56 alumni and two honorary lifetime members inducted since March 2011.
This week the honor society extended invitations to 141 juniors and 431 seniors. Those who decide to join will be honored at a reception in November. Graduate students will be invited during the spring term.
The honor society is open to upperclassmen and graduate students who meet a set of eligibility requirements. Graduate students must be nominated by their program chairs for academic excellence, have completed at least 18 graded graduate credit hours at UT Dallas, and have a minimum of a 3.8 cumulative GPA. Undergraduates must have completed a minimum of 72 hours of coursework with 24 of those hours being completed at UT Dallas.
The UT Dallas chapter chose the top 7.5 percent of juniors and the top 10 percent of seniors across each school.
Phi Kappa Phi membership benefits include eligibility to apply for more than $800,000 in scholarships from the national organization, mentoring and career assistance. In addition, the local chapter offers grants to support academics and professionalization that are available to all members.
Boots, who is the University’s founding president of Phi Kappa Phi, said the tapping tradition is a time-honored way to give top students public recognition.
“It’s a really rich tradition in celebrating academic excellence,” Boots said. “We’ve had students cry. We’ve had some faculty cry. It’s a wonderful way to honor our students who have sacrificed so much.”
In 2011, when the University became the 316th chapter of Phi Kappa Phi, faculty marked it by tapping every qualified junior in person.
“Last year’s inaugural tapping ceremonies generated great enthusiasm from all who participated,” Wildenthal said. “We are happy now to be perpetuating this ceremonial recognition of the respect and admiration we have for our outstanding students.”
Because of logistical constraints—it took four days and more than 90 classroom visits to track down students last year—faculty decided this time to target just a few classes with large numbers of students on the list of candidates.
Boots, who is an associate professor of criminology in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, said the honor society is starting to build a community of scholars on campus.
“Having a chapter gives us the ability to recognize individual students as well as the accomplishments of the entire UT Dallas student body,” Boots said. “We have such exceptional students, and it’s a pleasure to recognize them.”
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