Phi Alpha Theta is an international honor society in history which encourages the study of history through research, good teaching, and the exchange of ideas among historians. Members are students and professors elected to the society upon the basis of excellence in the study or writing of history. Consideration is normally given to those students who have taken a minimum of fifteen hours of history with a 3.1 average or better and an overall GPA of 3.0 or better.
Phi Alpha Theta National website

Membership Criteria

Membership in Phi Alpha Theta at Hampden-Sydney follows national requirements. 

• Members must complete a minimum of 12 semester hours in history courses at Hampden-Sydney College. 
• Members must have a minimum GPA of 3.1 in history and 3.0 or better overall. • Members must be in the top 35% of their class. 

Members do not need to be history majors, however. 

Generally, students will be invited to apply during the spring semester. Membership dues are $40 to meet the national fees; there are no chapter fees. 

Notably, members of Phi Alpha Theta are generally recognized by the federal government as having demonstrated academic merit, and thus may qualify for starting positions at GS-7 rather than GS-5 (educational background of a bachelor's degree).

Resident Members

Faculty at Hampden Sydney who are members of Phi Alpha Theta include Robert Blackman (History), John Coombs (History), Eric Dinmore (History), Caroline Emmons (History), James Frusetta (History), Marc Hight (Philosophy), as well as professors emeriti, James Arieti, Keith Fitch, Ken Lehman, and James Simms. 

Profs. Emmons and Blackman have moreover served as past Phi Alpha Theta chapter advisors.  Profs. Keith Fitch, Ronald Heinemann, and Jim Simms not only served as chapter advisors, but were founding members of the Psi-Rho chapter at Hampden-Sydney College in 1973. 

Credential Forms

Students wishing to apply for Phi Alpha Theta will generaly be contacted directly in the spring during membership drives. 

Application forms are available from the national chapter. Members (both current undergraduates and alumni) wishing to ceritfy their membership should contact the national organization directly. However, for certification you are welcome to contact the Psi-Rho chapter advisor as well. 


Although the Psi-Rho chapter does not currently award prizes, undergraduate Phi Alpha Theta members of Psi-Rho are eligible for the prizes of the national organization. Phi Alpha Theta awards three prizes annually for outstanding papers written by undergraduate members of the honor society:

  • The Lynn W. Turner Prize of $500 for the best paper by an undergraduate student member of Phi Alpha Theta.
  • The Nels Andrew Cleven Founder's Paper Prize: two undergraduate awards of $350 each for superior papers submitted by student members of Phi Alpha Theta.

Applications are due in June; contact Prof. Frusetta if you are interested in applying.

Exceptional student members entering the Fall Semester of their Senior Year and majoring in Modern European History 1815 to Present are eligible to apply for the annual Graydon A. Tunstall Undergraduate Student Scholarship, of $1,000. Applications are due March 1 of the junior year; contact Prof. Frusetta if you are interested in applying.

Phi Alpha Theta and the World History Association co-sponsor an annual undergraduate student paper prize in world history of $400 for the best undergraduate world history paper composed in the previous academic year. Applications are due in June; contact Prof. Frusetta if you are interested in applying.

Phi Alpha Theta and the Western Front Association award an annual prize of $1,000 for an essay written by an undergraduate student at an American college or university. Honorable Mention certificates will be given to runners-up. The essay must address the American experience in World War I and contribute to a better understanding of the impact of that global conflict on the United States and its people. Applications are due in December; contact Prof. Frusetta if you are interested in applying.