Skip to content

Phi Beta Kappa (ΦΒΚ) stands for Philosophia Biou Kubernetes, or “love of learning is the guide of life.”

Phi Beta Kappa pinPhi Beta Kappa is the oldest and most esteemed academic honor society in the United States. Established in 1776 at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, Phi Beta Kappa celebrates and advocates excellence in the liberal arts and sciences. The society embraces freedom of inquiry, and liberty of thought and expression.

The Lambda of Massachusetts Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa was established at Clark University in 1953. Every year, a select group of seniors who exemplify excellence in the Arts and Sciences, great character, and high potential are invited to join the chapter. Selection is made on the basis of outstanding academic achievement, demonstrated breadth and depth of studies in the liberal arts, intellectual curiosity and integrity, and tolerance for diverse views. Only 286 colleges and universities shelter Phi Beta Kappa chapters; additionally, there are dozens of PBK associations across the United States and one in London comprised of Phi Beta Kappa alumni no longer affiliated with a college or university.

Election to Phi Beta Kappa is a widely recognized honor that expresses the Chapter’s admiration for a student’s academic and intellectual achievements. Election to the society is held in the Spring semester, conducted by faculty members who are members of PBK. These faculty determine the final selection on the basis of the academic records of candidates and the recommendations of the Clark faculty at large. To be considered, students must show diversity as well as a depth in coursework outside the major; demonstrate knowledge of a second or non-native language through the completion of the intermediate college level or its equivalent; and have completed at least one course in college-level mathematics, logic or statistics. The induction ceremony is usually held the day before commencement before an audience of family, friends, and PBK faculty.

The Phi Beta Kappa key is the official emblem of the society. On one side of the square metal key are the letters SP (for Societas Philosophiae) and on the other the Greek letters Phi Beta Kappa which means “love of learning is the guide of life.” The pointing finger and three stars represent the young scholars’ ambition as well as the three principles of the fraternity: friendship, morality, and learning.

The Phi Beta Kappa Society

Grace Dowling ’24 is majoring in sociology. She is an active member of her school’s mutual aid collective, where she’s nurtured her interest in social and economic justice. For the past two years, Grace has learned about nonprofit work and wealth redistribution through her role as the program coordinator of the Greater Worcester Community Foundation. After college, Grace aspires to work to promote alternatives to incarceration and aims to become a judge in a court of restorative justice. In her free time, Grace enjoys biking, writing in her journal, and reading.

Alec Hoffman ’23 studies political science and history. He is the co-president of his university’s Model United Nations and has run for its cross-country team since his freshman year. Outside of school, Alec interned for Congressman Jim McGovern and Worcester’s District Attorney, Joe D. Early, Jr. Pursuant to his interests regarding the Middle East and refugees, Alec studied in Amman, Jordan to research the Jordanian civil war and the resulting trauma and divide between Jordanians and Jordanians of Palestinian origin. Following graduation, he aspires to commission as an officer within the United States Marine Corps and afterward, earn an advanced degree and become a Foreign Service Officer within the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. Alec calls northern California home.

Both Grace and Alec received a $5,000 scholarship and mentoring on pathways into local, state, and federal government careers.

Clark Senior, Colleen Falconer is one of three PBK Boston Association Scholarship winners for the 2021-22 academic year.  Colleen will use the scholarship to fund her dual B.A. in Sociology and International Development & Social Change. She is currently completing an undergraduate honors thesis on sex work in the state of Rhode Island and will continue her education in Clark’s Accelerated Degree Program in Community Development & Planning. The PBK Boston Association sponsors an annual scholarship competition for undergraduate students enrolled in Massachusetts colleges and universities sheltering a Phi Beta Kappa chapter, including Harvard University, Williams College, and MIT. Learn more about the scholarship here.

Brendan Burgess is a double major in Political Science and Computer Science. Several faculty submitted recommendations for Brendan, citing not only his “ability to identify and confidence to pursue important questions and topics” such as little-explored national security issues, but also his active participation and leadership in the Clark Model United Nations and Competitive Computing Club, among many other expressions of outstanding intellectual engagement.

Previous winners of the PBK Sophomore Prize include Marissa Natale in 2015, a History major and holocaust and genocide studies concentrator; Andrew Bellesis in 2014, a biochemistry and molecular biology major and holocaust and genocide studies concentrator; and Yisrael Lattke, a chemistry major, who received our first prize in 2013. PBK Sophomore prize nominations are solicited from faculty at the end of the academic year and the prize is announced and awarded at the start of the following academic year (the beginning of the student’s junior year).

Odgerel Chintulga has won the 2017 PBK Boston Association scholarship. Odgerel is a junior majoring in environmental science with a minor in economics. She was recently featured in Clark Now for her LEEP project on the mining industry’s impact on the nomadic people of Khanbogd in her native Mongolia. Last year, Alicja Gancarz received the PBK Boston Association Scholarship. Learn more about the PBK Boston Association and their scholarship.

The PBK Sophomore Prize is awarded to an outstanding sophomore who has demonstrated a commitment to the rigorous inquiry encouraged by this honor society. The 2015 PBK Sophomore Prize was awarded to Marissa Natale for her exemplary work in History and Holocaust and Genocide Studies, where she weaves together exemplary scholarly rigor in the classroom with applications and projects beyond the classroom, as represented by her LEEP project on Holocaust money.

PBK Sophomore prizes are nominated at the conclusion of a student’s sophomore year and awarded at the beginning of their Junior year. Previous winners of the PBK Sophomore Prize include Andrew Bellesis in 2014, a biochemistry and molecular biology major and holocaust and genocide studies concentrator, and Yisrael Lattke, a chemistry major, who received our first prize in 2013. PBK Sophomore prize nominations are solicited from faculty at the end of the academic year and the prize is announced and awarded at the start of the following academic year (the beginning of the student’s junior year).

Clark students Shalyn Hopley ’14, Charlotte Turner ’14 and Austin Alexander ’13 were awarded writing internships with the national office of the Phi Beta Kappa Society in Washington, D.C. for which they prepared publishable articles for Phi Beta Kappa’s new site The Key Reporter.

As an English major and soon-to-be college graduate, I have invested my time and money into the liberal arts, and as a typical college student, I spend plenty of time perusing the internet. Understandably then, any article that pronounces my path of studies to be ‘dead’ flashes bright red on my radar screen. When I saw Joseph Epstein’s article ‘Who Killed the Liberal Arts? And Why We Should Care’ in The Weekly Standard, I immediately bookmarked it…

Learn More

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 states: ‘No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.’ Forty years later, Title IX remains one of the most important legislative decisions regarding education in America…

In a recent article in The New York Times, ‘Muslims from Abroad Are Thriving at Catholic Colleges,’ Richard Pérez-Peña brings to light a new and interesting trend in American Catholic universities. Increasingly, students from the Muslim world intent on earning degrees in the United States are opting to attend faith-based institutions steeped in Christian values rather than secular schools. As a representative of the University of Dayton in Ohio reported to Pérez-Peña, that school’s Muslim population has increased more than six-fold in the last decade and features a much higher proportion of women…

Crystal Fam, who combined a major in communication and culture with a major in geography, talks about the importance of setting goals early on as an undergraduate, and how her senior honors thesis provided a way to explore her Singapore identity.

Contact Information

Dean of the College

  • Shaich Family Alumni and Student Engagement Center
    Room 229
    950 Main St.
    Worcester, MA 01610

Office Hours