Linda Kern, Phi Kappa Phi president, at an Honors Society ceremony in 2019. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Phi Kappa Phi holds virtual induction ceremony

Dec 9, 2020
Kathryne Davis

Yolanda Williams’ 51st birthday is one she’ll never forget.

That day, along with 60 other students and faculty members, Williams became one of the newest members of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, the nation’s oldest, largest and most selective honor society for all academic disciplines.

Unable to have the ceremony in person due to COVID-19, Brenau’s chapter of Phi Kappa Phi worked hard to make sure those being inducted still had a special ceremony.

“I actually didn’t mind it being held online,” Williams said. “My parents, other family members and friends were able to log on and share that moment with me. It was special.”

Nearly a Triple Tiger, Williams is working on her third degree from Brenau in the new Doctor of Education program. She earned her bachelor’s in 1999 and master’s in 2018 in elementary education from the university.

“I had no choice but to pursue my doctorate from Brenau,” Williams said. “I was waiting for the program to start. When I heard that there would be a doctoral program coming, I was thrilled!”

Linda Kern, Phi Kappa Phi president and dean of library services, said preparations for holding the ceremony virtually started as soon as the new school year settled into place.

Kern joined representatives from other chapters in a meeting with PKP national staff to determine how a virtual ceremony could be held. Kern said national was a tremendous amount of help, as was Brenau’s Information Technology Department, to make sure the ceremony went off without any trouble.

“The initiates have enjoyed the ceremony for a long time,” Kern said. “We’ve always had positive feedback about the existing ceremony, and so we adapted that.”

The webinar was opened 15 minutes before the ceremony started, as pictures of students with their majors and class years listed were played on slides for everyone to see. Brenau President Dr. Anne Skleder gave the keynote speech for the ceremony and discussed giving back because the students have so much to draw from. Kern said it was very meaningful and set the tone for the event.

Mya Wilkerson, a health science major with a concentration in pre-occupational therapy, said she was excited when she found out she would be inducted into Phi Kappa Phi.

“I heard of the organization a year ago, and I was like, ‘Wow, it would be great to be inducted in such a prestigious organization,’” Wilkerson said. “So when I found out I was completely shocked, but I was happy because all of my hard work paid off.”

By holding the ceremony online, students living far from the Gainesville campus were able to attend.

“I think the biggest positive was being able to make the event more accessible to the participants and their families,” said Dianne Page, interlibrary loan specialist and administrator to Phi Kappa Phi. “We even had one student being inducted from China. It was nice to give everybody the option. We made it as easy as possible for people to share the celebration with their loved ones.”

Since chartering at Brenau in 2007, Phi Kappa Phi has inducted more than 1,000 members and has more than 250 active members. In fall 2019, Brenau was one of the 32 chapters to achieve Circle of Excellence Platinum status for that school year.

Membership to Phi Kappa Phi is invitation-only to juniors in the top 7.5% of their class, seniors and graduate students in the top 10%, and faculty, administrators and alumni who have achieved academic distinction in their fields.

Kern credits the other Phi Kappa Phi officers —Dr. Bill Laing, secretary and professor of management; Dr. Denise Smith, treasurer and professor of accounting; Jessie Shrout, incoming Phi Kappa Phi president and mathematics and science chair; and student vice president Kellsey Kloker — for helping to ensure continued success for the members of Phi Kappa Phi.

With all of the support from Brenau and Phi Kappa Phi national, Kern said a virtual option is something Phi Kappa Phi will have to consider in the future —not only for students that are unable to make it, but for their family and support system as well.

“In a sense, this is every bit as much for family as it is for the students themselves,” Kern said. “I think with our online students, this opens up a new window of opportunity to participate, to be recognized and to make it meaningful to them.”