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OU student group's national honor is one for the history books

Wednesday, September 28, 2011
OU student group's national honor is one for the history books
Oakland University's 2010-11 Phi Alpha Theta honor fraternity membership
Students in Oakland University's chapter of Phi Alpha Theta have long had success both in advocating the study of history and contributing meaningful work to the discipline's broad body of knowledge.

While individual accolades and group honors are nothing new for the chapter, its extraordinary success is now being recognized on a national level. The Phi Alpha Theta National History Honor Society has granted Oakland's ambitious group of aspiring historians its esteemed Best Chapter Award – a distinctive honor granted annually to just one of all the chapters at universities of Oakland's size.

"We in the department have felt for a long time that OU is very fortunate to have such an active and amazingly successful chapter," said Dr. Karen Miller, associate professor and chair of the Department of History.

"It really is wonderful to have someone outside the university echo that feeling – to say that this really is an exceptional chapter."

Although Phi Alpha Theta at OU is officially administered by faculty members, students hold the primary responsibility for organizing activities. These include organizing an annual workshop focusing on careers in history, inviting accomplished scholars to present work on campus, and actively encouraging both undergraduate and graduate participation in regional- and national-level competition.

The chapter also has planned and hosted two regional conferences in the past eight years, and the Michigan Regional Conference it hosted last year was the largest in recent history.

Needless to say, Oakland PAT members are enthusiastic about being involved.

"Not only does membership in Phi Alpha Theta look good on a résumé, membership provides the opportunity to meet and work with other high-achieving students," said Brandon Lee, a graduate student in history who served as the chapter's vice president last year.

He added that the national recognition he and others achieved is a welcome and wonderful affirmation of the work they had done.

"I was happy of course that we had won, but I was relieved that all of the hard work that Professor (Dan) Clark and the members of Phi Alpha Theta had put in was rightly rewarded," Lee said. "President Dylan Tanner and I set an ambitious agenda and, with the help of dozens of active members, we were able to follow through."

Dr. Clark, associate professor of history and Oakland's PAT advisor, said he couldn't be more proud of students in the chapter and the tremendous investment of time, energy and interest they put have forth over the years.

"I'm thrilled for our students and that their amazing efforts were recognized by the Phi Alpha Theta National Headquarters," he said.

"The Best Chapter Award is really the culmination of years of hard work by PAT officers and members at OU. Last year's group built on that solid foundation and outdid themselves, especially with hosting the regional conference."

Both Dr. Clark and Dr. Miller said they've seen many students benefit from involvement in the chapter, and that friendships, collaborative interaction and professional experiences are just a few examples of the benefits they receive.

"The chapter helps make the professional aspect of studying history come alive for the students," Dr. Miller said. "It helps them map the courses of their futures."

Dr. Clark added that specifically, chapter members have an opportunity to begin serious engagement with research, publish their work and present at conferences, learn about career opportunities with history degrees, interact with established faculty members and simply enjoy a sense of belonging with people of similar interests and passions.

Noting that Oakland students are anxious to take advantage of all these benefits, Dr. Clark said, "It's an honor to be associated with such talented students."

Lee and other chapter members are grateful for what he described as tremendous support from Dr. Clark, Dr. Miller, College of Arts and Sciences Dean Ron Sudol and Provost Virinder Moudgil.

Dr. Miller, however, stressed that it is the students who deserve the lion's share of credit for the chapter's success.

"We've been very lucky to be able to allow them to be student-centered in their activities and to basically run their own affairs," she said. "They just need to be unleashed and they'll take the opportunities to be ambitious, to be creative and to take some risks that really pay off in the end."

To learn more about outstanding history programs and activities at Oakland University, visit oakland.edu/history or call (248) 370-3510.