Phi Kappa Phi: A Chapter of Merit

Ron Shaklee. Photo courtesy of Phi Kappa Phi.

By Alyssa Pawluk

Ron Shaklee. Photo courtesy of Phi Kappa Phi.
Ron Shaklee. Photo courtesy of Phi Kappa Phi.

In August 2014, the Youngstown State University Chapter of Phi Kappa Phi, a worldwide academic honor society, received a Chapter of Merit award — an honor that only 24 chapters throughout the nation receive each year.

The YSU Chapter of Phi Kappa Phi was formed by the National Phi Kappa Phi Society in 1972, making it the 143rd Phi Kappa Phi chapter in the world.

Ron Shaklee, current president of the YSU Chapter of Phi Kappa Phi and director of the Scholars and Honors Program at YSU, said that to be qualified for the award, each group has to conduct a specific number of meetings per year, induct students at the university as well as “prominent members of the community” and members must achieve academic excellence and provide service to their community.

Shaklee said that for the last several years, the society has consistently won either the Chapter of Merit or Chapter of Excellence award.

“We completed the benchmarks for Chapter of Merit so that put us in. It’s not everybody that qualifies. It’s the idea that they are trying to generate more on-campus identities for the chapter, and a few kinds of things that mean you are a presence or force to be reckoned with on campus,” Shaklee said. “We’ve done this quite a few years in a row in terms of what we’ve been able to win. It’s a challenge sometimes, but we’ve been able to do it. We are proud of our record.”

Christine Cobb, former president of Phi Kappa Phi, expressed her satisfaction with the Chapter of Merit award.

“We are honored and happy to be recognized by National as a Merit Award chapter. It is a testament to the Chapter 143 Board, which exemplify excellence and work so hard at promoting Phi Kappa Phi’s ideals and recognize the excellent work of our YSU faculty, staff and students, as well as local community leaders,” Cobb said.

Kristi Yazvac and Dianne Pitcairn, two student vice presidents of the society during the award year, both explained what distinguished the 143 Chapter from the other worldwide chapters.

“We get really involved. We try to volunteer as much as we can. We do a book drive every year. We are very selective in the process of choosing members. It’s the top 7.5 percent of juniors and 10 percent of seniors, masters and doctoral students that get invited each spring. Those who join really do value education as much as they can, and that is one of the best reasons that we are one of the best chapters out there,” Yazvac said. “I feel very accomplished receiving this award. It makes me feel like YSU is doing the absolute best, not even just for this community, but also for the entire nation. We are one of the best chapters out there, and it looks great for our campus.”

Pitcairn — who has helped the society with inductions, grading essays for scholarships and has served as a secretary for the meetings when necessary — agreed, adding that the chapter particularly focuses in on bolstering student achievement.

“Recognizing student academic achievement is Phi Kappa Phi’s purpose, and that truly is our focus. What separates YSU’s chapter from the others is the level of dedication and cooperation of our executive board members,” Pitcairn said. “What great role models the executive board members have been to me as well as all the other students they interact with on campus.”

Pitcairn encouraged students at the university to get involved with Phi Kappa Phi.

“If you are among the top percentage of students who are honored with receiving an invitation to membership this February, I strongly encourage you to accept this honor and be formally recognized for your academic achievements. Our spring banquet is an enjoyable time to celebrate your hard work and accomplishments,” Pitcairn said. “Don’t let this opportunity slip through the cracks. This invitation is truly a special honor. Bring your family and attend our annual induction ceremony and dinner. This is a beautiful event, and I can assure you it will be an experience you and your parents will never forget.”

Yazvac said that currently the society is sponsoring a book drive event that allows anyone to donate used or new books on campus.