International honors society Phi Beta Delta returns to University of Iowa

Yashwant Vyas, assistant director at Diversity Resources in the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, led the charge for the revival of international honors society Phi Beta Delta with the Alpha Tau Chapter at UI after the society’s previous long absence.


Jenna Galligan

The Old Capitol is seen on Thursday, March 12, 2020. (Jenna Galligan/The Daily Iowan)

Ailis McCardle, News Reporter

No one knows how long it has been since a chapter of Phi Beta Delta Honors Society for International Scholars was active at the University of Iowa, but the organization returned to the UI campus with its revival of the Alpha Tau Chapter.

The Phi Beta Delta Honors Society for International Scholars was founded at California State University at Long Beach in 1986 and chartered in 1987 with 38 founding chapters.

It is the first national honor society dedicated to recognizing scholarly achievement in international education, and is unique in its multinational, interdisciplinary approach, according to the honor society’s website.

Senior Advisor and Program Coordinator with the International Programs department Kristine Djerf, the Alpha Tau Chapter’s marketing chair, wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan that Assistant Director at Diversity Resources in the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Yashwant Prakash Vyas, “spearheaded the charge and is responsible for bringing Phi Beta Delta back to the UI campus.”

Vyas wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan that he spent a considerable amount of time bringing about the revival of the Alpha Tau Chapter of Phi Beta Delta and works as the chapter’s president and coordinator.

Vyas wrote that the process included conducting an interest assessment, writing a proposal to reactivate the chapter, and forming the chapter leadership board.

The board includes Jodi M. Graff, the Administrative Director at the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies at the UI Carver College of Medicine as vice president, among others.

The proposal was initially given to the Office of the Provost, Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and was shared later on with Russell Ganim in UI International Programs, according to Vyas.

The proposal was funded as a partnership between the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and International Programs, and once the proposal passed, the Alpha Tau Chapter of Phi Beta Delta began receiving its funding from both the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and International Programs.

Vyas was also responsible for drafting the chapter’s bylaws and petitioning the society to reactivate the Alpha Tau Chapter. The first membership drive occurred in spring 2020, but the initiation ceremony was postponed due to COVID-19.

The Alpha Tau Chapter has initiated 96 student members since reactivating the chapter in the spring. Some student members graduated in May, August, and December 2020.

“We held our second membership drive in Fall 2020 and had a successful virtual initiation ceremony,” Vyas wrote.

International student Paula Valina Ramos, a member of the Alpha Tau chapter, graduated with her bachelor’s in Biochemistry in May 2020.

Hailing from Ourense, Spain, Ramos said she joined Phi Beta Delta because it was a good resource to connect with the international community here at UI as well as at other campuses, and she liked the level of engagement at Phi Beta Delta.

“Despite all the COVID restrictions, the UIowa Alpha Tau Chapter has made sure to communicate with new members and offer opportunities to stay involved, such as participating in their annual conference last summer,” she said.

Djerf wrote that there is great diversity among Alpha Tau members, with members from such countries as China, Australia, South Korea, the U.K., Spain, Brazil, Bangladesh, and Jordan and across various departments including, but not limited to, accounting, music, engineering, dentistry, finance, law and psychology.

Vyas also stressed the importance of diversity across countries and professions within the Alpha Tau Chapter.

“The diversity of nationalities among our UI community is well reflected in our membership,” Vyas wrote. “Our members are faculty, staff, visiting scholars, undergraduate students, and graduate and professional students. Our members come from several academic disciplines as well as education levels. To highlight a few nationalities or disciplines would undermine the richness of diversity of our membership.”

Both Vyas and Djerf shared their excitement about this new opportunity for staff and students.

“The recognition of students, staff, and faculty in the realm of international educational exchange is exciting, along with establishing a network of people who work in this field,” Djerf wrote.

The Alpha Tau Chapter of Phi Beta Delta is planning an upcoming affinity graduation for international students and will hold a Global Education Lecture Series to “highlight and discuss issues facing international educational interchange,” according to Vyas.

“It is an opportunity to be a community, exchange ideas, and engage in shared scholarship and knowledge creation,” Vyas wrote. “The goal for the Alpha Tau Chapter here at UI is to provide meaningful recognition for faculty, staff, and students involved in international educational interchange and to provide a platform for individuals to address issues facing global education as well as to build community.”