The Society and its Activities
Phi Alpha Theta is the national honor society for history. It was founded in 1921 at the University of Arkansas and has grown now to include 830 chapters at distinguished colleges and universities across the country. Its members include upper-division undergraduates, graduate students, and professors. Members gather for various activities periodically during the academic year.
There are three levels to Phi Alpha Theta:
- the local chapters,
- a tier of regional districts (currently 31), and
- national headquarters.
Georgetown's chapter, the Beta Pi chapter, founded in 1948, is the oldest chapter in the Mid-Atlantic (Maryland-Delaware-Washington, D.C.) region.
Each of the administrative levels offers important services to Phi Alpha Theta members. National headquarters sponsors a number of scholarships and cash prizes for students. It also holds a national history conference for students and professors and supports a journal, The Historian, where students can publish papers and book reviews.
The chief responsibility of the regional district is to sponsor an annual regional history conference, usually during the Spring semester of each year. These conferences offer unique professional opportunities to students who volunteer to read their research papers to other students and professors from the region. They are student-run, except for the use of professors who serve as commentators on the conference panels and as judges for the paper prize competitions (one for undergraduate student papers and one for graduate student papers). About a dozen students from Georgetown volunteer each year to read papers at the regional conference, and of these, typically two to four end up winning prizes for their papers. This is a record we hope to continue in the future.
Beta Pi Chapter has also had excellent membership enrollments over the last 14 years, and in 1996, had the largest membership enrollment (183 students) of any Phi Alpha Theta chapter in the nation. Moreover, Beta Pi Chapter earned national "Best Chapter" prizes in 1997, 2001, 2004 and 2014.
Sample Local Chapter Activities
- guest speakers (in-house or visiting)/fireside chats/"hot spots of the world" series
- movie and pizza parties
- workshops on topics such as how to market the skills honed in history courses
- a walking tour of historic Georgetown
- a get-to-know-one-another reception for Phi Alpha Theta members and History Department faculty
- a candlelight Spring banquet (a semi-formal sit-down dinner with the induction of new members and a guest speaker)
- participation in the regional history conference (most recently, Georgetown hosted the 1995, 2003, and 2015 conferences)
- service as mentors to local middle and high school students preparing projects for the D.C. History Day Fair, or volunteering as judges for the day
- and, beginning in 2004, the hosting of the Georgetown University History Bowl for area high school European History students.
- Georgetown History Jeopardy Championship, held for the first time in Spring 2015.
Undergraduate Students do not have to be history majors in order to qualify for Phi Alpha Theta membership. Students need only to have demonstrated academic excellence and a serious interest in history by:
- completing at least 12 hours of History coursework at the university level (AP credit does not count);
- earning at least B in those four History courses and a B+ average for all History courses taken; and
- having an overall GPA of 3.4 or better. (Note: in special circumstances, where a student's History grades are B+ or better but the GPA is below 3.4, an exception can be considered. Please see Professor Leonard in such cases.)
Graduate Students in history who have already fulfilled the basic undergraduate requirements for membership are immediately eligible to apply for membership in the society. If a graduate student has already been inducted into Phi Alpha Theta at another school, he or she needs only to "update" the membership with Beta Pi chapter by making a one-time payment of local dues to the Georgetown chapter. (Please see the next section.)
Membership application process
- Please complete a Beta Pi Chapter membership application. You will need to be logged in to your Georgetown email address to access the form. Be sure to give both your local and permanent addresses in the spaces provided; the chapter needs the local address for possible mailings, and national headquarters needs the permanent address for your free one-year subscription to The Historian.
- Attach a copy of your undergraduate transcript, verifying your eligibility for membership in Phi Alpha Theta. (The transcript can be a copy of an unofficial Student Access+ transcript, as long as it has your name on it and it has been printed off directly from that site.) If you are offering study-abroad work to meet the 12-hour course minimum, please provide a transcript to verify that work and to confirm your course grade(s).
- Attach a check for $60.00, payable to "Phi Alpha Theta". Fifty dollars of this fee goes for your lifetime membership in Phi Alpha Theta; the remaining ten dollars is your one-time local chapter dues assessment.
- Put all of the above in an envelope, address it to Prof. Toshihiro Higuchi, and have a staff member put it in his mailbox behind the front desk of the History Department.
- If you have never joined Phi Alpha Theta before, please follow the directions for undergraduate membership delineated above.
- If you joined Phi Alpha Theta at another university, update your membership with Beta Pi chapter by:
- completing a membership form, available at the front desk of the department, ICC 600
- noting on the form (perhaps on the back side) the chapter you originally joined, the date of your induction, the name of your chapter's faculty advisor and his or her email address
- attaching a check for $10.00, made out to "Phi Alpha Theta", and by
- putting the membership form and your $10.00 check in an envelope and dropping it off in Professor Amy Leonard's mailbox at the front of the department
Contact Phi Alpha Theta
- To discuss membership eligibility
- To learn how you can participate in the regional conference (N.B. students are needed not only to read papers but also to serve as panel moderators, a useful professional experience in and of itself.)
- To participate in the Phi Alpha Theta-sponsored annual Georgetown University History Bowl
- To volunteer for offices or activities
- or to share ideas
Please contact Georgetown University's Phi Alpha Theta Faculty Advisor:
Rev. August 2016