Education and Employment among Alumni Academic Honor Society Leaders

By Ferrari, Joseph R.; Athey, Robert B. et al. | Education, Winter 2006 | Go to article overview

Education and Employment among Alumni Academic Honor Society Leaders


Ferrari, Joseph R., Athey, Robert B., Moriarty, Meghan O., Appleby, Drew C., Education


Astin (1984, 1999) claimed that involvement in student organizations may allow members opportunities in developing organizational and leadership skills, close relationships with faculty who engage in scholarly research, and opportunities for becoming acquainted with others who are successful in their respective fields. Student membership in school-based extracurricular activities may also enrich the institutional climate of the school that sponsors them (Astin). Participation and involvement in extracurricular activities has resulted in higher grades for students, boosts retention and satisfaction, more positive attitudes toward school, and higher academic aspirations (Darling, Caldwell, Smith, 2005; Huss, Randall, Patty, Davis, & Hansen, 2002). Membership in such academic societies is perceived as a source of status by students because members meet admission standards not achieved by all students (Abrahamowicz, 1988; Athey, 2005). By associating with other highly successful and involved students, honor society members have an outlet for forming networking relationships that may be useful for further education or career development opportunities (Heitner & Denmark, 2000).

A review of the literature on student honor societies revealed that previous research essentially focused on personality characteristics and membership perceptions (Baker, Beer, & Beer, 1991). Broderick, Fellows, and Fallahi (2004) reported that when 20 current members from two local chapters of a national honor society were surveyed anonymously, respondents (mostly Caucasian women majoring in a behavioral science reporting a cumulative G.P.A. of 3.5 out of 4.0) felt that membership was personally beneficial to their academic success, even though most participants (75%) were not actively engaged in any discipline-related employment. Magrath and Sleigh (2003) surveyed a total of 64 honor society members and non-members from their moderate size, suburban university and found that both groups perceived being associated with the honor society would be positive, and actual members were satisfied with participating in the society. Fellow, Broderick, and Fallahi (2004) surveyed 16 alumni honor society members from their institution. Respondents indicated that they perceived membership as beneficial to achieving their post-graduation goals, such as obtaining entry-level employment.

No published research examined large samples of alumni who either were or were not officers (i.e., leaders) in their local academic honor society on membership perceptions related to post-baccalaureate education and employment. The present project included two survey studies of alumni scholastic honor society members, and there were no a priori expectations in these initial, exploratory studies. We suspected that alumni leaders (i.e., former officers) might report some advantages from having a leadership role compared to non-leader, regular members. Documenting these advantages may provide student affairs personnel with supported rationales useful in leadership recruitment and development for honor societies.

Study 1

Although previous research on academic honor societies examined characteristics of members and membership (Baker et al., 1991; Magrath & Sleigh, 2003), no published research explored post-baccalaureate experiences. Study 1 offered initial assessments of honor society leaders by comparing survey responses of men and women alumni from a scholastic organization at a small, urban, private, liberal-arts college enrolling approximately 2,800 undergraduate students from and around New York City. In 1935 this academic honor society was founded and named after a prominent scholar. The rate of women admitted did not increase substantially until the 1970s.

The society investigated in Study 1 champions the ideals of service, scholarship, and individual character, and is the highest academic honor awarded students at that particular college. …

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