Phi Alpha Theta wins best chapter

Hunter Deas, Copy Editor

Competing against over 900 schools throughout the United States and Canada for the Phi Alpha Theta National Honor Society in History’s best chapter award, FMU’s chapter, Alpha Theta Zeta, won the 2010 competition.

Each academic year, chapters of Phi Alpha Theta all over the country compete for the award. Submissions are sent to the national headquarters in May, and the award is given in August before the start of the next academic year.

In order to compete, each school’s chapter submits a scrapbook for judging. The scrapbooks are portfolios of pictures and memorabilia from various events throughout the year. Each page includes detailed descriptions explaining the chapters’ involvement with each respective event. The best chapter is not judged on the quality of the scrapbook, but on the quality of what each scrapbook represents.

The FMU chapter of Phi Alpha Theta was awarded $250 to be used for the purchase of research books.

Events depicted in the scrapbook ranged from a trip to a Renaissance festival in Charlotte, N.C. to participation in a biennial national conference in San Diego, C.A.

The chapter did not participate in activities that were exclusively based in history, but also reached out to the community. FMU’s chapter of Phi Alpha Theta sponsored walkers in the local 2009 Juvenile Diabetes Walk for a Cure and also sponsored a fund drive for the Department of Social Services.

The chapter has adopted reaching outside the box as an unofficial aim.

“It’s not just for history geeks, but for other students and the general public,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy and Walters both feel that it was the outside the box aspect helped win the best chapter award.

“It showed things that didn’t seem to be involved with Phi Alpha Theta, but were,” Walters said.

One page in the scrapbook included pictures of Walters lecturing at a Math Club meeting. Walters, who also works as a math tutor at Florence-Darlington Technical College, was not presenting a history lecture. However, because Walters was a member of Phi Alpha Theta, several members of the FMU Department of History attended to show their support.

Kennedy and Walters also believe that such a supportive spirit was key to winning the award. 

“You have to have the academics to get in, and you have to realize that it won’t be all fun,” Walters said. “It’s not all fun, but we have fun in what we do. It’s the academics, of course, that brings us all together. It’s the personal relationships that are the uniting force that brings us all together. Academics get us there, and it’s the people that keep us there.”

Walters pointed to Sarah Breaux, former FMU student and member of Phi Alpha Theta, to exemplify that spirit. Breaux, according to Walters, embodied the lighter side of the society, while upholding the academic standards by remaining eligible and presenting papers at conferences.

“It was all showcased in that scrapbook,” Walters said. “We had a page called ‘Queen Sarah,’ all about her and the infamous green chair in the lounge, and it might have been next to a page of us presenting papers at an academic conference. It highlighted within the flip of a page the fun we could have, right next to us presenting papers.”

Kennedy agrees that the chemistry is important, and that it reflected in the scrapbook. He also feels strongly about having included not only history major and minor students, but “Friends of Pat,” a body of students comprised of non-Phi Alpha Theta students who are interested in history.

The Friends of Pat are invited to participate in interest events, such as Nerdapalooza, an event held on Reading Day at the end of each semester. Games are held that are based in history, such as history charades, and refreshments are provided by Phi Alpha Theta. The most recent Nerdapalooza boasted full Department of History faculty attendance.

“The camaraderie is expressed in Nerdapalooza pretty well – the fact that we recognize that we are all history nerds, and relish in it,” Walters said.

Friends of Pat can also assist in monthly Lunch Express events, sponsored by Phi Alpha Theta and held in the breezeway between Founders Hall and Cauthen Educational Media Center. The Lunch Express offers full meals and is intended to introduce diversity and cultural awareness to the student body.

“We’re not just selling hot dogs,” Kennedy said. “I had a lot of kids who had never had Indian curry.”

The Lunch Express is not only a means to raise awareness of Phi Alpha Theta, but also helps raise funds to send students to academic conferences. Kennedy and Walters agreed that at the heart of it all, academics are what count the most.

Walters would love to win best chapter for the current academic year, and she hinted at an event that should help achieve that goal.

“We do have a thing that will be strictly student-oriented,” Walters said. “It will showcase Phi Alpha Theta and should benefit the whole student body. We’re going to continue this momentum.”

Kennedy also believes FMU can win again.

“We were doing these things before we knew there was a best chapter award, and we will continue to do these things in the future,” Kennedy said.