About Us

Qualifications for Membership

Phi Sigma Iota is a membership society with Active Members and Honorary Members as set forth below. Membership in the Society is open to qualified candidates including persons with disability, without regard to age, color, gender, national origin, race, religion, and/or sexual orientation. New members are recruited by invitation only from established Phi Sigma Iota chapters.

Members shall meet the following minimum criteria for membership. Any chapter, at its discretion, may establish higher, more rigorous academic criteria.:

  1. Active Members. Collegiate or professional members who pay annual national dues shall be active members of the Society.
  1. Collegiate Members. At the time of initiation, Collegiate members shall be students enrolled in undergraduate or graduate programs and pursuing a curriculum with a major/minor in:
        • Foreign Languages, including Classics and ESL
        • Comparative Literature
        • Foreign Language Education
        • Linguistics
        • Second Language Acquisition
      • Other interdisciplinary programs with a significant foreign language component.

a. Undergraduate students shall be enrolled in the institution represented by the chapter, have completed at least one course in a foreign language at the third-year level or its equivalent (fifth semester or seventh quarter), have completed 45 semester hours or its equivalent, have a minimum grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, and rank in the top 35% of their class.

b. Graduate students shall be enrolled in a graduate program in one of the aforementioned programs, have attained a high degree of competence in at least one foreign language, have completed 12 semester hours of graduate work or equivalent, and have a minimum grade point average of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale.

  1. Professional Members. Alumni of collegiate chapters shall be professional members. Others meeting the following criteria may be elected to professional membership: have made a distinctive contribution to the profession and (a) earned one or more degrees in foreign language and ranked within the top 35% of the class as undergraduates or 3.5 as graduate students and not been previously initiated into the Society, (b) earned one or more degrees qualifying them to work in the field and rank in the top 35% as undergraduates or 3.5 as graduate students, or (c) faculty of the university, after one academic year of teaching in that institution and having shown remarkable ability in their field as well as demonstrating support of the ideals of the Society .
  1. Honorary Members. Honorary members shall be persons outside the field, excluding those who are employed in the field, who have made distinctive scholarly and research contributions to the study, use, or promotion of foreign languages and the ideals of the Society.

Benefits of Membership

Phi Sigma Iota is the highest academic honor in the field of foreign languages. The Honor Society recognizes outstanding ability and achievement in the study of, or teaching of, any of the academic fields related to foreign language, literature, or culture. These fields include not only modern foreign languages, but also Classics, Linguistics, Philology, Comparative Literature, Bilingual Education, Second Language Acquisition and other interdisciplinary programs with a significant foreign language component.

The most immediate and permanent benefit of Phi Sigma Iota membership is national recognition of the level of achievement it identifies.

Phi Sigma Iota promotes the principles of dedication, enthusiasm, and initiative at both the graduate and undergraduate level by encouraging leadership opportunities in Chapter development and scholarship awards. The importance of continuing linguistic development is emphasized in our programs, publications, member services, and community connections.

Phi Sigma Iota has initiated over 50,000 members since its founding in 1917, and provides

  • a national network of colleagues;
  • participation in a learning community to broaden horizons;
  • local and national leadership opportunities;
  • publication opportunities in the Society’s issues of The Forum and Chapter News;
  • scholarship opportunities.

Phi Sigma Iota is a member of the Association of College Honor Societies where there are additional opportunities for grants, scholarships, and preference for Federal Jobs – Entry at GS-7 level if all other requirements are met.

New members pay a national initiation fee which includes:

  • the first three years of national dues;
  • a certificate of membership suitable for framing;
  • a Phi Sigma Iota “Gold Pin;”
  • a wallet-size membership card.

Members are eligible

  • for all membership programs organized or sponsored by the Society;
  • to wear special graduation honors such as stoles, cords, and tassels;
  • apply for the scholarship programs offered by the Society;
  • to submit articles for publication in the Society’s issues of The Forum and Chapter News.

Continuing Members pay an annual national membership fee of $20 to the international office to promote the goals of the Society, support scholarship activities, and provide for maintenance of the international organization.


Phi Sigma Iota was founded in 1922 at Allegheny College in Meadville Pennsylvania by Dr. Henry W. Church, members of his department of languages, and advanced students who were meeting to discuss linguistic and literary matters. PSI became a national society when Beta Chapter was established at The Pennsylvania State University in April 1925. Less than a year later, Gamma Chapter at the College of Wooster followed them. With these three chapters as the nucleus of the national organization, the first convention was held in May 1926, at Allegheny College.

At a National Convention held at Bloomington, Illinois in November 1935, Phi Sigma Iota merged with Alpha Zeta Pi, a similar society west of the Mississippi organized by Dr. Etienne Renaud and his associates in the Department of Languages at the University of Denver in 1917.

In 1949, Phi Sigma Iota was voted membership into the US Association of College Honor Societies, the first language society to receive that honor.

In 1978, under the Presidency of Dr. Santiago Vilas, the Society expanded into the National Foreign Language Honor Society Phi Sigma Iota to honor outstanding achievements in any foreign language including Classics, Philology, Applied Linguistics, Comparative Literature, and Bilingual Education.

In 1982, the Society became the International Foreign Language Honor Society by installing its first Chapter in a foreign country at Universidad Regiomontana, Monterrey, Mexico.

Today the Society maintains approximately 250 local chapters in the US, France, and Mexico.

The Insignia

The Insignia of the Society was adopted in 1935 and was created by Dr. Robert E. Dengler (1893-1973), Professor Emeritus of Greek at Pennsylvania State University. The words PHI, SIGMA, and IOTA may be understood, respectively, as Philotes (Friendship), Spoude (Zeal for languages), and Idioma (Research and Individuality).

The Key and Pin of the Society was adopted in 1935. It was also designed by Dr. Dengler and is comprised of the following elements:

  • A chaplet of ivy, in honor of the birth of Horace (b. 65 B.C.), the Roman poet at the height of Augustan literature who was a model for subsequent versification.
  • A stem at the bottom of which the foliage “grows”.
  • A five-point star standing for the five languages originally recognized by the Society.
  • The Greek letters PHI SIGMA IOTA imprinted over the five-point star.

The colors of the Society are purple and white.


*The information on this page is directly from phisigmaiota.org, the International Language Honorary’s Website

One thought on “About Us

  1. Is there any type of honor society for high school students who came to the U.S. and are learning English as a second language?

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