Fall into Inspiration: New Resources from the National Arts & Sciences Initiative

Lonnie Bunch photo

What the humanities gave me is an opportunity to say the work we do is really about defining reality and giving hope. I don’t think there is anything better you can do to help a nation, especially in a nation in the time of crisis, than define reality and give hope.

     —Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III 
(ΦBK, American University)

In Leo Leonni’s beloved picture book Frederick, a mouse gathers summer rays, colors, and words to inspire his community in preparation for the challenges after autumn’s harvest. The book is a reflection on the important role of storytellers in community. Much like Frederick, the Society’s National Arts & Sciences team has gathered a bounty of resources this summer to share with our members, chapter faculty, and partner organizations for fall and beyond.

After two years of virtual connections, the Society hosted our first in-person Key into Public Service Conference for the Class of 2022 Service Scholars. The event featured compelling alumni stories and guidance from leading service organizations founded by Phi Beta Kappa members, including the Partnership for Public Service, the Volcker Alliance, and Lead for America. How can you jump-start a government service career without any personal connections? Are there particular skill gaps liberal arts and sciences graduates should address? When should you go to graduate school? How do you approach a potential mentor respectfully? 

Our conference resource page tackles all of these questions with a particular emphasis this year on international relations, legal careers, public health, and running for legislative office.  LinkedIn expert George Anders (ΦBK, Stanford University) also offered great suggestions for building the career network you want with a liberal arts and sciences background. You can access all conference resources at pbk.org/KIPS-Conference-22.  

To underscore the importance of liberal arts and sciences expertise to a vibrant democracy during the conference, the American University chapter of Phi Beta Kappa inducted Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III as an alumni member during the Call to Serve luncheon generously sponsored by the Gray Foundation. A renowned cultural leader, curator, historian, author, educator, and public servant, Bunch has provided exemplary contributions to the humane sciences and letters for the enduring benefit of the nation. As Chapter President Mieke Meurs noted when describing Bunch’s many accomplishments, perhaps more people should in fact be asking, “What can’t you do with a history degree?”  

A highlight of the luncheon included a lively and wide-ranging conversation between Bunch and David M. Rubenstein, co-founder and co-chairman of The Carlyle Group, noted interviewer, and former public servant himself. Watch the conversation on the Society’s YouTube channel (youtube.com/phibetakappa) to discover how Bunch unexpectedly launched his Smithsonian career at the National Air & Space Museum, the highs and lows of founding the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and how he became the first historian to lead the Smithsonian. 

Speaking of rays, colors, and words, you can find selections from first-year common reading choices for the Class of 2026 from Phi Beta Kappa chapter campuses at pbk.org/First-Year-Reading-2022. We hope this reading list brings you some of the excitement and energy of campus classrooms across the country.

Looking ahead, the Society will invite applications for our Key into Public Service Scholarship from liberal arts and sciences majors attending Phi Beta Kappa institutions beginning November 1. You will also see updates to our advocacy toolkit and opportunities to address new challenges like library book bans in upcoming monthly e-alerts. No matter what fall brings this year, we hope these new Society resources help you define reality, navigate new challenges, and give hope. 

Key into Public Service Conference participants: Top row (L-R): Aylar Atadurdyyeva, Emily Nichols, Jonah Tobin, Grace Dowling, Justin Fox, Alec Hoffman, Paul Odu, Brandon Folson, Muskan Walia, James Suleyman. Bottom row (L-R): Sora Heo, Vaidehi Persad, Sondos Moursy, Samiha Islam, Olivia Negro, Ruthie Kesri, Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III, Phi Beta Kappa Secretary and CEO Frederick M. Lawrence, Miguel Coste, Noelle Dana, Katherine Marin.