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Honor societies provide benefits, prestige

Posted on 09.23.2009

By Fangfang Li | Editorial Assistant

At the University of Indianapolis, students with great work ethic can find a number of honor societies that provide recognition for their academic excellence. These societies include Alpha Chi, Sigma Zeta and Phi Alpha Theta, which have been providing opportunities for students for years.

Alpha Chi is an all-disciplines national college honor society. The oldest and largest of such organizations in the United States, its aim is to recognize students who demonstrate academic excellence and good character.

The Indiana Eta chapter of Alpha Chi began in 1984, and UIndy currently has 90 undergraduate students in the society.

“Alpha Chi is a really good honor society, and it provides a pretty significant recognition to students for their superior academic work,” said Greta Pennell, faculty advisor of the Indiana Eta chapter. “It has a combination of academic excellence, service and character. Those are the three things that Alpha Chi stands on, and those match the university’s goals.”

To be a member of the society at UIndy, students need to be undergraduates who have earned at least 45 credit hours (92 for part-time students) and rank in the top 10 percent of their class.

Students who become members of Alpha Chi are able to attend regional and national conferences, to get work published in the society’s journal and to obtain several types of scholarships. Upon graduation, members receive special recognition, and their membership status is noted on their transcript.

The chapter provides three important scholarship opportunities for students. These scholarships range from $100 to $3,500.

Besides the scholarships from the national Alpha Chi office, UIndy also gives an Epsilon Sigma Alpha award to a student each year. Pennell, said this $500 award generally goes to a senior.

This year’s Epsilon Sigma Alpha recipient is Allison Hart, a chemistry and biology major student from Columbus, In., who also is a member of Sigma Zeta and Honors College. She actively volunteers in the UIndy College Mentors for Kids chapter and in her church, and is a member of Circle K.

This year’s chapter invitation will go out by the end of September. Membership fee is $30. The induction ceremony this year will be Oct. 18.

Sigma Zeta is a national science and mathematics honor society founded in 1925.

Two-time winner of the Chapter Honor Awards, the UIndy chapter of Sigma Zeta, known as the Rho Chapter, has been an active honor society for years. To date, 45 students from biology, chemistry, physics, earth science, mathematics and computer science majors are members of this honor society.

“We’ve been a very active and successful chapter,” said chemistry professor Joe Burnell, who also is the faculty advisor of the Rho Chapter. “The nice thing about Sigma Zeta, compared to other societies, is that it is disciplinary. It brings together students from all areas of science and mathematics, including computer science, so they can all work together on projects.”

Students in the UIndy chapter have been participating in various events, including trips to places of scientific interest, national conventions and community service activities.

“Last year the students went to the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum in Chicago, and Mammoth Cave in Kentucky,” Burnell said. “In 2008, we were the host of the national convention.”

The chapter has volunteered at the Central Indiana Regional Science and Engineering Fair, planning activities during Halloween weekend and so forth.

To qualify for the chapter, students must be majors in the natural sciences, computer science, or mathematics and must have completed at least 20 hours of coursework in their major area and attained at least a 3.0 GPA overall, as well as within their science courses. The membership fee is $25.

The society does not provide scholarships to its members, but member students are given a Sigma Zeta medal for their graduation ceremonies.

“We join the society because, as a small school, we’ve always had a lot of good science and mathematics students. So it’s a way of recognizing the successes of our students,” Burnell said.

UIndy’s chapter of the national history honor society, Phi Alpha Theta, is ready to have a new and exciting year.

“In the past years, the chapter hasn’t necessarily done a lot,” said junior Julie Schneider, who was elected as the president of UIndy Phi Alpha Theta chapter last year. “So what we’re trying to do this year is to make people be more aware of us and put activities for history major students.”

According to Schneider, the chapter plans to have two history professors speak about their experience in pursuing their master or PhD degrees. Also, they are considering attending some historical lectures around Indianapolis.

“We’re enthusiastic about holding events and doing stuff together to make it more fun and getting to know each other better,” Schneider said.

Schneider was initiated into the chaper in spring 2008.

“All the history professors were there, and we got recognized and got certificates,” Schneider said.

According to the Phi Alpha Theta Web site, undergraduate students who want to apply must have completed at least 12 credit hours in history and achieved a minimum GPA of 3.1 in history courses and 3.0 in general. They also need to be in the top 35% in their class. Non-history majors can also apply.

Right now, the UIndy chapter has ten members.

“Being initiated in Phi Alpha Theta is an honor for me,” Schneider said. “And it looks good on the resume.”


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