Gamma Theta Upsilon

Gamma Theta Upsilon, an Honor Society for Geographers

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Gamma Theta Upsilon (GTU) is an honor society for students and scholars of geography. Academic institutions with geography departments across North America have active GTU chapters. Members must meet scholastic requirements in order to be initiated into the society. Chapters often hold geography-themed outreach activities and events. Benefits of membership include access to scholarships and academic research.

History of Gamma Theta Upsilon

GTU's roots can be traced back to 1928. The first chapter was founded at Illinois State Normal University (now Illinois State University) under the guidance of Dr. Robert G. Buzzard. Buzzard, a professor at the university, believed in the importance of student geography clubs. At its founding, the chapter at Illinois State Normal University thrived with 33 members but Buzzard was determined to develop GTU into a nationwide organization. Ten years later, the organization had added 14 chapters at universities across the United States. Today, there are over 200 chapters, including universities in Canada and Mexico.

Insignia of Gamma Theta Upsilon

The symbol of GTU is a key insignia bearing a seven-sided shield. At the base of the key insignia, a white star represents Polaris, used by navigators past and present. Underneath, five wavy blue lines represent the earth's five oceans that brought explorers to new lands.
Each side of the shield shows an initial of the seven continents. The placement of these initials on the shield is purposeful; the Old World continents of Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia are on one side. The other side shows the New World masses of North America, South America, and Antarctica which were discovered later.
Further symbolism comes from the colors shown on the key insignia. Brown represents the Earth. Light blue represents the sea, and gold represents the sky or sun.

Goals of Gamma Theta Upsilon

All members and GTU chapters share common goals, as outlined on the Gamma Theta Upsilon website. Chapter activities, from service projects to research, must keep these six goals in mind. All goals focus on the active diffusion of geography. The goals are:

1. To further professional interest in geography by affording a common organization for those interested in the field.
2. To strengthen student and professional training through academic experiences in addition to those of the classroom and laboratory.
3. To advance the status of geography as a cultural and practical discipline for study and investigation.
4. To encourage student research of high quality and to promote an outlet for publication.
5. To create and administer funds for furthering graduate study and/or research in the field of geography.
6. To encourage members to apply geographic knowledge and skills in service to humankind.

Gamma Theta Upsilon Organization

GTU is ruled by their long-standing constitution and bylaws, which includes their mission statement, guidelines for individual chapters, and an operations and procedures manual. Each chapter must closely follow the constitution and bylaws.

Within the organization, GTU appoints a National Executive Committee. Roles include a President, First Vice President, Second Vice President, Immediate Past President, Executive Secretary, Recording Secretary, Comptroller, and Historian. Typically, these roles are held by faculty who often advise their university's chapter. Students are also elected to GTU's National Executive Committee as Senior and Junior Student Representatives. Omega Omega, the alumni chapter for GTU members, also has a representative. Additionally, the editor of The Geographical Bulletin serves as a member of the National Executive Committee.

The GTU leadership board convenes twice per year; first at the annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers, second at the National Council for Geographic Education's annual meeting.

At this time, board members discuss procedures for the upcoming months including scholarship distribution, fees, and developing the organization's strategic plan.

Eligibility for Membership in Gamma Theta Upsilon

Certain requirements must be met for membership into GTU. First, interested candidates must have completed at least three geography courses at an academic institution of higher learning. Second, a grade point average of 3.3 or higher overall (on a 4.0 scale), including geography courses, is mandatory. Third, the candidate must have completed three semesters or 5 quarters of college. An application outlining your success in these areas is typically available from your local chapter. Accompanying the application is a one-time fee.

Initiation Into Gamma Theta Upsilon

New members are typically initiated into GTU once per year. Initiation ceremonies may be informal (held during a meeting) or formal (held as part of a large banquet) and are often facilitated by the faculty advisor, President, and Vice President. At the ceremony, each member must take an oath pledging themselves to service in geography. Then, new members are presented with a card, certificate, and pin bearing GTU's insignia. Members are encouraged to wear the pin as a sign of their commitment to the field of geography.

