Phi Eta Sigma is Mercer’s only national honor society open to freshmen, but members gain more than just academic recognition.
“Phi Eta Sigma seeks to promote and acknowledge a higher standard of learning in freshmen,” said PES president Katie Bailey. “But it also provides community service projects, opportunities for scholarship and opportunities for leadership.”
Phi Eta Sigma is the oldest scholarship honor society for first-year students. It was established at the University of Illinois in 1925. Mercer’s chapter was founded in 1932 and is the 32nd national chapter.
Each spring, Mercer freshmen with a 3.5 grade point average or higher are offered a chance to be inducted into PES.
Membership is an honor conferred on those who, at the beginning of their college careers, give promise of continued excellence in scholarship.
“Being a member is a way of saying, ‘I have had a good first year.’ It is a way of validating and recognizing academic excellence and it is exciting to see freshmen who have come out with a 3.5,” said PES faculty adviser Tony Kemp.
Students can only be inducted based on their freshmen-year academic performance. However, this one-time chance for induction does not limit the number of students who are eligible for membership in the society.
“We look at between 250 to 300 students who will be in the club on campus at any given time,” Kemp said.
With numbers like that PES could be one of the largest clubs on campus, but not all members are active members.
“Some students just induct to be able to be able to put it on a resume and that’s it. But we understand if you can’t do it. We’re still glad to have you,” Kemp said.
Other members induct not only for the chance to put the society on a resume, but to be an active member of the group.
“We are having anywhere from 30 to 50 people come to the meetings every month, but even still there might only be 15 to 20 active members per year,” said Bailey. “That’s because you do not just have to come to the 20-minute meetings; you need to do more than that to have enough points to be an active member.”
While outside opportunities are needed for students to rack up enough points to stay active, finding enough opportunities has been a challenge in recent years.
“As president, I am trying to get more opportunities because as a member, I felt like there were not enough offered and it was frustrating when you want to be active, but cannot because there are not enough chances for points,” Bailey added.
During the 2010-2011 school year, PES has tutored at local schools as well as providing help during the SHAPE Carnival and Harvest Fest. The society has also helped the community by providing volunteers for Mercer Habitat.
But community service is not all that PES offers students. PES members are also eligible for scholarships of up to $10,000 from the national Phi Eta Sigma Founders Fund.