Gamma Theta Upsilon

The International Geographical Honor Society


GTU Announcements

October, 2019 Issue of the GTU Newsletter is now available on our Newsletter page.

May, 2019 Volume 60-1 of The Geographical Bulletin is now available online.

Award winners, 2019 recipients announced:
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Succeeding as a Faculty Sponsor

Faculty chapter sponsors are critical to the success of GTU chapters.  At a minimum faculty sponsors are responsible for:

These tasks are described in detail below. 

Excellent faculty sponsors do much more to help their chapters succeed.  An excellent faculty sponsor does not plan chapter activities, but instead helps students to develop the leadership and organizational skills that they need to have a successful chapter.  Some of the best practices for advising a successful chapter as a faculty sponsor are found at the end of this guide.

While we have done our best to include accurate and up-to-date information in this guide, it should be noted that the constitution, bylaws, and procedures manual contain the authoritative and official rules and procedures for the society. If there are any discrepancies those documents shall take precedence.


Managing Membership and Initiations

The most important task that a faculty sponsor undertakes is managing the membership recruitment and initiation process for your chapter. As faculty sponsor you are required to offer membership in the chapter at least once during each academic year to those who qualify. This is something that only you can do as faculty sponsor. Neither students nor administrative assistants can be assigned responsibility for the tasks described below. Privacy laws restrict students from handling data about other students. While you may receive help from an administrative assistant, only you can verify and certify student's eligibility for membership in GTU.

Faculty Sponsor Membership Requirement ^TOP

According to the GTU Bylaws, every faculty sponsor must be a faculty member and member of GTU. If you are a faculty member but not a member of GTU, all you need to do is include yourself as a regular member on your next initiate report and submit the initiation fee.  If you're unsure about whether you are a member, please email the Executive Secretary with an approximate date and chapter (institution or chapter name) that you think you may have joined.

GTU Membership Requirements ^TOP

As stated in the constitution, the requirements for membership are as follows: "To become a regular member of Gamma Theta Upsilon, an initiate must have completed the equivalent of three semesters of college coursework, a minimum of three courses in geography with a geography GPA of 3.3 and an overall class ranking in the top 35%."

Managing the Membership Process for a GTU Chapter ^TOP

As the faculty sponsor it is your responsibility to recruit new members, and most importantly, verify their eligibility (this responsibility must not be turned over to anybody else – our membership in the Association of College Honor Societies depends upon our faculty sponsors personally verifying the eligibility of every single new member).  You can usually work with somebody in your Registrar's office to target all students, not just geography majors, who meet our requirements. 

Recommended Steps for Managing the Membership Process ^TOP


First identify those students on your campus who are eligible to be in GTU.  Most schools have an Office of Institutional Research (or similar name).  Contact them and ask for a generated list of all students on campus who have completed the equivalent of three semesters of college coursework, a minimum of three courses in geography with a 3.3 GPA (on the 4.0 scale) in those courses, and rank in the top 35% of their class (a 3.3 GPA can be used as a substitute for the ranking if your institution does not calculate rankings). Have the Office include contact information (email and surface address) for each student.  Once in receipt of the list (usually generated in Excel), cross off the students at your campus who are already in GTU.

If your campus has policies intended to protect student privacy that prevent you from receiving lists of students who may be eligible, you will need to publicize the opportunity to join GTU to potential students and have them grant you permission to view their records and confirm their eligibility.


Using the remaining students from the list above, issue invitations to join GTU.  Send both a hard copy and an email notice.  Provide a sufficient amount of time for students to consider the invitation and respond, usually between two and three weeks. Follow up the email notice prior to the due date you have set with a reminder email.  You may choose to have an office assistant help you with mailing hard-copies of the invitations, but e-mail notices should come directly from you. A personal touch from a faculty member is helpful in recruiting members. If the list is small enough, you may simply inform those eligible by talking to them.  Below you'll find an email template, an invitation letter template, and a follow-up e-mail template which you may tailor to the needs of your chapter.