Chapters of Gamma Theta Upsilon

Not all academic institutions with geography departments have GTU chapters; however, one may be established if certain criteria are met. Your academic institution must be an accredited college or university offering a major, minor, or certificate in geography. You must have six or more individuals interested in membership who can meet the eligibility requirements. A faculty member must sponsor the new GTU chapter. Then, GTU's President and First Vice President vote to approve the new chapter. The Executive Secretary confirms your academic institution's accreditation and you may officially operate as a new GTU chapter and elect officers to serve your organization.

Roles held within each chapter can differ, although most organizations have a President and a faculty advisor. Other important roles include the Vice President, Treasurer, and Secretary. Some chapters elect a Historian to document important motions and events. Additionally, Social and Fundraising Officers may be elected.

Many GTU chapters hold weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly meetings where current projects, budgets, and academic research are discussed. The usual structure of a meeting varies from chapter to chapter. Typically, the meeting will be run by the chapter's President and overseen by a faculty advisor. Updates from the treasurer regarding funding are a regular facet. Meetings must be held once per year, in accordance with GTU guidelines.

GTU sponsors an alumni chapter, Omega Omega. This chapter covers all alumni members, worldwide. Membership fees range from $10 for one year to $400 for a lifetime. Omega Omega members receive a newsletter especially tailored toward alumni activities and news, as well as The Geographical Bulletin.

Gamma Theta Upsilon Chapter Activities

Active GTU chapters sponsor activities on a regular basis. In general, events are open to members as well as the entire campus community. Activities can be advertised via on-campus flyers, student email lists, and university newspapers.

Participating in service activities is an important part of GTU's mission. For example, the Kappa chapter at the University of Kentucky has a monthly tradition of volunteering at a local soup kitchen. The Chi chapter at Oklahoma State University purchased Christmas gifts for underprivileged children. The University of Southern Mississippi's Iota Alpha chapter volunteered to collect litter at nearby Ship Island and Black Creek.

Field trips, often themed around recreational geography, are a common activity among GTU chapters. At St. Cloud State University, the Kappa Lambda chapter of GTU sponsored a kayak and camping trip to the Apostle Islands. The Delta Lambda chapter at the University of South Alabama organized a canoe trip via the Styx River. North Michigan University's Eta Chi chapter led a sunset hike to overlook Lake Michigan as a study break for members.

In an effort to spread geographical knowledge, many chapters invite a speaker to cover current events or host a research seminar related to the discipline. These events, hosted by GTU chapters, are typically open to the entire campus community. Mississippi State University's Mu Eta planned a Geoscience Student Symposium which featured students presenting their research via paper and poster sessions. At California State University - San Bernardino, the GTU chapter sponsored talks from faculty and a visiting speaker in conjunction with the internationally recognized Geography Awareness Week.

Gamma Theta Upsilon Publications

Twice each year, GTU produces The Geographical Bulletin. Student members of GTU are encouraged to submit scholarly work regarding any topic of geography to the professional journal. Additionally, papers by faculty members may be published if they are of interest and relevance.

Gamma Theta Upsilon Scholarships

Among the numerous benefits of GTU membership is access to scholarships. Each year, the organization offers two scholarships to graduate students and three to undergraduates. To meet eligibility for scholarships, members must be active GTU participants and have contributed greatly to their chapter's goals. Scholarships on the national level are made possible through GTU's Educational Fund which is overseen by a committee. Individual chapters may offer additional scholarships to deserving members.

Gamma Theta Upsilon Partnerships

Gamma Theta Upsilon works in cooperation with two like-minded organizations to promote the field of geography as a whole; GTU is active at the annual meetings of The Association of American Geographers and the National Council for Geographic Education. At these meetings, GTU members attend research sessions, banquets, and social events. Additionally, GTU is a member of the Association of College Honor Societies, which sets standards for honor society excellence.