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Phi Alpha Theta

Phi Alpha Theta, the National History Honor Society, is a professional society whose mission is to promote the study of history through encouragement of research, good teaching, publication and the exchange of learning and ideas among historians. We seek to bring students, teachers and writers of history together for intellectual and social exchanges that promote and assist historical research and publication by our members. Phi Alpha Theta, established in 1921, is a charter member of the Association of College Honor Societies (ACHS). Phi Alpha Theta currently has chapters on 820 college and university campuses. Only Phi Beta Kappa has more stringent membership qualifications.

Illinois State University’s Mu Upsilon Chapter of Phi Alpha Theta was founded in 1967 under the direction of Professor Lucy Lucile Tasher. Mu Upsilon has been an active chapter hosting the Illinois Regional Conference four times in the last decade and has twice been awarded Best Chapter: Honorable Mention by the National Office of Phi Alpha Theta.



Mu Upsilon takes pride in providing its student members with the opportunity to present their research at professional conferences. Students may present:

  • At regional conferences in Illinois and other states
  • At Phi Alpha Theta’s national biennial meeting
  • On Phi Alpha Theta panels at the annual meetings of:
    • The American Historical Association
    • The Organization of American Historians
    • The Southern Historical Association
    • The Western History Association
    • The Missouri Valley Historical Conference
    • The Ohio Valley Historical Conference
    • The Society for Military History Annual Meeting
    • The Ohio Valley Historical Conference
    • The Great Planes Historical Conference
    • And more!

Students select a paper written for one of their courses and edit the paper to a length of 10-12 pages typed and double-spaced in order to present their research in 20 minutes (students presenting at regional conferences who want to enter their papers for consideration for awards must submit a copy of the original paper in advance). Presenters are also able to discuss their research in a question and answer period.

Students report that the opportunity to present their research at a professional historical conference is one of their most memorable college experiences. An important part of this experience is the preparation that History faculty and students provide to presenters in chapter meetings in the months before a conference. Students present their papers to supportive faculty and fellow members so that problems can be identified and suggestions made to ease the experience of public speaking. Mu Upsilon members attend conferences well prepared.

Other Activities

Other Phi Alpha Theta activities in recent years include:

  • Movie nights
  • Faculty/Student Quiz Bowls
  • Trips to museums, the Newberry Library, regional Historical Societies, sporting events, and historical sites
  • Brown bag faculty/student research presentations
  • Picnics
  • Bowling
  • Softball
  • Volleyball
  • Book sales to raise funds

Mu Upsilon sponsors ISU Veterans’ Day Ceremony and professional history conferences held on campus in which our members participate.

Qualifications for Membership

Undergraduate students:

  • Complete at least 12 semester hours in History (4 courses)
  • A GPA of at least 3.1 in History
  • An overall GPA of 3.0 or better overall
  • Membership is not limited to History majors

Graduate students at ISU whose undergraduate record does not meet the conditions for membership must complete a minimum of 12 graduate semester hours towards their Master's Degree with at least a 3.5 GPA.

Students may become members of the Mu Upsilon chapter of Phi Alpha Theta once each semester during the chapter's membership drive. New members must be inducted through a local Phi Alpha Theta chapter at their respective college or university. Individual memberships sent directly to the National Office are not acceptable and will be returned. New members receive their Certificates of Membership and their Cords to wear at graduation during their induction ceremony. Traditionally, the Phi Alpha Theta Induction Ceremony is part of the History Department's Fall and Spring Awards Ceremonies, since many of our members win History awards, as well. A one-time initiation fee of $70.00 per student is payable at the time of application. Thereafter, there are no annual dues or fees. The initiation fee includes a membership certificate, a graduation cord, and four issues of the Phi Alpha Theta Journal, The Historian.

Membership in Phi Alpha theta is a lifelong one. Members who wish to continue supporting the honor society may do so by subscribing annually to The Historian and/or to the newsletter. These costs and information regarding the organization may be found on the Phi Alpha Theta website.