High-achieving UHV students join national academic honor society

Several new inductees to the University of Houston-Victoria chapter of Phi Kappa Phi honor society have their photo taken after the induction ceremony. Pictured, from left, are Amory Gritta, Ashley Sisson, Sandra Lesley, Alan Wendel Jr., Tiffany Davila, Gaurav Jolly and Matthew Lukas.

Phi Kappa Phi, a multidisciplinary national honor society for academic excellence, recently inducted 27 University of Houston-Victoria students and elected its leaders for the coming year.

The Phi Kappa Phi UHV chapter, which has been in existence since 1982, annually invites students who have demonstrated academic distinction in one of four UHV schools: Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; Education, Health Professions & Human Development; and Nursing.

Sandy Venneman

“Phi Kappa Phi is one of the most selective honor societies and the oldest all-discipline honor society in the U.S,” said Sandy Venneman, a UHV psychology and biology professor and Phi Kappa Phi president. “Membership is by invitation only, restricted to students with integrity and high ethical standards, who are scholastically in the top of their class. Our current inductees join the ranks of such famous members, such as Jimmy Carter, Hillary Clinton and NASA commander James McDivitt, as well as many other noted scholars, artists and business leaders.”

To be invited to join Phi Kappa Phi, students are required to complete 72 credit hours and rank in the top 7.5 percent their class. Seniors and graduate students also must rank in the top 10 percent of the students in their school.

Phi Kappa Phi members are eligible to apply for a variety of grants and awards for further education and professional development. Induction into the society also is helpful for networking, Venneman said.

“Being a member is seen as a sign of achievement by prospective graduate schools and employers,” she said. “The chance to earn scholarships also is a nice benefit.”

New members were inducted in a ceremony earlier this month in the UHV University Center Multi-Purpose Room. A business meeting was held afterward.

Venneman was re-elected president. UHV student Amory Gritta was elected vice president. Alireza Tavakkoli, an assistant professor of computer science, was re-elected treasurer. Dmitri Sobolev, an assistant professor of biology, will serve as secretary again, and Beverly Tomek, an assistant professor of history, was chosen as publicity officer for a second year.

The new inductees and their hometowns are:

  • Jeff Burkhardt, Allen
  • Tiffany Davila, Gonzales
  • Tonya Ellerbe, Guy
  • William Belt, Houston
  • Sousan Carey, Houston
  • Miriam Ann Cobb, Houston
  • Irfan Choudhary, Katy
  • Amanda Everett, Katy
  • Kathryn Herring, Katy
  • Elias Pena, Katy
  • Kanika Bass, Missouri City
  • Rosemina Jones, Missouri City
  • Alan Wendel Jr., Meyersville
  • Mary Kay Cauley, Pearland
  • Lance Allan Schultz, Port Lavaca
  • Sarah Empie, Richmond
  • Sandra Lesley, Richmond
  • Matthew Lukas, Richmond
  • Spencer Cox, Spring
  • Pedro Rodriguez, Spring
  • Tracy Cryer, Sugar Land
  • David C. Greer, Sugar Land
  • Gaurav Jolly, Sugar Land
  • Christopher DeDear, Victoria
  • Amory Gritta, Victoria
  • Ashley Sisson, Victoria
  • Daniel Engelhardt, Wallis

For more information about Phi Kappa Phi, email Tomek at

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Jeremy Shapiro