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Phi Alpha Theta



Phi Alpha Theta > About Phi Alpha Theta

Phi Alpha Theta is a national history honor society open to undergraduate and graduate students who have done exceptional work in a required number of history classes and posted a solid record of academic achievement in their classes as a whole. The society also encourages membership among professors of history.


Phi Alpha Theta Executive Director Graydon Tunstall presides over the business meeting of Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society at the Tamaya Resort near Albuquerque, New Mexico, on January 4, 2014.


National Phi Alpha Theta President Stephen Carls stands by the Phi Alpha Theta plaque located near Old Main at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville in August, 2013.


Dr. Jochen Burgtorf, the vice president of Phi Alpha Theta, stands near the registration table at the Phi Alpha Theta Biennial Convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on January 4, 2014.


Dr. Robert Carriker of Gonzaga University is chair of the Phi Alpha Theta National Advisory Board. In this photo, he acknowledges the appreciation of delegates at the society's business meeting in Albuquerque on January 4, 2014, for his successful Phi Alpha Theta presidency from January, 2012 to January, 2014.

Phi Alpha Theta was created in March, 1921 at the University of Arkansas by Dr. Nels Cleven, an assistant professor of history at the time. The event is marked today by a bronze plaque located outside Old Main on the university's Fayetteville campus. Since its start, the society has grown to some 840 active chapters and 350,000 members. Approximately 9,500 new members are initiated into the organization each academic year.

The mission of Phi Alpha Theta is "to promote the study of history through the encouragement of research, good teaching, publication and the exchange of learning and ideas among historians. We seek to bring students, teachers, and writers of history together for intellectual and social exchanges, which promote and assist historical research and publication by our members in a variety of ways."

One of the major ways that Phi Alpha Theta fulfills its mission is by sponsoring a biennial convention where students, both undergraduate and graduate, have the opportunity to present history papers on a national level in a supportive environment. Professors also put together sessions where they present papers at Phi Alpha Theta conventions. The most recent Phi Alpha Theta conventions have taken place in New Orleans (2004), Philadelphia (2006), Albuquerque (2008 and 2014), San Diego (2010), and Orlando (2012).

Phi Alpha Theta also helps coordinate regional conferences across the country, provides undergraduate and graduate school scholarships, sponsors history paper competitions, offers Best Chapter Awards, sponsors the professional journal The Historian, and encourages interaction among students of history through its Facebook page, e-mails, and The News Letter.

The executive director of Phi Alpha Theta is Dr. Graydon Tunstall, who has served in that position since 1994. He is also Professor of History at the University of South Florida and the author of two books and several articles. His books are: Blood on the Snow: The Carpathian Winter War of 1915 (2010) and Planning for War Against Russia and Serbia: Austro-Hungarian and German Military Strategies, 1871-1914 (1993). Dr. Tunstall has three other books about the First World War forthcoming.

Dr. Stephen Carls is the president of the society. He is chair of the history department at Union University, where he has taught since 1983. Louisiana State University Press published his book Louis Loucheur and the Shaping of Modern France, 1916-1931 in 1993. A revised edition of the book called Louis Loucheur, 1872-1931: Ingénieur, homme d'état, modernisateur de la France was published in France in 2000. He is currently co-authoring a textbook on twentieth-century Europe with his wife.

Phi Alpha Theta's vice president is Dr. Jochen Burgtorf, who is a professor of medieval history and chair of the history department at the California State University — Fullerton. He has taught at Fullerton since 2001. He authored a monograph titled The Central Convent of Hospitallers and Templars: History, Organization, and Personnel (1099/1120—1310) that Brill Press published in 2008. In addition, he was an editor for the following books: The Debate on the Trial of the Templars (1307-1314) and International Mobility in the Military Orders (Twelfth to Fifteenth Centuries): Travelling on Christ's Business. He is the faculty advisor for Fullerton's Theta-Pi chapter of Phi Alpha Theta.

The chair of the National Advisory Board is Dr. Robert Carriker. He is the Alphonse and Geraldine Arnold Distinguished Professor of the College of Arts and Sciences at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, where he has taught for more than 45 years. He is the author, co-author, or editor of several books, including: "Ocian in View! O! The Joy!" Lewis and Clark in Washington State (2005); America Looks West: Lewis and Clark on the Missouri (co-author, 2002); Great River of the West: Essays on the Columbia River (editor, 1999); Father Peter John De Smet: Jesuit in the West (1995, 1998, 2000); An Army Wife on the Frontier: The Memoirs of Alice Blackwood Baldwin, 1867-1877 (editor, 1975); Fort Supply, Indian Territory: The Kalispel People (1973); and Frontier Outpost on the Plains (1970, 1990, 2000, 2003).