When Love of Learning Is Your Guide

By Whitney Horn

Immediately after graduation, Phi Beta Kappa members are not only concerned about finding employment and advancing their careers, but also continuing their education. Love of learning, one of the key virtues espoused by the Society, is relished by members who will seek out opportunities to learn even when they are no longer in school. But it can be hard to find the motivation to learn and find chances to engage in the intellectual community around you.

Online, there are suggestions for ways to further your education once you are no longer in an academic community. Mental Floss suggests seven affordable ways to keep learning after graduation including attending community lectures and joining a book club. They also suggest going on field trips to expand your knowledge and explore your community by visiting museums and historic landmarks near you.

Many Phi Beta Kappa members pursue these and other activities in order to continue learning after their formal education has ended. Kristin Whitehair (ΦBK, Kansas State University, 2002) earned a bachelor’s degree from Kansas State University in history, a master of library and information science degree from Louisiana State University, and a master of public administration from the University of Kansas, but all of this time in school only encouraged her to keep learning outside of school as well.

“For me,” Whitehair said, “continued growth is energizing and motivating.” That is why she seeks out books to read, lectures to attend, and new ways to engage with developments in all fields. Whitehair works as a medical librarian and likes to stay on top of new developments. “As a librarian, my first impulse is to read about something, be that a new program, service delivery model, or technological solution,” she said.

Whitehair believes that the continued pursuit of learning and knowledge is not only beneficial to her personal growth, but also her professional growth. “I see traditional education as providing the foundation of critical thinking skills and knowledge,” she said. “This foundation is then supplemented and amplified by self-motivated learning. In the workplace, curiosity is a valuable asset.” Curiosity is what pushes Whitehair to seek out new ideas and opportunities to engage with her academic community.

Clay Kenworthy (ΦBK, Kansas State University, 2009) has also placed value on furthering his education since he graduated. In order to travel, Kenworthy decided to teach English abroad and immerse himself in cultures around the world. He lived in Dubai, United Arab Emirats teaching English and social studies. “I loved it there,” he said, “and it allowed me to travel to 14 countries in Europe, Africa, and Asia, which continued my self-education by immersing myself in cultures and experiencing first-hand their histories.”

Kenworthy sees his pursuit of knowledge as being based in retaining child-like wonderment of the world. “I am more confident as a person by embracing the fact that I don’t know a lot of things, but through hard work and discipline, they can be learned,” he said. He enjoys delving into the history and culture of varying people and finding new cultures he knows nothing about and then becoming knowledgeable.

In addition to the traditional ways to pursue knowledge outside of school, there are now new avenues to get to more information. Podcasts and audiobooks are a great way to learn something every day during the commute to work. Whitehair takes this route and says it is beneficial because her free time is limited and audiobooks are a great way for her to challenge herself.

Both Whitehair and Kenworthy agree that their thirst for knowledge since graduating is beneficial to their mood. It doesn’t just increase their knowledge, but their satisfaction with their lives. Learning doesn’t end for Phi Beta Kappa members when they graduate; learning just becomes more self-directed, and Phi Beta Kappa members are taking advantage of the opportunities around them to continue their life-long education.

Whitney Horn is a senior majoring in English at Kansas State University. Kansas State is home to the Beta of Kansas Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.