University Of Houston Hopes To Bring Phi Beta Kappa To Campus, Add Academic Prestige

Phi Beta Kappa Key [Wikipedia image]
Three years ago, the University of Houston joined the ranks of the top research institutions in the country. That's when the Carnegie Foundation moved UH to its highest category for research. But President Renu Khator is still on a quest for UH to become a full-fledged Tier One institution.

There’s a little gold key that stands for excellence in higher education.

It’s the symbol for Phi Beta Kappa. It’s the oldest American honors society dating back to 1776.

Here in Texas, 11 universities have Phi Beta Kappa chapters.

The University of Houston wants to start the 12th.

President Renu Khator explained the goal last fall.

“Nothing reflects our commitment to excellence better than the news that we, the University of Houston is one of five finalists to host a new Phi Beta Kappa chapter.”

It’s not clear who the other finalists are. A spokeswoman with Phi Beta Kappa says the society doesn’t comment on the schools it’s considering.

However, this week a team of Phi Beta Kappa members did visit the UH campus. They’ll decide if the university is ready for a chapter of its own.

In an email to staff this week, Khator says those judges will evaluate UH on its academic programs, student engagement and residential life among other factors.

“We seem to be in the strongest position that we’ve ever been so let’s keep the finger crossed.”

UH faculty members are the ones who’ve applied to bring a Phi Beta Kappa chapter to Houston.

According to the society’s rules, a chapter can’t be granted to an institution. Instead it’s given to existing society members.

Khator says the selection process for a new chapter is expected to finish next year.

Bio photo of Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for KUHF, including K-12 and higher education.

Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and regularly contributed to WLRN, the local NPR affiliate and Miami Herald news partner...