Phi Beta Kappa - Membership
More than an on-paper accolade, election to ΦBK signifies excellence to classmates, colleagues, graduate schools, funders, and employers--affirming that you have a breadth and depth of knowledge, the ability to think critically, and the passion to learn continuously.
Membership offers connection to leaders in nearly every field of endeavor, as Phi Beta Kappa counts among its members 17 US presidents, 42 Supreme Court justices, 140 Nobel laureates, and a host of researchers, executives, civic and non-profit leaders, authors, athletes and artists – who have in common a commitment to ΦBK's spirit of learning throughout life.
PBK is also one of the few honors listed on your University transcript, alongside Latin honors (cum laude, magna cum laude, summa cum laude) based on GPA, distinction in the major, and University Honors Program, as applicable. From spring 2019, ΦBK is again noted in the official Commencement Program at spring graduation ceremonies.
Review information on national membership benefits.
Eligibility & Election
Fewer than 10% of US colleges and universities are privileged to have a ΦBK chapter, each of whom select to honor fewer than 10% of their arts and sciences graduates.
There is no application process. Seniors, and a few exceptional juniors, are automatically considered based on their grade point average, and are elected on the basis of demonstrated pursuit of and excellence in liberal arts and sciences learning. Review national society membership requirements, on which DU-specific calculations are based.
Elections are held and membership invitations made in the spring quarter of each academic year, to include students who have graduated since the previous election. Invitations must be formally accepted within one year of offer for individuals to become members and be able to claim membership. (Much as admission to a university is not equivalent to attending/graduating from it.)
Can I determine whether I'll be eligible or elected?
In short, no. We are not able to review individual cases, given that future courses and grades can greatly affect a student’s standing, and that election decisions also depend significantly on the total number of students eligible in a particular year and their relative performance. (Please review the considerations in section below.) Federal student privacy law (FERPA) also prevents all University officials from discussing student performance with others, including parents/guardians, without specific permission.
We encourage all students to pursue a breadth and depth of learning, and to perform well, whatever your areas of study. We will reach out to you directly if you're elected.
My grades are excellent; why wasn't I invited to join?
By design, ΦBK is a highly selective Society, using a number of criteria beyond a student’s overall University GPA. Thus, many excellent students do not qualify, or are not ultimately selected for available spaces.
First, ΦBK recognizes performance in liberal arts and sciences studies (ref www.pbk.org/Requirements) in undergraduate degrees. Therefore, most graduate-level and certain types of applied and pre-professional courses are excluded from consideration, whatever a student's actual major/minor.
Next, honors courses, study abroad, research experience, independent study, and engagement beyond required curricular minimums are considered favorably, as an indication of students’ active pursuit of intellectual breadth and depth.
The Chapter also reviews any academic-relevant recommendations from ΦBK faculty, staff, and student peers; and may consider academic integrity violations of the DU Honor Code. True to our academic focus, we do not consider leadership, service, or other co-curricular achievements indicated by any source.
Finally, national Society and local Chapter standards cap invitations to a very small percentage of each undergraduate class. Thus, even after all the considerations above, there are simply not spaces for every excellent student.
The Chapter’s membership committee spends many hours over multiple days, reviewing individual records and discussing relevant considerations for DU’s top undergraduate students—many more each year than we can invite. We are proud of DU students' strong academic performance across disciplines; and encourage all students to pursue learning for its own sake, and to explore recognition by major/minor-specific societies and other co-curricular honors.
How do I accept my invitation?
To become a member, you must BOTH 1) register with the national office, AND 2) be initiated. Simply being elected/invited is NOT in itself membership.
Please follow membership instructions provided in your official invitation email from Chapter president, Dr Dennis Barrett. The National Society Page can be found here. This site handles acceptance and one-time, lifetime fee for both the national Society and the DU Chapter.
We hold an in-person Initiation Ceremony during Spring Commencement week each year, and usually hold smaller, "catch-up" initiations in summer and/or fall for those not able to attend in spring. (Check our Events page for any upcoming ceremony.) If you are not able to participate in offered dates, check below for initiation alternatives.
While we do not provide official PBK pins and/or honors cords for Commencement (a cost that would simply be passed along to all students whether or not they wanted them), students who accept membership can purchase items at www.pbkkey.com.