While not required, it is useful to have all new initiates fill out a biographical sheet (see example below and, again, tailor to your school's needs). Send it out in the same envelope as the invitation letter or have the student fill it out when they come to pay their initiation fee. This form serves three purposes.  (1) The information helps in completing the required Initiate Address and Report Form that must be sent in to GTU headquarters to confer official membership.  (2) Before the assembled multitude at the initiation ceremony, you can read the information out loud while the initiate comes forward to be recognized. (3) After the ceremony, you may file the biography sheets to keep a record of previously initiated students.


At least five weeks prior to your GTU initiation ceremony (or whenever you present certificates), go online to and complete the Initiate Address and Report Form.  When all initiate data has been entered into the online form, click Continue at page bottom and print out the completed form.  If you are initiating more than ten new members, you may complete and print out additional pages. Please remember to sign the form as well.  Mail in this form along with a single check (total will equal # of initiates X $40) to the GTU international office. Sorry, we cannot process credit card or debit card orders at this time.  Allow our national office at least five weeks to fulfill your order. 

The steps above conform to procedures of the Association of College Honor Societies (ACHS). 

Additional Information on Reporting Initiates ^TOP

Once you have identified potential members and have successfully recruited them, there are several vital things to keep in mind.

  1. When you complete the initiate report form online, be very careful to fill in each field completely and correctly.  If you misspell a name we'll have to charge you $10 for a replacement member certificate (but if we make a mistake we will replace the certificate free of charge to you).  If you're unsure about something email the Executive Secretary.
  2. We do not accept student checks.  Use a department or university account, or use your personal account.  If you send a student check, or a check we can't verify is that of a faculty member (if it's not from the department or university), we'll have to return it and that will delay the processing of your new members.
  3. If you as a faculty sponsor (and not somebody signing for you) fail to sign the initiate report form that will also delay the processing of your report.
  4. Chapter numbers are simply reflective of the total number of members your chapter has ever inducted.  For example, if my chapter has inducted 100 members since we received our charter that means our next member will have chapter number 101, the next 102 and so on.  If you're unsure, you can leave this field blank and we'll complete it for you.
  5. Once you place your completed, and signed, initiate report and check in the mail, it will take longer than you may think for it to get to us.  Even if you take it to a non-campus post office (as you know, mailing from campus usually adds a day or two), it will be delivered to the campus post office of our Executive Secretary. That means it takes another day or two at our end even before we receive it.  Allow 4-5 days for your initiate report and check to arrive. Initiate reports are processed in the order that they are received, usually within a week of receipt. During busy times of the year (March, April, and May), processing may take up to a week longer. When your initiate report is processed, new member certificates are ordered that day and you can expect to receive them 2-3 weeks after that. While it is possible for certificates to arrive approximately 3 weeks after mailing your initiate report, to be certain you'll get them on time you should mail your materials at least 5 weeks in advance of when you plan to present your certificates.
  6. Please be certain that you have everyone on the report so that you do not have to send follow-up reports. Doing so will delay the receipt of certificates and results in additional expense.
  7. You, and other geography faculty, if not already a member, should be inducted as a regular member, not as honorary (see honorary membership below).  Anybody who meets the qualifications (GPA, hours) whether currently enrolled, an alum, a member of the faculty, whatever, qualifies as a regular member.  As faculty sponsor you must be a member.  If you are not, just include yourself on the first initiate report you send in.

Handling student checks ^TOP

The International GTU office will only accept one check from each chapter (totaling all initiation dues for that semester). This means that payment from individual students will need to be aggregated. At some universities, students can write a check to a department or university and the department or university then sends a single check from the chapter.  If that is not possible, or desirable, we highly recommend that you set up a GTU checking account to handle student checks with yourself and one other faculty member authorized to sign checks.  When students write a check to the chapter, as opposed to a professor, it makes it clear that the money is going to the chapter and not into the professor's pocket!

