Last week, the University of Maine chapter of Sigma Delta Pi, the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society, was reactivated after nearly 40 years.
Sigma Delta Pi was founded in 1919 at the University of California Berkeley by a a third-year undergraduate student named Ruth Barnes. Today, the society has over 610 chapters in 49 different states, and is the only honor society devoted exclusively to students of Spanish language at four-year colleges and universities.
Since 1966, Sigma Delta Pi has been a member of the Association of College Honor Societies, or ACHS, and it is currently the largest foreign-language honor society in the world. Membership in Sigma Delta Pi offers generous scholarships for active members, yearly research grants for graduate members and awards that allow undergraduates to study abroad.
In order for a student to become a member of Sigma Delta Pi, it is required that they have completed 18 semester hours of Spanish, are at least a third-semester student and have at minimum a 3.0 in Spanish and 3.2 overall GPA.
The UMaine chapter of Sigma Delta Pi, which is called Zeta Kappa, was inaugurated with its first four members on Wednesday. The new members of the Honor Society, and the first in 40 years for this University, were Julie Watson, Emma Leonard, Evan Marshall and Julia Fasano.
Dr. Zachary Ludington, who will be the faculty advisor to the UMaine chapter, presided over the ceremony.
“Reactivating it is an exciting and important moment for the Spanish program since it puts us in a kind of dialogue with other programs around the country and serves to highlight the achievements of very strong students,” Ludington said.
The induction ceremony, which was conducted almost entirely in Spanish, included a candlelight ceremony outside of Little Hall that was accompanied on accordion by Efren Gomez, a graduate student originally from Colombia, who played in a lively Colombian style called Bullerengue.
To end the ceremony, Ludington passed around a register for the chapter’s members that was signed by each of the new inductees.
“I am eternally grateful to have a department like the Department of Modern Languages and Classics here at UMaine,” said Marshall. “Although it is admittedly a small department, the professors are of the highest quality and among the most passionate advocates for language as well as its pedagogy that I have met”
Fasano expressed similar sentiments.
“I’m honored to be inducted into Sigma Delta Pi, and I think it’s wonderful that our department has reestablished a chapter here after 40 years,” Fasano said. “Spanish is very important to me so I’m very excited to be able to share that with my fellow inductees and for all this will bring”
Modern Languages and Classics Department Chair Jane Smith was in attendance at the ceremony.
“The Department is very happy to be reinstating Sigma Delta Pi after such a long period of inactivity,” Smith said. “It’s a marvelous way to recognize our students’ passion and accomplishments in learning about Spanish literature and culture, not to mention the language itself for those who are language learners … [Chapter] activities will only help to give greater visibility to Spanish across campus and potentially beyond”
Ludington said that he expects membership in the society to grow as more students become eligible in coming semesters.
The reactivation of the UMaine chapter of Sigma Delta Pi was made possible by a generous contribution from an anonymous donor. As of now, the MLC Department is working on creating a UMaine chapter of Pi Delta Phi, the National French Honor Society.