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Honor Society Engages Campus Community, Welcomes Record-Setting Class

Ace Food Pantry worker holder eggs

In spite of the challenging circumstances of the past year, a Purdue honor society has persisted to engage its members and the campus community while preparing to welcome a record-setting class.

The Purdue chapter of Alpha Lambda Delta Phi Eta Sigma recently worked to thank and support staff of the university’s COVID-19 vaccine clinic. Honor society members filled and delivered 150 bags with drinks, snacks and other items as a thank-you to the staff who have worked to administer vaccines and help protect the Purdue community.

“Our members were extremely excited to hear about the opening of the campus vaccination site and many of us, including myself, have utilized their services,” says Jenna Swihart, president of Alpha Lambda Delta Phi Eta Sigma. “We’re all hopeful to resume normal campus activities and vaccines will play a huge role in that. We wanted to show our appreciation to those giving their time and contributing to Purdue’s public health efforts.”

ALDPES Thank You letter that reads "We Simply Cannot Mask Our Gratitude for You!"The honor society has also completed service projects to support St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, local animal shelters such as Almost Home Humane Society and Natalie’s Second Chance No Kill Dog Shelter, and purchase holiday gifts for local children this year.

Alpha Lambda Delta Phi Eta Sigma is an honor society open to first-year students who have earned a 3.5 GPA or better. Members who join the honor society receive a lifetime membership, though their second year of study is considered their active year. Members have the opportunity to serve in leadership positions within the society, attend events, complete service projects and receive a t-shirt and other items as part of their membership.

This spring, Alpha Lambda Delta Phi Eta Sigma welcomed in a record-setting class 954 members. More than 4,000 first-year students were eligible to join.

In a typical year, the honor society hosts in-person guest speakers, connects members with academic and well-being resources and performs service projects. The honor society has supported local events such as Hunger Hike, Boo at the Zoo at Columbian Park Zoo and winterization in Lafayette. Guest speakers and topics have included well-being presentations with a member of the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) staff, representatives from Purdue Study Abroad, the Center for Career Opportunities, and the National & International Scholarships Office, who share information on prestigious scholarship opportunities available for students. Many of the opportunities available to members were held virtually this year.

“It was a challenge, but we were fortunate to have officers who were real go-getters,” says Susan Huffman, associate director of administration and assignments for University Residences and advisor for Alpha Lambda Delta Phi Eta Sigma. “Every time we did anything, they did all of the planning. I think we had a hugely successful year.”

All events are planned by an executive board of officers and committee chairs, usually consisting of 15-20 members. Positions include president and vice president, treasurer, secretary, and chairs for philanthropy, coordinating volunteers and various public relations and marketing positions. Officers meet once per week and typically plan one service project per month. Many officers later go on to earn leadership positions with other campus organizations.

“For many students, this is their first introduction into leadership and the way the university works in relation to student organizations,” Huffman says. “We select officers at the end of their freshman year and train a new group every year.”

While this was not the case for Swihart, who served as president for the 2020-21 school year, the experience did provide opportunities to continue to build leadership skills.

“In high school, I had served on multiple officer teams including my district and chapter FFA programs as well as my county’s 4-H program,” says Swihart, who will serve as a junior advisor for the honor society as well as a Health and Human Sciences ambassador, Pre-Professional Advising ambassador and Health and Human Sciences mentor next year. “Leading a nationally recognized chapter with such large membership numbers was, however a new challenge for me.

“My time serving as the ALDPES president taught me a lot about adaptability and decision making,” Swihart continues. “By communicating various issues to our officer team and taking input, we were able to collectively assess predicaments and make the best decisions moving forward.”

Alpha Lambda Delta Phi Eta Sigma is a merger of the Purdue chapters of two national honor societies, Alpha Lambda Delta and Phi Eta Sigma. The Purdue chapter of Alpha Lambda Delta was founded in 1926 and was the second chapter of the fraternity founded. Purdue’s chapter of Phi Eta Sigma was founded in 1948.

Several ALDPES members standing in front of thank you bags.

The honor societies have historically won national recognition through honors such as the Order of the Torch, presented to the most outstanding chapters of Alpha Lambda Delta in the nation, and Maintaining the Flame awards. Chapter are judged on scrapbooks submitted to the national office of Alpha Lambda Delta describing and showcasing their activities during the past year. The Purdue chapter was awarded the Order of the Torch for its work during the 2019-20 academic year and is awaiting the results of its submission for a Maintaining the Flame honor this year.

Members of the honor society also have the opportunity to apply and compete for national scholarships through Alpha Lambda Delta and Phi Eta Sigma. Boilermakers have won thousands of dollars of scholarships through the two organizations. The size of the new membership class may also present opportunities for more locally-awarded scholarships.

While newly-admitted members were not able to participate in a formal induction in Loeb Playhouse due to ongoing restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, members were able to pick up t-shirts and other items related to their membership in Krach Leadership Center. Huffman, who has advised Alpha Lambda Delta since 1983 and both societies since they merged about 20 years ago, says she is excited about the incoming class.

“It seems like a really appreciative, polite and enthusiastic group of students,” Huffman says. “I think they’re really wanting to make connections and get involved with something, especially with everything they’ve been through this year.”

To learn more about Alpha Lambda Delta Phi Eta Sigma, connect with the organization via BoilerLink.