Voices and Ideas

Learning for All of Life, All Over the World: Advancing with ΦBK Alumni Associations

By Bailey DeSimone

The D.C. Area Phi Beta Kappa Alumni Association was established in December of 1913 and continues to thrive with intellectual curiosity over a century later.

At the annual meeting of the Association on Sunday, June 10, John Campbell delivered a lecture detailing the foreign policy of the U.S.-Africa relationship, providing valuable insight from both perspectives and resulting in a lively discussion among the attending members.

“The Nigerians have an expression: Let’s rub minds together,” Campbell said. “That is exactly what the Phi Beta Kappa lunch was—it was an opportunity to rub minds on African issues, which I very much welcomed.”

As the Ralph Bunche senior fellow for Africa foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, John Campbell earned a B.A. and M.A. in History at the University of Virginia, going on to receive a Ph.D. U.S. History at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. From there, he embarked upon a 33-year career in the U.S. Foreign Service, during which he served as a political counselor (1988-1990) and ambassador in Nigeria (2004-2007).

Of his liberal arts education, Campbell has positive reflections. “What I particularly like about history is that it is the study of trying to figure out and understand reality. History is not theory-based, but fact-based.”

Phi Beta Kappa alumni members are encouraged to seek out their local alumni network to engage with membership opportunities following induction and undergraduate commencement. The D.C. Area Association offers monthly social and educational member events, networking opportunities, mentorship program, and a High School Awards Program. In September, many associations will be hosting Key Connections events in partnership with the Phi Beta Kappa National Office.

“Each association offers a variety of programming designed to appeal to a range of interests and to help foster friendship and intellectual exchange among a diverse network of members in the area,” says D.C. Area President Nina Kuo, whose second term began at the luncheon. “Despite the varied backgrounds, Phi Betes already have an interest in common--a love of lifelong learning.”


Nina Kuo, President of the D.C. Area Phi Beta Kappa Association


“Guiding the association’s vision and being able to prioritize what will be the most impactful initiatives to our organization have been extremely fulfilling,” Kuo says about her experience as president so far. “It’s great to see people with different perspectives find a common ground, and to be able to carry forward our plans.”

Kuo was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa at the Duke University, graduating with a double major in International Comparative Studies and Chinese Language.

“After graduating from college, I joined Capital One and continue to work there as a process manager in Retail Bank. In my spare time, I enjoy traveling—traveling has been an amazing way to experience culture, meet people, and also crosses over into another interest of mine, trying out new food!”

Kuo continues to innovate in addition to developing her career and pursuing her interests.

“I am also in the middle of developing a fledgling concept called The Goods Finder, a directory of businesses that donate a portion of each sale to help drive change in the world. I want to make it easier for consumers to see that where they put their money matters, and that doing something, however little, is worthwhile.”

Individuals like Kuo and Campbell inspire learning in their communities—locally, nationally, and worldwide. Through local alumni associations, Phi Beta Kappa membership ensures a lifelong network of devoted learners and endless opportunities to pursue.

“Education is different from training—it remains with you as long as you live. Education is involved in processes and ways of thinking,” says Campbell. “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”


Bailey DeSimone (ΦBK, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2017) is a Library Assistant with the Council on Foreign Relations. At Chapel Hill, DeSimone majored in history and global studies. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is home to the Alpha of North Carolina Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.


Photo at top: John Campbell, Ralph Bunche senior fellow for Africa foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations


(Posted on 7/10/2018 )