A Night of Networking with Phi Beta Kappa

By Emma Forgione

Ever heard of speed dating? That’s correct: those events where you go on a series of five-minute dates with strangers to see if you can forge some type of connection in limited time. Well, Phi Beta Kappa has taken this concept to a whole new level with Speed Networking as a part of their Key Connections event series. 

On September 6, Phi Beta Kappa hosted its second annual Key Connections event at the Time Warner Center in New York City. This was just one of 26 similar events happening all across the country that had more than 1,000 ΦBKs reconnecting with each other and with the Society. This particular gathering was set up in the same fashion as speed dating, except that participants sat at a table for 30 minutes with an industry professional and were able to ask that person for advice or any questions that they liked. Then, once the 30 minutes was up, participants moved to a table with a new professional. 

Before and after the table-talks, cocktail receptions allowed ΦBKs from all fields and walks of life to meet, talk, connect, and exchange contact information. Many of the participants were looking to branch out into different fields, change their career paths, or were still in college and looking to meet like-minded people entering the workforce. 

Luckily for the participants, they were in the company of some great mentors. One example was Human Resources table speaker Julie Gebauer, Head of Human Capital and Benefits at Willis Towers Watson. Gebauer, a ΦBK member from the University of Nebraska, talked about her background as a math major and how it helped run a three billion dollar business without a business degree. She spoke about the importance of liberal arts education and gave advice on how to be successful in the job market today. 

“I think what is most important in getting a job and being effective in a job today is being curious and being able to solve problems, and being able to continue learning,” Gebauer advised. “Someone who thinks ‘I finished my undergrad, my masters, my doctorate, and I’m done learning,’ it’s just wrong because jobs are changing ALL the time. So, I think that is a skill that is incredibly important in being successful… I think that the broad background [of a liberal arts degree] is something we actually look for… I believe the liberal arts background is very important.” 

Stanley Smith, Director of Development at Rebuilding Together NYC, led the discussion at the non-profit table and inspired members in another direction. A ΦBK  from Morehouse College, Smith explained how he changed his career path from working in corporate America to working in the non-profit sector in order to pursue a more fulfilling life. He talked about the importance of having a passion for the organization you work for and the projects that they pursue.

“For me it’s easy because I love what we’re doing,” said Smith. “I love the fact that we’re helping to re-skill unemployed New Yorkers to get jobs in construction, so if you have a high school diploma or GED, now you can make $50,000 a year. I mean, it doesn’t get more simple than that for me. Or helping homeowners who have a leaking roof and can’t afford to pay for that roof and can barely afford to keep their lights on—we’re able to really make sure that their home is safe and secure. Make sure you’re finding an organization you’re personally aligned with. I found one that I’m personally aligned with.” 

Phi Beta Kappa Secretary and CEO Frederick M. Lawrence closed the event with a moving speech about the history and purpose of the organization, reminding members that in any endeavor ΦBKs pursue, “the love of learning would be the guide of life.” 

Whether you are taking your first steps in your career, changing your career path, or simply looking for smart confidants, the Phi Beta Kappa network stands strong and extends a hand. 

Above: Event guests Rhea Kishnani, Deirdre Shahar, and Emily Abrams at the Time Warner Center in New York City, September 6. All are Phi Beta Kappa members. 


Emma Forgione (ΦBK, Muhlenberg College, 2018) is a recent graduate in English and theater with a minor in creative writing from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Muhlenberg College is home to the Pi of Pennsylvania chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.