As the COVID-19 crisis continues to affect every facet of daily life, chapter and association volunteers are rising to new challenges and discovering possibilities for virtual connection. Chapters have acted quickly to rethink how best to invite and induct students while not on campus, and associations have begun to create opportunities for members to engage as a community, even when in-person events are not possible.
Late spring and early summer represent a peak of activity and celebration for Phi Beta Kappa. It is the time when many of our chapters welcome their new inductees with meaningful, memorable ceremonies across the country. This year, storied rituals such as signing a chapter’s book and learning the Phi Beta Kappa handshake have gone virtual, with many chapters large and small, including the Alpha of Virginia chapter at William & Mary, inducting students on Zoom and other platforms.
Even in these difficult times, virtual ceremonies honor the achievements of our newest members and affirm the values cultivated by their arts and sciences education. At the University of Florida’s induction, a student speaker reflected on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. “It will not be the sashes, medals, or tassels around your neck when you walk across the graduation stage (whenever that may be) that display your ability to lead,” stated Thomas Eichermuller. “It is, however, your passion to serve others, the willingness to place others before yourself, and the lives you touch that will mold you into the type of leader that Phi Beta Kappa exemplifies.”
Phi Beta Kappa associations have also adjusted to new realities. The Detroit Association immediately responded to community need through an effort led by University of Michigan 2019 inductee Pallavi Prabhu, a regional coordinator with MedSupplyDrive for Michigan. The association put the call out among its membership and on its Twitter account seeking donations of medical supplies to local hospitals. Two association members volunteered by sewing fabric masks, which the Association promoted on its Twitter feed, setting an example for others to follow.
Several Phi Beta Kappa associations are offering virtual connection through book clubs, young professional meet-and-greets, and small group discussions. Many have also curated digital cultural opportunities for their members as a way to learn and stay connected. Look for the most recent virtual events on our website, www.pbk.org/events.
Screenshot from the College of William & Mary, Alpha of Virginia chapter, May 2 ΦBK virtual induction on Zoom.