2012 Annual Initiation Ceremony

The 2012 MSU Chapter 041 Annual Initiation Ceremony was held on April 21, honoring 85 years at MSU. A total of 85 new members were initiated. Marisa Rinkus was awarded the Love of Learning Award, Angelika Kraemer received a Literacy Grand and Erika Vivyan was this year's National Graduate Fellowship Nominee.

View Initiation Ceremony program (PDF, 200 kb)


Invited Speaker


Picture of Claire Vallotton

Claire Vallotton is an assistant professor at Michigan State University. She studies the development of young children's language/communication and social-emotional skills from infancy through early childhood. Many of her studies involve the use of signs with infants and toddlers in order to understand: (1) how the use of signs affects children's relationships with parents and other caregivers, (2) how using signs affects children's own cognitive and social-emotional skills, and (3) how the specific gestures and signs used with young children vary across cultures and are a reflection of cultural values for parenting. Dr. Vallotton earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from Simpson College, and a Ph.D. in human development from the University of California, Davis. She won a research training grant from the National Institutes of Health to study as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University. She received the Young Investigator Award from the World Association for Infant Mental Health in 2006 for her research showing that preverbal infants and toddlers can express emotions and feelings through infant signs. Dr. Vallotton teaches undergraduate and graduate classes on infant development, social-emotional development, child assessment, and quantitative methodology in the study of behavior and development.

New Initiates

Picture of Audience

In accordance with national standards for membership in Phi Kappa Phi, student candidates must have completed 24 semester hours, or the equivalent, at Michigan State University. Students are selected from the upper 10% of the senior class; the upper 7.5% of students with junior standing upon completion of 72 hours; and graduate or professional students who rank in the upper 10% of all enrolled graduate students at Michigan State University.

In addition to students, the Chapter is permitted to elect annually a small number of outstanding faculty, professional staff, and alumni chosen on the basis of academic record, professional achievements, and service to higher education. These persons are nominated by chapter members and, as with the student candidates, are discussed and voted on by the members. The Chapter is also permitted to nominate persons for distinguished and honorary memberships. These prestigious distinctions require the review and approval of the Society's national Board of Directors.

View List of 2012 Initiates
View Gallery of 2012 New Initiates
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2012 Excellence Award in Interdisciplinary Scholarship Recipient

The MSU Chapter's "Excellence Award in Interdisciplinary Scholarship" recognizes the outstanding interdisciplinary work of scholarly teams, in teaching, research, service, or a combination of these activities. This year's award recognizes Avida-ED: Technology for Teaching Evolution Using Digital Organisms. National educational standards emphasize the centrality of evolution as a unifying theme in the science curriculum. There is also a significant trend in science education to involve students in active learning as a better way to learn scientific methods of inquiry. However, the evolutionary process is difficult to demonstrate in the classroom. The Avida-ED project meets this need through the development of educational software that adapts and extends an established research platform for use as an educational tool.

The Avida-ED project is interdisciplinary from its core. Computer scientists, inspired by the workings of evolution in nature, realized that they could apply the same powerful Darwinian mechanism for their own purposes, such as complex industrial design. In turn, this technology has progressed to the point where biologists can use it for their research. Avida is the platform of choice for certain difficult questions in experimental evolution. Now Avida-ED, which uses the Avida research engine, is helping undergraduate students—our future researchers and teachers—understand and appreciate the power of evolutionary mechanisms and the nature of scientific reasoning. Avida—ED makes it possible for students to run evolution experiments in a laboratory. Using digital organisms in a virtual Petri dish, they can learn to observe and manipulate the emergent properties of complex systems.

Avida-ED research has resulted in numerous scholarly publications and presentations, as well as significant media attention. We regularly receive requests for new features and Avida-ED 2.0, now in preparation, will add some of the most requested functions. We also plan to develop a version for use in middle and high schools and to extend our classroom assessment study to the national level.

2011 Love of Learning Award

Phi Kappa Phi recently created its Love of Learning Award program to help fund post-baccalaureate studies and/or career development for active members who have not previously won a National Graduate Fellowship. One hundred forty-seven awards valued at $500 each, are awarded annually to support such activities as graduate or professional studies, doctoral dissertations, continuing education, career development, travel related to teaching/studies, etc.

Marisa Rinkus earned a master of science degree in MSU's Department of Fisheries and Wildlife with a specialization in gender, justice, and environmental change in 2008. In 2011, she was awarded the Fulbright International Educational Exchange Program scholarship from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. This scholarship is helping her to complete her doctoral research exploring the role of social capital and gender in perceptions and participation in sea turtle conservation in Brazil. Ms. Rinkus plans to use the Love of Learning Award to support the community mapping exercises and focus groups needed to complete her research.

2011 Literacy Grant

The Literacy Grants program was initiated in 2003 to mobilize members and resources of Phi Kappa Phi and the higher education community to champion literacy initiatives. Grants of up to $2,500 are available to chapters and individual members to fund ongoing literacy projects or create new programs.

Angelika Kraemer is the outreach and co-curricular coordinator in the Center for Language Teaching Advancement at Michigan State University, where she also directs the Community Language School. Dr. Kraemer has taught German, EFL/ ESL, teaching methods, and general education courses at all levels for over 10 years. Her research focuses on early language learning, program administration, online and blended learning, and second language acquisition. She was inducted into MSU's Phi Kappa Phi chapter in 2004.

The Community Language School at MSU specializes in teaching languages to children and involving college students in community outreach and service learning. With Phi Kappa Phi funds a special program at public libraries in mid-and southeast Michigan will expose young children to different cultures through reading the book “One World, One Day.” Participating children will receive a free copy of the book and additional copies will be donated to participating libraries.

2012 Phi Kappa Phi National Graduate Fellowship Nominee

Every year, the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi awards fifty-one Fellowships of $5,000 each and six at $15,000 each to members entering the first year of graduate or professional study. Each Phi Kappa Phi chapter may select one candidate from among its local applicants to compete for the Society-wide awards.

Erika Vivyan has attended Michigan State University since 2009, earning a bachelor's degree at the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities with a secondary major in psychology and a minor in educational studies. She is a member of the Honors College and maintains a 4.0 GPA. Ms. Vivyan has been employed as a resident mentor in Snyder-Phillips Hall for two years, and she serves as a leader both on campus and in the community. She plans on starting a Ph.D. program in school psychology in the fall, where she will be pursuing a career as a psychologist and university professor. She hopes to focus her research and practice on high-risk student populations. Ms. Vivyan plans to use the fellowship money to pay for tuition and expenses in her graduate studies.