“Each year another group of amazing HSS students is inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious liberal arts honor society. These are our most talented students and we are very proud of what they’ve accomplished here at TCNJ,” said Dean Rifkin in light of the recent Phi Beta Kappa induction.
Dr. Elizabeth Borland, current VP of TCNJ’s PBK chapter had similarly encouraging praise to contribute, as well. Here we get to here from Dr. Borland, who was even a PBK key holder when she was studying.
Question: For how long have you been in involved in the PBK chapter at TCNJ? How did you get started?
Dr. Borland: I was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa by the society’s chapter at Smith College, my alma mater. When I came to TCNJ in 2004, PBK “keyholders” (members) were in the process of applying to the national office to get a chapter for TCNJ. This is a long and arduous process, because PBK is very selective about the types of institutions which can house chapters and induct new members. TCNJ had to prove that it was an institution that valued the liberal arts and could sustain a chapter. I lent my support to these efforts, which were well underway at that time. In 2006, PBK voted to grant TCNJ a chapter and it was formally recognized in 2007, when we inducted our first class.
As part of the creation of the chapter, TCNJ keyholders approved by-laws and I was elected Treasurer. A few years ago, I was voted Vice President. I am honored to help lead the chapter and to continue to work with other PBK keholders on campus to select and recognize a fine group of student inductees each year, and to organize events and activities that share PBK’s values–a love of learning and a passion for the liberal arts, freedom of inquiry, and liberty of thought and expression–with everyone at TCNJ.
Question: What stands out to you about this particular group of students?
Dr. Borland: The students inducted in 2014 are a large group (84, both juniors and seniors) and represent the finest liberal arts students at TCNJ.
They distinguish themselves not only by their stellar academic records, but by the fact that they have gone above and beyond TCNJ’s rigorous requirements. They do things like double major, develop self-designed major programs, study abroad (sometimes, in multiple occasions in different countries), pursue extensive language study (sometimes in multiple languages), and work on research independently and/or with faculty members. They juggle these things because they are curious about the world, and they want to learn–not because these things are easy and not just because they look good. They do not shy away from studying something they are curious about, even if they know it is a difficult subject…
We really wanted each of them to become part of the chapter, and I am pleased to say that 100% accepted the nomination.
Question: Last but most certainly not least, what does PBK mean to you?
Dr. Borland: To me, being in PBK means being part of a long and illustrious tradition of people in the United States who embrace learning for learning’s sake. It means supporting the liberal arts and protecting freedom of thought and inquiry, sometimes against forces and people who demand we only learn about practical or professional pursuits because they undervalue breadth of knowledge and curiosity about the world.
Being in PBK means being a lifelong learner, someone who values the arts and humanities alongside the social and natural sciences, and someone who recognizes that appreciating knowledge from all fields can help us progress as individuals, and advance as a society.