For the third time in the past decade, Yale is reviving its chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, a national honor society for history.
With the support of the History Department, 14 students re-established the group this year in an effort to build community and stimulate discussion among students interested in history at Yale. Though Yale used to have a chapter of the society, PhAT has struggled to maintain a following at the University over the years, with recent attempts to restart the chapter occurring in 2004 and again in 2007. Emma Janger ’15, president of the group, said she and the chapter’s executive board aim to promote more historical conversation on campus through lectures, workshops and social events.
“History is essential to the mission of liberal arts education at the University,” said Dhruv Aggarwal ’16, a member of PhAT’s executive board and a former staff reporter for the News. “We are furthering that interest by letting people discovery new avenues within the major.”
Teddy Miller ’16, a member of the executive board, said professors in the History Department want to start up the group again as part of a larger effort to expand and improve upon the already strong history major at Yale.
To join Phi Alpha Theta, undergraduate students must attend three events sponsored by the group, complete at least two courses in history, achieve a minimum GPA of 3.7 in history courses and maintain a GPA of at least 3.5 overall.
So far this year, PhAT has hosted two events. In mid-October, history professor Steven Pincus spoke to around 30 students about his inspiration for becoming a historian in British studies. Last week, the society held an informational session about history at Yale and PhAT membership for interested students. Next Thursday, the chapter will host something a bit more lighthearted — a screening of the film “Indiana Jones.”
“Joining isn’t about adding another stressful extracurricular,” Miller said. “It’s about being a part of the Yale history community, going to fun events and [having] discussions with interesting students and professors.”
PhAT’s executive board said they hope to host one event per week in the coming semester. Beyond lectures and recreational activities, the society plans to host workshops to help students polish their resumes, write senior theses and learn about career paths suited to history majors. Eventually, members can also help organize specific talks or workshops of their own choosing, Miller said.
This spring, PhAT intends to hold a conference at which senior history majors would discuss how they reached for and wrote their senior theses and what they plan to do beyond Yale.
Students do not necessarily know how to approach senior theses, Janger said, adding that the conference would give them an opportunity to learn from those who have completed the process.
PhAT events are open to everyone, though some events with limited space, such as dinners with professors, will be reserved for members.
If members of the chapter decide to pay an annual fee, they will also be enrolled in the National History Honor Society, receive The Historian, a quarterly journal, and be eligible to enter national essay contests and apply for the society’s awards and scholarships.
Miller said once PhAT has a solid organizational structure, the group hopes to attract members from the graduate schools and from the Yale faculty.
Although the History Department has sent out several emails to history majors about the society, PhAT plans to extend its footprint to students of all majors who may have taken history courses by promoting the organization through Facebook, Twitter and other social media.
“We are hopeful that this revitalization will help to create a stronger community amongst history majors, facilitating academic collaboration and exchange as well as [building] camaraderie,” said PhAT communications director Samantha Fry ’15. “We also hope it will open up the resources and opportunities of historical study to students from all majors.”
Phi Alpha Theta was established in 1921 at the University of Arkansas.