Tapping Ritual Invites Top Undergrad Scholars to Join Honor Society
Sept. 23, 2013
UT Dallas undergraduate scholars are invited to join Phi Kappa Phi by Dr. Hobson Wildenthal (left), the University's executive vice president and provost; and Rafael Martin (right), the president of the UT Dallas Phi Kappa Phi chapter.
Candace Galbreath was settling in to hear a lecture in her honors business finance class when the classroom door suddenly opened.
Wearing full academia regalia, Dr. Hobson Wildenthal, executive vice president and provost, and Rafael Martin, associate vice president for research and president of the UT Dallas chapter of Phi Kappa Phi, interrupted the class for a good reason: to recognize students who had been selected for membership in Phi Kappa Phi, the nation’s oldest, largest and most selective collegiate honor society for all disciplines.
Galbreath was among 581 juniors and seniors at UT Dallas invited this year to join the honor society. Membership is by invitation through a tradition known as “tapping.”
“It feels really nice,” said Galbreath, an accounting junior who is also a Terry Scholar. “It’s an honors class, so we all strive for excellence. To have your classmates recognize this achievement is really special.”
Faculty visited several classrooms this year to invite, or “tap,” some of the 157 juniors and 424 seniors on their list of candidates. Others were invited by email. Those who decide to join will be honored at a reception in November. Graduate students will be invited during the spring term.
Wildenthal said the honor society’s tapping tradition is a way to publicly recognize academic excellence.
“For those of us in academic administration, it is fun to interrupt the daily routine by donning academic regalia and walking across campus answering the questions of amused and inquisitive students along the way,” Wildenthal said.
“The deeper rewards come when we enter a classroom full of UT Dallas students, introduce ourselves, and ask the students being honored by Phi Kappa Phi to come to the front of the room to be recognized for their outstanding academic achievements,” Wildenthal said. “The joy and pride of the occasion seems to be shared by everyone in the room.”
Senior Michelle Abuda, a double major in management information systems and supply chain management, said she’d heard Phi Kappa Phi is one of the most prestigious honor societies for a college student to join, so she was excited to be invited for membership.
“It's such an honor, and it’s great that they have a chapter here on campus. It definitely shows a lot about the organization when the provost and the president of Phi Kappa Phi are willing to come out to personally invite you,” Abuda said.
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.
Since March 2011, the UT Dallas chapter has inducted more than 530 members, including more than 400 students, 45 faculty and staff, 69 alumni and two honorary lifetime members.
The honor society is open to upperclassmen and graduate students who meet a set of eligibility requirements. Undergraduates must have completed a minimum of 72 hours of coursework with 24 of those hours being completed at UT Dallas. 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.
“The deeper rewards come when we enter a classroom full of UT Dallas students, introduce ourselves, and ask the students being honored by Phi Kappa Phi to come to the front of the room to be recognized for their outstanding academic achievements.”
The UT Dallas chapter chose the top 7.5 percent of juniors and the top 10 percent of seniors across each school.
Lewis Warne, an economics and finance senior, beamed after his name was called out in class.
“It feels really good, the honor of it, being recognized by the school and by Phi Kappa Phi for excelling academically,” Warne said.
Phi Kappa Phi membership benefits include eligibility to apply for more than $1 million 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.
Martin, the president of the UT Dallas chapter of Phi Kappa Phi, said the honor society has expanded its presence on campus in the last few years.
“As a society dedicated to recognizing excellence, we are pleased, but not surprised, that our membership has grown so rapidly at UT Dallas,” Martin said. “From its earliest days, this institution has been a community of scholars. In establishing our chapter of Phi Kappa Phi, we have merely provided an embodiment and recognition of that ideal.”