A bid was made last April for Francis Marion University to host the 2011 regional Phi Alpha Theta conference for the first time, and the plan has come to fruition as the university will host the conference this April.
Debra Walters, president of the university’s chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the national honors society for history, said that she has been planning for the event for 10 months when the FMU chapter won the award for national best chapter. Walters noted the rare opportunity that has presented itself in this year’s regional conference.
“We get the chance to show off the award at our own conference,” Walters said.
The conference is scheduled to be held on from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 9, on the same day that FMU plans to host Arts International. The choice for the date was not coincidental, according to Walters.
“That is why we chose that day,” Walters said. “We’re going to be having our conference on the same day that there are 500 people there for Arts International. The people who come are going to see FMU with a bustling campus on a Saturday. The university is going to get to show off to the other colleges. It’s going to look good for everybody.”
Dr. Richard Chapman, provost and dean of the Francis Marion University College of Liberal Arts agreed to represent FMU and give the welcome speech to kick off the conference, according to Walters. Walters also said that the executive director of the FMU Trail Commission, Robert C. Barrett, will speak on the topic of Gen. Francis Marion “as students from four different states come to Francis Marion University,” introducing visitors to the unique history of the university’s namesake.
The event was not planned as an entirely in-house event, drawing on FMU faculty, but with the Florence community in mind. Among the judges and moderators expected to participate in the conference are Florence residents and FMU alumni Jason Brewer, now a history teacher at West Florence High School and Richard Shelton, along with Information Services Manager Aubrey Carroll of the Doctors Bruce and Lee Foundation Library and Executive Director Andrew Stout of the Florence Museum.
The inclusive bent of the conference’s organization extended itself to non-Phi Alpha Theta members and even to non-history majors. A few English majors have already submitted abstracts to be considered for presentations, Walters said. The main difference between the opportunities for members and non-members, such as critiques of the papers and the chance to participate in an academic conference, is that only members qualify for awards.
Walters expressed pride in Phi Alpha Theta as she reflected on the society’s involvement on campus and everything that has led this spring’s regional conference.
“Our fraternity has recently been referred to as the best student organization on campus,” Walters said. “I love to say this, and I say it to everyone: we may be a small group of history nerds, but we’re making a name for ourselves at Francis Marion University.”