Charging Local Dues ^TOP

The GTU lifetime dues are $40, but many chapters charge an additional fee for Local Dues. Many charge $5. It may not sound like much but, over time, the extra fee per initiate will accumulate in your GTU account allowing you to use the money for refreshments at your initiation ceremonies, speaker honoraria, whatever. In deciding whether to charge local dues, your chapter should consider whether doing so will discourage new members from joining.

Timing of the Initiation Ceremony ^TOP

It is strongly recommended that you send your initiation report and receive your certificates prior to holding your induction ceremony so that you can present the certificates at the ceremony. Your students are not official members of GTU until their initiate report and payment have been processed by the International Office.  This requires advanced planning to make sure that you schedule your induction ceremony at least five weeks after the date you mail your initiate report and payment. Even if certificates will not arrive in time for your induction ceremony, you should send in your initiate report as soon as possible.

If despite this recommendation you hold an induction ceremony before sending the initiate report, you absolutely MUST send in your initiate report and payment immediately.  Any delay could result in students being declared ineligible for GTU scholarships or benefits they apply for. In the past, a few faculty sponsors have held an induction ceremony and have failed to send an initiate report and payment altogether, resulting in students learning months or years later that they were never officially inducted into GTU.

The Value of Multiple Initiations ^TOP

As faculty sponsor you are required to offer membership in the chapter at least once during each academic year to those who qualify. However, one of the most useful ways of increasing participation in GTU is to have more than one initiation each year.  Having an initiation each semester or quarter rather than once a year means that students do not have to wait until the end of the year to become members and can begin formal participation in GTU as soon as they are eligible for membership.  Switching from one initiation a year to two or more initiations has helped many chapters to create the critical mass of students needed to have a thriving GTU chapter.

Inducting Faculty Who Are Not Yet Members ^TOP

If you have geography faculty on your campus who are not yet members of GTU, you should endeavor to make sure that they become members of GTU.  All faculty with graduate degrees in geography should be inducted as regular members, not honorary, if they wish to join.  Individuals with a PhD in geography should have met the requirements and are generally assumed to be eligible for membership. Honorary membership is reserved for very special cases.

Honorary Membership ^TOP

Honorary membership is reserved for persons who have contributed to a marked advancement in any phase of geography and is awarded only under extraordinary circumstances. Honorary membership is also reserved for those not eligible for regular membership. Honorary memberships must be approved by the GTU Executive Committee.  To nominate someone for honorary membership send the GTU Executive Secretary a petition addressed to the members of the Executive Committee explaining how the nominee's contributions to geography.

Planning and Holding The Initiation Ceremony ^TOP

It is beneficial to work with the members of your chapter to plan an induction ceremony. While it is tempting as a faculty sponsor to plan the whole thing yourself, give the student members a chance to lead and be responsible for the legwork. The induction ceremony can be as simple or elaborate as your chapter's membership desires.   Make sure that the ceremony is scheduled at least five weeks after the date you plan to mail your initiate report.

You'll find scripts for several different versions of an initiation ceremony on the Initiation Ceremony page. You'll also find a template for a program.

It's always a nice touch to order cake & coffee to serve guests/family/friends at a short reception afterward.  Some chapters may even hold a dinner.  Consider inviting an administrator to your ceremony. To strengthen relationships with other honor societies on campus, you might consider pooling your efforts and holding a common ceremony, each taking turns at initiating their members. Consider asking the school newspaper if they'd like to cover the ceremony.

