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History in the making

October 8, 2010

Annie Hunter,  News Editor

Everyone is looking for the little edge that will get them the job or into that prestigious graduate school. One way Young Harris College is providing students with that extra edge is through Phi Alpha Theta, an honor society geared towards students with an interest in history.

While the group targets students with an interest in history, Phi Alpha Theta is open to all students, not just history majors and minors.  It’s a free-form organization that gives its members the opportunity to decide how their society will be conducted and what sort of activities they will get involved in.

Attending conferences is one of the society’s most beneficial ventures.  Members write a paper on anything they think is historically significant and then present their paper in front of an audience at the conference.  The paper could be on Pearl Harbor, the Crusades or on some obscure, distant relative who did something that could be seen as important to history.

College professors take part in the same sort of conferences.  Dr. Matthew Byron, associate professor of history and Phi Alpha Theta advisor, said that conferences are not only fun and educational, but also help students gain the skills they will need to go on to further education, like law school or graduate school.

“On most times that I went on interviews for jobs, one of the big things they looked at was did I go to conferences,” Byron said. “Because, not only are you helping yourself, but you’re bringing a reputation to the school.”

The conferences, which vary in size, attract attention from some of the top historians, who give students feedback on their papers in a friendly environment.

Byron plans for Phi Alpha Theta to attend a conference held at Mercer University in March and possibly the 2012 national conference to be held in Orlando, Fla.

In order to secure a charter for the YHC chapter, Phi Alpha Theta must meet three requirements:  a show of student interest, support from at least two faculty members with Ph.D.s and the college must have at least 1,000 students.  While the Young Harris chapter has met the first two, the third requirement could present a challenge since YHC has only 822 students currently enrolled.

Dr. Byron has been working with Phi Alpha Theta’s director to possibly slip YHC’s chapter in early, if the organization can gain enough interest.  Currently, about 24 students have signed up, but Dr. Byron would like to have at least 20-30 more students.

In order to become a member of the society, students must have a minimum of 12 credit hours in history, a minimum 3.0 overall GPA, a minimum 3.1 GPA in history courses and must be in the top 35 percentile of their class.  After becoming a member, students will pay a one-time fee of $40, which includes a lifetime membership to Phi Alpha Theta and a year’s subscription to The Historian journal, a publication featuring students’ historical papers and findings.

While the organization requires that each member have completed four history courses, students who have not met this requirement, such as freshmen, are still encouraged to contact Dr. Byron.

Anyone who is interested in Phi Alpha Theta should contact Dr. Matthew Byron,  mbyron@yhc.edu.

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