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Twenty-four College juniors were informed Monday afternoon of their selection for the Alpha Iota chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest academic honor society.
Students are elected to the Alpha Iota chapter of Phi Beta Kappa three times a year — 24 juniors in the spring, 48 seniors in the fall, and roughly 96 additional seniors close to Commencement. Ultimately, the coterie of students elected to Phi Beta Kappa is composed of less than ten percent of the graduating class.
To gain entrance to Phi Beta Kappa, students must possess “outstanding scholarly achievement” combined with “depth of study and breadth of intellectual interest,” according to the College’s chapter website.
This year’s applicant pool consisted of 96 juniors who either had all A’s or all A’s and one A-, according to Phi Beta Kappa chapter secretary Logan S. McCarty ’96.
“We are looking for students who choose to take interesting, challenging courses and who excel in those courses,” McCarty wrote in an email Monday. “It is really hard to make these decisions. Every student in this group is outstanding.”
Social Studies concentrator Jessica A. Boutchie ’21 said she was “really excited” to be elected to Phi Beta Kappa and views this honor as a greater reflection of her academic experience.
“Phi Beta Kappa is a huge academic honor, and I am so thankful for it, but it’s also not everything,” Boutchie said. “I think it’s a reflection of how fortunate we’ve been throughout our academic careers. It’s about all the cool classes you’ve taken and the amazing people you’ve gotten to learn from.”
Hannah J. Ellery ’21, an Applied Mathematics concentrator, said her Phi Beta Kappa aspirations first began April 8 when she received the invitation to apply for the organization.
“I didn’t know much about the organization, but my mom had heard of it and said I should definitely go for it, so I did,” Ellery said.
Ellery added that her professors throughout the years have been “fantastic” with helping her hone her academic potential.
“Professor Jim Waldo, who wrote my letter of recommendation, has been fantastic. I met him my freshman year during my freshman seminar,” Ellery explained. “He has become someone I go to chat about life with, which is great.”
Evelyn Wong ’21, a Neuroscience concentrator from the West Coast, said she felt “extreme shock and an immense feeling of gratitude” when she woke up Monday morning to a congratulatory email from Phi Beta Kappa.
“I never expected to be in this pool of people because conversations like this don’t usually revolve around first-generation, low-income students,” Wong said. “It was so unexpected.”
Wong added that she did not think she was eligible for academic honors like Phi Beta Kappa, since she did not discover these programs until the end of her sophomore year.
“There are many people that can come into Harvard and know what a path is and know what PBK is,” Wong said. “Then there’s first-generation, low-income students who don’t always know what’s going on. Before junior year, I didn’t even think I would be able to get something like this.”
Though Wong said she recognizes Phi Beta Kappa as a “huge academic achievement,” she said the feat is also a credit to those who helped her throughout the years.
“When I got the letter, it felt as if it should have been a personal academic achievement, but I’m really lucky to have had all the mentors I’ve had throughout my undergraduate experience,” Wong said. “It definitely does not feel like a personal achievement because there are so many people that supported my academic career.”
A complete list of the members of the Class of 2021 elected to the “Junior 24” is below:
Shivani R. Aggarwal ’21, Integrative Biology, Winthrop
Jessica A. Boutchie ’21, Social Studies, Mather
Jennifer Chen ’21, Economics, Lowell
Natalie V. Dabkowski ’21, Government, Winthrop
Rachel L. T. Damle ’21, Social Studies, Adams
Hannah J. Ellery ’21, Applied Mathematics, Kirkland
*Sonia F. Epstein ’21, History & Literature, Eliot
Lily Gao ’21, Human Evolutionary Biology, Leverett
Ciara B. Hervás ’21, History & Literature, Kirkland
William W. Ho ’21, Chemical and Physical Biology, Pforzheimer
Edward S. Kim ’21, Chemical and Physical Biology, Dunster
Jonas K. Lapier ’21, Engineering Sciences (SB), Cabot
Cayla S. Lee ’21, Social Studies, Pforzheimer
Lucy Li ’21, Applied Mathematics, Adams
Richard Lin ’21, Comparative Study of Religion, Adams
Joshua Moriarty ’21, Comparative Study of Religion, Pforzheimer
Barbara A. Oedayrajsingh Varma ’21, Psychology, Eliot
Elliot C. Parlin ’21, Mathematics, Kirkland
Claire Y. Shi ’21, Applied Mathematics, Winthrop
Asher M. Spector ’21, Statistics, Leverett
Alec Sun ’21, Mathematics, Winthrop
Pranay B. Tankala ’21, Computer Science, Winthrop
Evelyn Wong ’21, Neuroscience, Quincy
Annie Zhao ’21, Economics, Currier
*Denotes a current Crimson editor
—Staff writer Sydnie M. Cobb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @cobbsydnie.
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