Checklist for the Faculty Sponsor

Chapter Creation ^TOP

If your institution does not have a chapter, creating one is easy. First make sure your your institution doesn't already have a chapter has become inactive. Visit our chapters page and search through the list for the name of your school. If you're on the list you can simply reactivate your chapter (see Reactivating Inactive Chapters directly below).  Accredited Institutions that offer a major, minor, certificate or its equivalent, in geography and lack a GTU chapter may petition for a charter for a new chapter. Institutions outside of the United States must meet and maintain the standards of the Association of College Honor Societies with respect to the mission and quality of eligible institutions. A petition must be made by a group of six or more individuals eligible for membership. The faculty member who will become the sponsor or the department chair must complete the petition. The fee to establish a new charter is $100 minimum. The fee may be higher based on actual cost. A letter of support from the geography department chair or appropriate administrator must also be submitted.  A Petition for Charter form is available on the GTU website. Approval of a charter is accomplished by a vote of the President, First Vice President, and Executive Secretary after accreditation of the petitioning institution is verified.

Reactivating Inactive Chapters ^TOP

Chapters that fail to add at least one member in two successive years are considered inactive. There is no formal procedure for reactivating a chapter beyond submitting an initiate report form.

Maintaining Contact with the International Organization ^TOP

As faculty sponsor, you are the main point of contact between your chapter and the international organization. You may receive requests for updates from your Regional Councilor or other members of the Executive Committee from time to time. You will also be sent information, including the GTU Newsletter, that you should pass along to your members. You may also contact your Regional Councilor, the GTU Outreach Coordinator, the Executive Secretary, President, and Vice Presidents as appropriate for guidance. Finally, you are encouraged to share and have members of your chapter share photos and stories about your chapter on the GTU International Facebook page and in the GTU Newsletter.

GTU Newsletter ^TOP

Approximately four times a year you will receive the GTU Newsletter via e-mail. Please forward the newsletter on to the members of your chapter. It contains important information about many of the benefits of GTU for students, including scholarships. You may also encourage your students to share information about your chapter's activities by writing an article for the newsletter. Submissions should be sent to the GTU President.

Voting on Honor Society Matters ^TOP

Annually the international organization holds elections for officers and occasionally may submit changes to the organization's constitution and bylaws to the membership.  As faculty sponsor, you will receive the ballot for any elections.  You should circulate the ballot to the chapter membership, have members vote, and then transmit the chapter's decision to the teller for the election as directed.  The vote you send should reflect the desire of your chapter and not your own personal assessment of the issue.

Changing the Faculty Sponsor ^TOP

From time to time it is necessary for a chapter to assign a new faculty member as sponsor. The way to communicate this change to the international organization is to include the new faculty sponsor's name on your chapter's next initiate report. The former faculty sponsor should forward communications from GTU to the new sponsor until their name is included in the next initiate report. This procedure allows GTU to guard against changes that may be made without the knowledge of the chapter or department and allows GTU to verify that those named as faculty sponsors are serving active chapters.

Ensuring that Chapter Reports are Sent ^TOP

Each spring you will receive a request from the 2nd Vice President of the Executive Committee to provide a report from your chapter. This report should be written and submitted by your student leaders and therefore you should forward this request to them and ensure that they follow through on making the report. If your student leaders do not follow through, you may wish to provide the report yourself.  Chapters can only apply for chapter awards if they have submitted a report. These reports are posted on the GTU website and serve as an excellent resource to inspire chapter activities.

Nominating Students to be Outreach Assistants ^TOP

One significant way that students can participate in GTU at the international scale is as a Student Outreach Assistant.  Each regional division of GTU is represented by a student outreach assistant who is appointed by the division's Regional Councilor. If you have excellent students you think would be well suited for service to GTU as an outreach assistant, send your recommendation to your Regional Councilor, after checking to insure the student's interest in the position.   

Encouraging and Supporting Student Scholarship Applicants ^TOP

Faculty sponsors should do all they can to encourage students to apply for the scholarships that GTU offers annually.  The folks who evaluate the scholarship applications can identify active and enthusiastic faculty sponsors because we receive multiple scholarship applications from their members. Students who apply for scholarships are required to obtain a letter of support from their faculty sponsor and another faculty member. You should encourage your students to apply as early as possible so that you have time to write this letter and do not have to write it after the semester has ended.

