During the American Revolution, five students at the College of William & Mary founded Phi Beta Kappa. They believed that a new nation required new institutions – cultural as well as political – and they were committed to intellectual fellowship shaped by the values of personal freedom, scientific inquiry, liberty of conscience, and creative endeavor. Their legacy, more than 240 years later, inspires today’s students to pursue these same values through a 21st century education in the liberal arts and sciences.
–The Phi Beta Kappa Society, https://www.pbk.org/History
Phi Beta Kappa is the oldest, largest, and most prestigious university academic honor society in the United States, with more than 290 chapters nationwide, and whose members include 17 U.S. Presidents, 41 Supreme Court Justices, and more than 140 Nobel Laureates. The main selection criteria for student members are exceptional academic achievement, curricular breadth, and scholarly initiative in the liberal arts at William & Mary and strong support from faculty members. More specifically, ideal qualifications include intellectual honesty and curiosity, careful scholarship, creativity, good character, and a commitment to the life of the mind. The selected students comprise no more than seven percent of each year’s graduating class.
The Society’s historic origins are located in the heart of William & Mary. PBK’s very first meeting, comprised of five W&M students, took place on December 5, 1776 in the Apollo Room of the Raleigh Tavern in Williamsburg, Virginia. Two hundred forty-three years later, on December 5, 2019, W&M’s Alpha Chapter of PBK initiated fifty-one outstanding undergraduates as new members; a second round of selection and initiation of new members will be held in the spring.
Six of the 51 initiates are Hispanic Studies majors who offer these reflections about the opportunities and transformative experiences they found in our academic and cultural offerings:
Nicole Fitzgerald (Dobbs Ferry, NJ; Hispanic Studies (HISP)/Finance, ‘20): “I came to William and Mary knowing I wanted to pursue a Hispanic Studies major, and I feel so lucky to have had the support of such amazing faculty. I had the opportunity to study abroad twice in Cádiz, Spain and in Barcelona. The combination of my liberal arts background that I gained from Hispanic Studies, in combination with my business major is sure to serve me well in the future. After graduation I will be working in New York at a knowledge search firm called AlphaSights.”
Philip Grotz (Culpepper, Virginia; HISP)/Neuroscience, ’20): “Through the Hispanic Studies Department, I was able to study abroad in Cádiz, Spain, where I performed independent research on the fusion of jazz and flamenco music styles. Following completion of a course in Medical Spanish Interpretation, I obtained a position working as a medical interpreter on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. I was able to use the cultural background and ethical guidelines I learned in the class to directly facilitate communication between patients and healthcare providers, gaining clinical experience that I expect to be valuable to the career that I plan to pursue as a medical physician.”
Megan Leu (Sudbury, Massachusetts; HISP/History ’20): “A degree in Hispanic Studies has provided me with incredible opportunities that I know will continue to shape my professional pursuits in years to come. I studied abroad in Argentina, where I lived with a host family and worked as an intern for a human rights organization that did memory work relating to the military dictatorship. Upon my return, I began working with the National Security Archive analyzing declassified CIA, Department of State, and FBI records for evidence of human rights abuses in Latin America, and I also started an internship for the Department of State looking at Spanish-language news sources for information on Mexican cartels to write brief summaries for the U.S. Ambassador. After graduation, I hope to integrate my degrees in History and Hispanic Studies and continue to do meaningful work that reaches people in Latin America.”
Kiera McKay (Fair Haven, NJ; HISP/Physics ’20): “Bilingualism has long been one of my personal values and goals and going into college I knew that I would never stop taking Spanish classes and working towards fluency. The Hispanic Studies program has helped me improve my Spanish, but it has also given me so many wonderful opportunities to learn, grow, and expand my horizons. I lived in the Casa Hispánica for two years, which led me to meet so many wonderful friends while finding language immersion on campus. I studied abroad in Cádiz, Spain the summer after my sophomore year and the experience was wonderful, both for my language proficiency and my sense of belonging in the world.”
Carrington Metts (Wilson, NC; HISP/Physics ’20): “In my time in the Hispanic Studies program, I’ve had the opportunity to spend several weeks hiking the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain. I also spent a semester abroad at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. While on campus, I’ve spent three semesters living in the Casa Hispánica and have taken a wide range of courses, with a particular emphasis on linguistics. I have applied for a job improving Spanish literacy in the Dominican Republic with the Peace Corps.”
Johanna Weech (Vienna, Va.; HISP/International Relations ’20): “I became involved in human rights, transitional justice, and memory studies research, after studying abroad for a semester through W&M’s La Plata, Argentina program. In November 2019, at the NECLAS conference (New England Council on Latin American Studies) in Mystic, Ct., I presented a research paper “Guatemala’s National Police Archive and the Politics of Documenting Terror” on a W&M faculty/student panel, along with Professors Betsy Konefal and Silvia Tandeciarz, about memory work in Argentina and Guatemala.”