Alpha of Kansas - since 1890

Phi Beta Kappa is the nation's oldest, most prestigious liberal arts and sciences honorary society. KU is home to the Kansas Alpha Chapter, founded in 1890. Our motto is "Love of Learning is the Guide of Life."


Phi Beta Kappa was founded at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1776. It is the oldest and most prestigious national academic honorary society, which for more than 240 years has recognized high academic achievement (top 5-10 % of a graduating class) by students who pursue both a broad and substantive liberal arts curriculum. Selection to membership, therefore, is based not solely upon the evidence of achievement as measured by grades, but also upon the Chapter’s belief that a program of study has been consonant with the Society’s aims. There is no monetary award associated with election.

The University of Kansas is the home of the Alpha Chapter of Kansas of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. Kansas Alpha was founded in 1890 as the oldest chapter west of the Mississippi and only the 31st chapter in the nation.

According to the national website, Phi Beta Kappa “celebrates and advocates excellence in the liberal arts and sciences. Its campus chapters invite for induction the most outstanding arts and sciences students at America’s leading colleges and universities. The Society sponsors activities to advance these studies — the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences — in higher education and in society at large.”

You can learn more about the benefits of membership on this flyer

Honorary Members

Each year, Kansas Alpha elects an honorary member. In 2018, we were excited to convey honorary membership on Chancellor Girod. He was initiated and made brief remarks at our initiation ceremony on May 13. Other recent honorary members include Vice Provost DeAngela Burns-Wallace, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Dean Carl Lejuez, and Assistant Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Studies at the KU Edwards Campus Shannon Portillo.

Election and Initiation

Elections take place in the spring each year. Committees made up of KU faculty and staff members of Phi Beta Kappa review transcripts from eligible students to make their selection, and students are notified in March of their election.

The Kansas Alpha Chapter hosts its initiation ceremony on Commencement day at KU. The ceremony features brief remarks from the chapter's president, a graduating senior, and an honorary faculty or staff inductee.  We finish with plenty of time for everyone to continue on to the main campus Commencement ceremony.

Campus Activities

We meet throughout the year with the prior year's elected students still in residence for informal activities and elect student officers. 

Since 2017, we have presented a book award to first-year students.

The Kansas Alpha chapter occasionally hosts Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholars. In 2022, we welcomed UCLA Professor Adam Winkler.

Current chapter graduate officers:

  • President: Prof. Jennifer Harrison (School of Business)
  • Vice Presidnet: Prof. Dietrich Earnhart (Economics)
  • Secretary/Treasurer: Harry Swartz (University Honors Program)
  • Historian: Dr. Sarah Crawford-Parker (University Honors Program)

One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
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Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
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