Maintaining Chapter Records and Ensuring Chapter Continuity ^TOP

The faculty sponsor plays a significant role in maintaining chapter records and ensuring chapter continuity.

Chapter Records ^TOP

Your chapter should keep records of its membership and activities in a safe and secure location. Your chapter likely has an ongoing roster of its members. If it doesn't you should start keeping one.  You may also want to keep important documents, photos, and other materials that document the chapter's activities. While your chapter's secretary and historian may be in charge of keeping chapter records for the current year, the chapter will rely upon you to keep records over the long term. When your term as faculty sponsor ends, you will want to pass along the chapter's records to your successor.

Chapter Continuity ^TOP

As student leaders graduate, you'll want to ensure that new leaders are elected to replace them. Especially if new leadership is elected in the spring, you may need to encourage the new leaders to jump start the chapter's activities in the fall. Some universities may require student organizations to register as official organizations each year to be eligible for funding. You'll want to make sure that students have completed any such registration so that your chapter remains in good graces with your institution.

Advising a Successful Chapter ^TOP

The minimum duties of a faculty sponsor are described above, however, being a faculty sponsor for a successful chapter requires much more than that.  If you want your chapter to take off and be a true asset for your students and your department, there is much more that you can do.

Integrating GTU with Geography Clubs and Societies ^TOP

Many campuses host a geography club or society in addition to the local GTU chapter.  Some universities may have a critical mass of students capable of successfully supporting two separate organizations.  In most cases, however, there will be significant overlap in membership and one or the other organization may be more active.  There are several options that your chapter may wish to pursue to ensure the success of both your geography club and your GTU chapter. These are presented in an evolutionary sequence with the first being the default option and the succeeding options as steps on the way to having two healthy organizations.

No GTU Chapter ^TOP

An institution may have a geography club but no GTU chapter or a chapter that has lapsed into inactive status.  In such cases the geography club may help to start a new chapter or to reactivate the inactive chapter.  See Petition for Charter or the document on  Reactivating a Chapter.  

No Geography Club ^TOP

Some institutions have the opposite situation where a GTU chapter has been established but no geography club exists.  In such cases, one of the goals of the GTU chapter may be to start a geography club to serve a broader campus interest in geography. 

GTU as Academic Recognition ^TOP

In this case GTU has a limited role and serves almost exclusively as a way to recognize academic achievement with the only formal activities being one or two initiations a year while a larger geography club organizes activities and service projects.  This option is not preferred but is acceptable, especially in cases where a GTU chapter has a small membership. Chapters that find themselves in this situation should work to move to one of the following models.

GTU as a Graduate/Undergraduate Organzation ^TOP

At some institutions, GTU may become primarily a graduate student organization while the geography club is primarily an undergraduate organization or is not active at all. Alternatively, GTU may be primarily an undergraduate organization with little involvement from graduate students.  Ideally GTU should be an organization that brings graduate and undergraduate students together. The interaction certainly has a great impact on undergraduates and may help encourage them to pursue a graduate degree. In such cases the leadership of the GTU chapter may want to broaden membership by recruiting outside of their graduate or undergraduate student cohort while taking care not to weaken the existing geography club. In cases where there is no separate geography club, as noted above, the GTU members may want to help start one as a way of broadening undergraduate participation in the life of the department and as a pool for recruiting to GTU. Representation of both graduate and undergraduate students on the GTU chapter's executive committee, perhaps in the form of graduate and undergraduate membership chairs, may help to facilitate this participation. 

GTU as a Leadership Organization ^TOP

In this model GTU and the geography club are integrated such that the student leaders of the GTU chapter also serve as leaders of the geography club. Both organizations typically share a single faculty advisor.  Activities include membership of both organizations.  Formal membership in GTU is of course restricted to those students who qualify, but there are typically few or no separate activities restricted only to GTU members. This appears to be the most successful model at many institutions, especially at smaller ones where the number of geography students is small. 

