Phi Beta Kappa inducts 20 seniors early

by Kelly Cameron | 11/13/00 6:00am

Last week, 20 seniors were inducted as early members of the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa honor society.

This year's inductees are -- Anura Abeyesinghe, Noaman Ahmad, Tikhon Bernstam, Tara Dairman, Michael Gallagher, Malu Govindan, Andrew Gray, Miriam Ingber, Karthik Kalyanaraman, Thomas Levi, Gaurav Mavinkurve, Ayorkor Mills-Tettey, Cynthia Oberto, Pranab Pradhan, Allison Robbins, Erin Roeder, Alka Singal, Laura Stuart, Hilla Talati, Katherine Wade and Terrence Wong.

Although most members of Phi Beta Kappa are inducted late into their senior year, early induction is offered to the top 20 students of the senior class.

While this year's inductees come from a variety of backgrounds, they all share a motivation for academic excellence.

Mills-Tettey, originally from Ghana, looks favorably at the years that she has spent at the College.

The distance that Mills-Tettey has traveled to receive an education has motivated her to work hard, she said. Yet, despite the College's challenging academic nature, Mills-Tettey -- a member of both AfriCaSo and the Gumboot dance groups -- feels that "one of the great things about Dartmouth is that you have the opportunity to have a balance."

For Roeder, of Bloomfield, Michigan, membership into Phi Beta Kappa, though a great honor, did not serve as the primary factor motivating her to excel in her classes.

"Doing well in school was a goal since freshman year, but I wasn't specifically working towards this," she said.

She, like Mills-Tettey, sees importance in participating in different kinds of activities -- in addition to concentrating on academics -- and is happy to be "able to get to this point [of] maintaining a balance."

For some new members achieving this balance was not as much of a priority. Such a strong emphasis on academics does not always leave room for a variety of extracurriculars, according to Pradhan.

Pradhan, originally from Kathmandu, Nepal, admits that he concentrated little on non-academic activities and "spent a lot of time focused on studying [during] my first two years at Dartmouth." Over the past few terms, however, his focus has started to change to exploring different career opportunities, he said.

Even though Pradhan worked hard throughout his Dartmouth career, "it is motivating to learn that you are one of the top few amongst a highly competitive and talented class at an institution such as Dartmouth," he said.

Abeyesinghe, coming to Dartmouth from Colombo, Sri Lanka, knows the importance of academics to his life. For him, studying is an ongoing process, he said.

"If I'm studying physics or math and I come across a challenging problem or a hard-to-grasp concept I might spend hours or days at it," he explained.

For Abeyesinghe, academics are his life. "As an aspiring theoretical physicist I live and breathe physics and math. It's who I am, it's what I do," he said.

During the Spring term, Phi Beta Kappa will induct additional members that meet the eligibility requirements.

Seniors eligible for regular admission are those with cumulative grade point averages within the top 10 percent the GPAs of the three preceding classes.

This year, this figure stands at 3.75.

The Phi Beta Kappa Society was originally founded at the College of William and Mary in 1776 as a society to honor student's outstanding scholarship. The Dartmouth chapter of Phi Beta Kappa is one of 250 across the nation and is the fourth oldest chapter in the country, having been founded in 1787.

Some current members of the Phi Beta Kappa Society include President Bill Clinton as well as former president George Bush. Other famous members include authors Michael Crichton and John Updike, American Red Cross President Elizabeth Dole and film director Francis Ford Coppola.

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