The information for our current post comes courtesy of Phi Alpha Theta’s president, Caitlin Nelson (4LS). We asked Caitlin to update us on the activities of the History Department’s particularly active chapter.
Phi Alpha Theta, the History Honor Society, aims to provide academic information and support to undergraduate history majors in a friendly and informal setting. Its activities extend far beyond inducting students and giving them a certificate. This year, with fresh leadership and renewed enthusiasm, Phi Alpha Theta held many well-attended meetings and events.
In the fall, Phi Alpha Theta focused on building student involvement. It hosted a student forum with undergraduate coordinator Prof. Juliana Barr, at which students could ask questions and express their thoughts about the department. This gave students the opportunity to voice their opinions to a faculty member who could implement real changes and pass students’ suggestions along to the department. Dr. Ben Wise also spoke with students in November about the process of becoming a professional historian—what it takes, how long it takes, and what university expectations are for professors. A major fundraiser in the fall is the Phi Alpha Theta book sale. Professors generously donate their old books to the club, which then resells them to students and the community. This year the sale raised over three hundred dollars. As part of its mission to support student scholarship, Phi Alpha Theta regularly donates funds to scholarships, students attending conferences, and various organizations, like the History Honors Program and the Matheson Museum. At the fall inductions, Phi Alpha Theta proudly welcomed nineteen new members to their chapter.
Spring semester has been an eventful time for Phi Alpha Theta. This semester, the goal was to introduce different types of history to students. Fresh from winning the National Jewish Book Award in Sephardic Culture for her latest book, Ottoman Brothers, Dr. Michelle Campos spoke with students about the inspiration for her book, the research process, and the roots of the Middle East crisis. At the next meeting, graduate and undergraduate students from the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program shared stories of their trips to Mississippi and spoke about their latest research projects. With the understanding that practical, hands-on experience is valuable in academia and today’s job market, Phi Alpha Theta organized an internship fair. The fair showcased a variety of opportunities, including internships at special collections and the oral history program, as well as volunteer docent opportunities at Haile Homestead in Gainesville. The board of Phi Alpha Theta also gave a presentation on how to find internships and compiled a handy roster of local and national opportunities.
Over the past year, students networked with one another, discovered lesser-known opportunities, and interacted with faculty members outside of the classroom through Phi Alpha Theta. It remains an accessible social and intellectual utility for students and continues to grow with more students joining every semester.