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Phi Beta Kappa

Background Information About Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society

The Phi Beta Kappa Society is the oldest and most prestigious national academic honorary society in the United States. Its Handbook for New Members begins, "For over two hundred years election to Phi Beta Kappa has been a recognition of intellectual capacities well employed, especially in the acquiring of an education in the liberal arts and sciences." The Society was founded in 1776 at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia; the UC Davis chapter, designated Kappa of California, was chartered in 1968.

Kappa Chapter recognizes by election as Members in Course juniors and seniors who have compiled outstanding academic records in a curriculum including the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences. Election and initiation take place annually in spring.

Criteria for election to Phi Beta Kappa at UC Davis are:

  • An overall UC grade point average of 3.7 for seniors and 3.8 for juniors. For transfer students, the total undergraduate record and cumulative GPA must meet this standard.
  • Knowledge of a foreign language at an "intermediate level," the equivalent of one year of college-level study. Extensive high school study, i.e., four years or AP credit, is accepted.
  • Letters and Sciences units totaling 135 for seniors and 90 for juniors.
  • Seventy-five units completed for letter-grade credit at Davis
  • College preparatory level mathematics.
  • Breadth in the course record: three courses or twelve units completed for letter-grade credit in the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences.
  • Selection process: The Committee on Members in Course, composed of academic members of Phi Beta Kappa, reviews transcripts and recommends to the resident members of the Society students whose records meet the criteria. There is no automatic right to election. The committee may apply judgment, for example, in cases where there exists extensive student-option pass-fail grading, especially in the major. Questions about qualification are welcome and will be considered.

    Transcripts of juniors and seniors in the College of Letters and Sciences are automatically reviewed if the GPA and units in residence requirements are met. The Division of Biological Sciences supplies the names of College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences students whose programs are analogous to those in L&S. Names of additional students who may meet the requirements are solicited from faculty.

    Beginning in 2003, notification of election is by (a) e-mail to the account, (b) posting at the Phi Beta Kappa website, (c) through the academic department of the major. Potential members in course who have been elected to Phi Beta Kappa, as indicated on the lists posted here, and wish to be inducted into the society-even if retroactively-are cordially invited to contact the secretary.


    D. Kern Holoman, secretary 
    Department of Music