Published July 19, 2016
Students of French at UB now can receive a high academic honor awarded to French students with the founding of a campus chapter of Pi Delta Phi, the national French honor society.
Nine students were recognized for their exceptional achievements by being inducted into UB’s Pi Beta chapter of Pi Delta Phi at a ceremony on May 11 following the formal installation of the chapter at the university.
Induction into Pi Delta Phi is the highest academic honor for French students, according to the society’s website. The oldest academic honor society for modern language in the United States, Pi Delta Phi was founded as a departmental honor society at the University of California, Berkeley in 1906.
Fernanda Negrete, UB assistant professor of French, spearheaded the effort to establish a chapter of Pi Delta Phi at UB, contacting the honor society’s national president to request a chapter be established at the university.
“I reached out to Pi Delta Phi to start a chapter when I realized we didn’t have one, despite the fact that we have some truly outstanding students of French who deserve recognition,” says Negrete, who serves as the Pi Beta chapter moderator. “It seemed to me that we had excellent students, instructors and French programs, and that any department with this ideal setup should also offer this specific recognition of quality.”
Universities must maintain a four-year French program to qualify for a chapter, but students are not required to be French majors or minors to be nominated.
The inaugural Pi Beta inductees are Elham Dehghanipour, Kelsey Pilewski, Brian Page, Madison Featherstone, Rylee James, Anna Kozlowski, Tina Liu, Jenna Reiner and Kara Walsh.
Pilewski, a recent UB graduate, found her passion for French language and culture in middle school; she took French as her minor while majoring in biochemistry.
“Pi Delta Phi is a prestigious society, and it’s an honor to be a part of it,” she says. “It represents students of the highest level of French language mastery and immersion.”
To be nominated, undergraduate students must complete at least one advanced French course, maintain a 3.25 GPA cumulatively and in French, and maintain sophomore standing or higher.
Dehghanipour, a first-year PhD student studying French literature, hopes to one day teach at the university level. She says she accepted her nomination to show appreciation for French language and culture in her own way.
“As a student in French literature, by becoming a member of Pi Delta Phi I show respect for and interest in French culture,” she says. “It means that I am a member of French-speaking society.”
Graduate students like Dehghanipour must complete two graduate French courses and maintain a 3.5 GPA to be considered for membership.
Upon induction into the honor society, students receive a certificate, pin and graduation cords.
Pi Delta Phi also offers three scholarships that cover the cost of six- or seven-week summer study abroad programs in Paris, Aix en Provence or Chicoutimi, Quebec.
The scholarship program provides the opportunity for undergraduate members to travel to a French-speaking country and take a class for credit. Negrete feels scholarships and membership in Pi Delta Phi complement UB’s language curriculum, which prepares students to have a global impact in a culturally and economically interdependent world.
“Not only is learning a foreign language a true gateway to reaching out to others and understanding them; when you can think about things in more than one language and cultural context, you realize you have more than one way of seeing things, so it’s a wonderful resource for genuine freedom of thought and creativity,” she says.