By Emily Blackner
New Phi Beta Kappa chapters are only awarded every three years, so it is an occasion to celebrate when a university receives a coveted charter. At its 43rd Triennial Council held in August, Phi Beta Kappa voted to bestow one upon Creighton University.
Creighton is a Jesuit university located in Omaha, Nebraska, currently enrolling over 7,000 students of varied faiths and backgrounds. Since its founding in 1878, the university has produced alumni who went on to hold prestigious posts such as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Nebraska Supreme Court Justice, and U.S. Senator.
The Creighton faculty spearheading the effort to get a chapter say that the students were the driving force behind it. "The most important aspect of the chapter is what it will mean to our very many fine students in the liberal arts who deserve this form of recognition, both now and throughout their lives and careers," said Amy Wendling, associate chair of philosophy.
"Creighton students are both academically motivated (the majority go on to post-graduate study) and deeply involved in student and community organizations," said Honors Program Director Jeffrey Hause. He was also one of the university’s representatives to the Triennial Council. "Students have already sent me numerous queries about how to join and get involved. They helped us to win our chapter, and now they’re eager to participate in it," Hause added. Of course, this honor also means a lot to Creighton faculty members.
"This is truly a triumphant moment for Creighton University," said President Timothy R. Lannon. "To be recognized as one of the top universities in the nation and our commitment to the liberal arts are a testament to the outstanding faculty and students that Creighton attracts."
"Spending time with Phi Beta Kappa colleagues as we went through the application process was illuminating and uplifting," Wendling said. "The comprehensive application process also gave me a global sense for Creighton University as an institution that I did not have before — a sense that made me even prouder to work here."
Among other things, Wendling is excited about the prospects for students interested in theoretical mathematics and language study that a Phi Beta Kappa chapter brings. "Languages are the gateway to understanding another culture, to prestigious grants such as the Fulbright, and to many forms of scholarship in the liberal arts. In addition, studying them sharpens your mind," she said. "Similarly, Phi Beta Kappa’s strong theoretical mathematics requirement will encourage students to continue their work in the abstract mathematical reasoning that is a crucial component of the ability to reason, full stop."
More broadly, Hause said, the chapter will reinforce for students the value of a liberal arts education. "The new chapter will be a catalyst for even further reflection on the value of the liberal arts," he said. "Creighton educates students broadly in the liberal arts and fosters a passion for lifelong learning. Our new chapter will give our students access to a national fellowship that reaffirms those same values."
Interested, qualified students can look forward to joining the chapter almost immediately after its official installation. "We plan to include this first set of Phi Beta Kappa students immediately in the organization and the running of the chapter," Wendling elaborated. Hause said that the chapter also plans to sponsor lectures and invite ΦBK Visiting Scholars to campus, expanding the chapter’s impact beyond inducted members.
Currently, Creighton faculty have been working to build the chapter infrastructure. They have set up a chapter website with an updated university-wide membership list and made plans for the application and screening of student candidates. There also has been a full meeting of the university ΦBK membership where members put forward the names of potential officers.
"We are enthused to have our excellence in this regard recognized nationally, particularly at a time when the liberal arts are imperiled, nationally, by the poor economy," Wendling said. "We were honored to welcome representatives from Phi Beta Kappa for the installation ceremony and show them our beautiful campus."
The new Phi Beta Kappa chapter at Creighton University was installed on November 29.
Emily Blackner is a senior at Washington College majoring in English with a minor in political science. Washington College is home to the Theta of Maryland chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.
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