For nearly 100 years, the Phi Sigma Iota Honor Society has recognized and celebrated eligible collegiate students studying foreign languages.
Founded at Allegheny College in 1922, Phi Sigma Iota has since become an international organization recognized by the Association of College Honor Societies, and a certificate hangs on the first floor of Ruter Hall commemorating the society’s founding at Allegheny.
The Alpha Chapter of Phi Sigma Iota is currently curating Gator International, the annual collection of written and visual artistic works submitted by students in foreign languages.
“There’s such a plethora and diversity of language and culture on campus, and Gator International is a way to collect all of those pieces and also to let students of language showcase talents,” Josh Patton, ’18, president of the Allegheny chapter of Phi Sigma Iota, said. “It’s a way for people of different backgrounds all around campus to express their creativity in one place.”
Gator International has previously been organized by the Department of Modern and Classical Languages but has been adopted by Phi Sigma Iota for 2018, according to Vice President of Phi Sigma Iota Elsie Campbell Hendricks, ’18.
Patton said Gator International is a foreign language publication as opposed to a non-English one because for many international students, English is a non-native language, and non-native speakers may submit works in English.
Submissions vary and often include essays, poems, short stories, drawings, photographs submitted by sign language students or by students studying abroad, film reviews and comics, Patton said.
Phi Sigma Iota members categorize submissions by language and medium to build an issue, Campbell Hendricks said.
The Society has recruited one of its members, Lucas Proper, ’18, to design the issue and will approve the layout before publishing it on the language department website.
The 2018 edition of Gator International will be distributed digitally for the first time, according to Patton. Patton said a digital edition is more sustainable and will be more accessible than print copies.
Patton said Phi Sigma Iota is still accepting submissions, and Gator International will likely be released in April after the Society’s annual induction ceremony.
The induction ceremony, also organized by society students, is scheduled each April for new members. Eligibility is determined by the international organization’s requirements and by Allegheny faculty, Patton said.
The students are co-advised by Assistant Professor of German Julia Ludewig and Associate Professor of Spanish Barbara Riess, but the chapter is largely managed by student members, according to Ludewig.
Ludewig said Phi Sigma Iota membership provides an opportunity for students to develop practical language skills, express appreciation for language and culture and foster professional language interests.
“Students are really turning into professionals who are practicing what it is, what it means to be a professional language learner, and so the Society gives them a space to do that,” Ludewig said.
Eligibility requirements for undergraduate students include enrollment in programs related to foreign languages, completion of upper level language coursework and maintaining an overall GPA of at least 3.0, according to the Phi Sigma Iota website.
Once identified as eligible, students are offered membership and invited to the April induction ceremony.
Patton said membership notifications will be sent within the next few weeks, and the induction ceremony and dinner will take place on April 10 in the Tillotson Dining Room in the Tippie Alumni Center.
Phi Sigma Iota primarily focuses on creating Gator International and planning the induction ceremony, but the group also collaborates with other language students and foreign language teaching assistants to celebrate language learning on campus.
The group hosted a Language Mingle Night on Feb. 20 in Grounds for Change, inspired by the coffee hours hosted by international houses and Campbell Hendrick’s experiences at mingle events while studying abroad in Germany during her sophomore year.
The event had an open tab, and students identified the language or languages they speak on adhesive badges and conversed in those languages.
“It’s a way to include other languages that aren’t taught on campus, because the language houses only pertain to the languages that we teach here,” Campbell Hendricks said.
Patton said he was surprised to learn that Japanese, Creole and other languages are represented at Allegheny. Mingle-style events are important, Patton said, because they allow students who speak underrepresented languages on campus to engage with fellow language learners.
Patton expressed his disappointment in American perspectives that prevent such active engagement and do not make language learning a priority in primary and secondary education.
“I think it’s really irresponsible of a lot of American citizens to just expect to be able to use English no matter where they go,” Patton said. “Studying language is not only practical — because English is only the third most spoken language in the world after Mandarin and Spanish — but it’s also really important for the development of human beings in general, to expand their knowledge and expand their horizons.”