Phi Beta Kappa

Alma College’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa is one of 8 in Michigan and 280 across the nation.

Phi Beta Kappa was founded in 1776 at the College of William and Mary. Since then it has evolved to become the nation’s oldest and most widely known academic honor society, as well as a leading advocate for excellence in the liberal arts and sciences.

Members from the Alma College faculty hold doctorates in a wide variety of disciplines: Professors Joe Beckmann (Biochemistry), Britt Cartrite (political science), Derick Hulme (political science), Nhan Lee (economics), Scott Messing (music), Kristin Olbertson (history), Michael Selmon (English), Carol Slater (psychology emerita), and Sarah Taylor (economics).

Election to membership in Phi Beta Kappa is wholly within the discretion of the members of the local chapter. Eligibility guidelines are listed below. Questions can be directed to the chapter president, Dr. Messing, or the secretary, Dr. Olbertson.

In 2014, the chapter took advantage of the Visiting Scholar program to host Dr. Caroline Bruzelius of Duke University, who was on campus for a two-day residency.


1.  Grade point average (quality point ratio):

a. For seniors: 3.5 in “liberal subjects and studies.”

b. For juniors: 3.75 in “liberal subjects and studies.”

c.   Note: Grades earned in applied or professional work shall not be counted in computing   the quality point ratio for purposes of eligibility. Applied and professional work shall be understood to include those courses intended primarily to develop skill or vocational techniques in such fields as business administration, communication (with exceptions, see fn. 1 below), computer science, education, engineering, home economics, journalism, library science, military science, physical education, practicums, secretarial studies, speech, and applied art and music, and other applied or professional fields. Courses in these fields which emphasize the study and use of the discipline(s)’ theoretical bases will be considered as “liberal subjects and studies.”

 2. Applicable credits:

a. For seniors:  99 credits in liberal subjects of the 136 credits needed for graduation.

b. For juniors: completion of a minimum of 84 credits; 3/4 must be in liberal studies.

3. Residency requirements and transferred credits:

a. Candidates must have completed 3 full terms (48 credits) at Alma and must be fully registered for a fourth term.

b. The grade point requirement shall be limited to work done at Alma.

4. Mathematics: a year of college level math, which shall be interpreted as:

a. Either Math 120 or 121 (or equivalent);

b. Or any two of the following (or equivalents): Math 110, 111, 112, 113, 116 (or Psychology 220), 117, or 192.

c. Notes:

(i)  A student may not count both Math 116 and Psychology 220.

(ii) No equivalency for college level math is allowed for math taken in high school though Alma credits in the above courses earned by AP test will be allowed. The Alma College Mathematics placement test does not satisfy this requirement.

5. Language other than English: proficiency in a language other than English through the intermediate level which may be determined in one of the following ways:   

a. Successful completion of the intermediate language sequence at Alma College (French, German, Spanish 221-222 on campus; or French 223-224, German 231-232 or 251-252, Spanish 221-222 as offered by Alma College programs abroad.)

b. Work at another post-secondary institution through the intermediate level (equivalent of 16 credits) of a language not offered at Alma – e.g., Polish, Italian, Russian Portuguese, etc.

c. Successful completion of one four-credit course at or above 222 in French, German or Spanish in the case of students who enter Alma College with extensive prior study of said language.

d. Successful completion of one year of study in one classical language (Hebrew 111-211, Greek 111-112, Latin 111-112). The equivalent study at another institution will be considered on an individual basis by the chapter.

 e. No equivalency for college level study of a language other than English will be allowed for work completed in high school. For students with extensive high school study of a non-English language, see item c above.

f. Students for whom English is their second language should consult the president of the chapter regarding proficiency requirements.

 6. Area of Concentration and academic breadth:

 a. In evaluating candidates, consideration “shall be given to the breadth of the program of each candidate as shown by the number and variety of courses taken outside his/her major” and also “to balance and proportion in the candidate’s degree program as a whole.”

b. Students who meet stated PBK admissions requirements will be considered for election to PBK, regardless of their academic major or “area of concentration.

7.  “Election to membership in Phi Beta Kappa is wholly within the discretion of the members of this chapter, subject only to the limitations imposed by the Constitution and By-laws of this chapter, and no right to election shall adhere to any student solely by reason of fulfillment of the minimum quality point ratio for election to membership in course.”

[1] The following COM courses do not count: 111, 123, 192, 385, 386, 499, 500; these courses do count 101, 110, 180/280/380, 220, 227, 243, 253, 301, 302, 303, 327, 350, 450. [12/102009].