The invitation to membership expires after one year, and will not be re-issued.
What do I get for my one-time fee?
Beyond the recognition for your excellence thus far, your membership comes with a range of physical and intangible benefits:
- a personal membership certificate, suitable for framing
- acknowledgement in the annual DU spring Commencement program (to include all members who've graduated since previous spring)
- inclusion of ΦΒΚ honor on your official University transcript
- permission to note the honor on your professional and scholarly record—CV/résumé, applications, LinkedIn, etc
- invitation to participate in the annual initiation ceremony and other campus, regional and national events
- one year's complimentary membership to the Alpha Association of Colorado
- eligibility for the Alpha Association's graduate studies scholarships, among other programs offered by regional associations and the national Society
- connection to an international community of curiosity—information on optional initiatives and events, which are great opportunities to network, beyond furthering your learning
- access to purchase Society merchandise, including patented ΦΒΚ keys and pins*
You are also supporting the national organization and international network of scholars as we champion education, foster freedom of thought, and recognize academic excellence. Check the national website for more details: www.pbk.org/Benefits.
*While we do not provide them (the cost would simply be passed along to all students), students who accept membership can purchase their own honors cords for Commencement, official PBK pins, and/or other items at www.pbkkey.com.
Please note that simply being elected (invited) does not grant membership or its benefits; to claim ΦBK membership, you must actually join the Society.
I'm not able to afford the membership fee.
The Chapter is entirely self-funding, and receives only $10 from each one-time membership fee. However, we don’t want financial hardship to keep away worthy members. Please contact Chapter treasurer, Victor.Castellani@du.edu, for what assistance may be available.
I am not able to attend the June initiation.
If you are not able to participate in our June initiation ceremony, we typically coordinate a make-up group initiation in later summer; or can arrange for a brief, small group or individual initiation later in the summer or autumn. Accept your membership per emailed invitation instructions, and contact Chapter president Dennis.Barrett@du.edu to explore alternative initiation options.
What are my opportunities if I join?
Many members simply appreciate the recognition, feature it on their academic and professional records, and continue on to more great things. We hope, however, that your demonstrated passion for learning will compel you to engage with us and other "Phi Betes" henceforth.
Students continuing at DU are invited to participate in Chapter activities—networking socials with other student, faculty, staff and administrator members; guest speakers and discussions on and beyond campus; Chapter business meetings; even helping to select future members—a Chapter’s most fundamental activity!
If you’re moving on to study or work at or near other ΦBK campuses, you can connect with that chapter. There are also at-large member associations for specific geographical areas (including Colorado), not linked to any specific campus. A directory of campus chapters and area associations is at www.pbk.org.
I was elected at another institution.
Elected and joined at a previous institution, but now at the University of Denver? That makes you a member of the DU chapter; and we want to connect you with Chapter events and opportunities. Email us with your name, and initiating institution and year.
- Long-time members and past officers, Drs Sandra and Gareth Eaton, in DU Magazine
- Graduating senior Anit Tyagi ('22) finds passion in helping others (DU News profile)
- Spring 2023: #PBKudos to Anit on launch of his oral history project with the VA: www.youtube.com/@rememberingourveterans
- Congratulations to Drew Voitiv on the Alpha Association of Colorado's graduate school scholarship.
- Congratulations to Dr Chad Leahy (Spanish Language, Literary & Cultural Studies) on earning tenure, and Dr Antonina Banducci (Lamont School of Music), who has been awarded emerita status, in spring 2021.
- Theatre and Math major Reanna Magruder ('20) was on the cover of the Winter 2020 DU Magazine! Thanks to her and Dr Ashley Hamilton who shared about their DU Prison Arts Initiative at our January 2020 Chapter meeting.
- Longtime DU Professor Sandra Eaton leaves lasting mark in Chemistry (DU News profile)
- Austin Johnson ('19) is headed to Stanford Medical School in the fall, but he's taking lessons from DU with him (DU News profile)
Invited students, by year of election
Note that elected students must register with the national office and be initiated to claim membership. Simply being invited is not in itself membership, much like admission to a university is not attending/graduating from it.