GTU and Geography Club as Separate Active Organzations ^TOP

Having a GTU Chapter and Geography club that are two separate and equally active organizations is the ideal situation.  That said, few if any institutions achieve this situation and it may not be appropriate in all cases.  In this model, each group has sufficient membership to organize separate activities though they may also collaborate on activities. Typically membership in the two organizations will overlap though individual members may be more active in one or the other organization.

Whatever the situation, the important thing is to work to promote both healthy GTU chapters and healthy geography clubs.

Invitation Letter Templates ^TOP

Email Invitation Letter ^TOP

(Sent prior to Formal Letter)
SUBJECT: Invitation to Join GTU

Dear <Student Name>--

Congratulations! You are among a select group of <Your School> students who will be invited this semester to membership in Gamma Theta Upsilon, the international honor society in geography. This is indeed a significant honor extended only to top students and it is based on your excellent academic work to date. For more information, visit the national GTU Website at

Soon you will receive an official letter notifying you of how to accept membership in Gamma Theta Upsilon. If you do not receive your letter by <Set a Date> please contact <Chapter Advisor's Name>.

Our initiation ceremony will be held at <Time/Date> . New GTU initiates receive a handsome certificate suitable for framing, an ID card, and a year's subscription to the Geographical Bulletin.  Initiates are also eligible to apply for one of five $1000 national GTU scholarships awarded annually.

Again, congratulations on an honor well-deserved. We hope you will accept our invitation to join Gamma Theta Upsilon.


<Chapter Advisor's Name>

Formal Invitation Letter Template ^TOP

(printed on university stationary and sent by mail or handed to student)


<Student Address>

Dear <Student Name>,

The <chapter name> chapter of Gamma Theta Upsilon (GTU) at <institution name> is pleased to extend you an invitation to become a member of this international geography honor society.  Membership is earned through superior scholarship and is a professional distinction.  Connection to an academic honor society is evidence of dedication and competency in your career field.  Moreover, some employers as well as the federal government give hiring preference to honor society members.

If you accept this invitation to GTU membership, you have until Noon on <date> to inform Dr. <Faculty Sponsor> (<Faculty Sponsor Contact Info>).  There is a one-time $40 membership fee.  Please fill out the enclosed biographical form and return it to Dr. <Faculty Sponsor> along with your $40 (cash or a check made out to <appropriate name>).  No further dues are paid after the initiation fee which provides you with lifetime membership, a handsome certificate suitable for framing, an ID card, and a subscription to the honor society's journal, The Geographical Bulletin.  In addition, you may apply for one of five $1,000 national scholarships awarded annually to GTU members in order to continue undergraduate work or pursue graduate study.

GTU initiation will be held at the <location>.  Please feel free to invite parents, spouse, and guests to join us for your special occasion.  The program will take place on <date time and location>.  <Details of a reception or other event to follow>.  We would be delighted to have you join us along with your family and friends.

We hope to hear from you and, again, congratulations! 


Dr. <Faculty Sponsor>      
GTU Faculty Sponsor                    

Email Invitation Follow-Up Letter Template ^TOP

(e-mailed after receipt of formal letter)


Recently, you were mailed a formal invitation to join Gamma Theta Upsilon, the international geography honor society. This invitation was based on your academic success in geography to date. Acceptance of this invitation will inform those who review your resume/vita and future job applications of your accomplishments. We hope you will accept membership. If you did not receive a hard copy invitation, consider this email as a substitute invitation. New GTU initiates receive lifetime membership, a handsome certificate suitable for framing, an identification card, and a subscription to the society's annual journal, The Geographical Bulletin.

This email is a reminder that cash or check (made payable to GTU) in the amount of $40 is due no later than <Time/Date> to <Chapter Advisor's Name/Office Location> along with your completed biographical sheet (see attached). The one-time fee covers local and national dues for lifetime membership. If you have already turned in your membership materials, thank you. If you will have difficulty in turning in these materials by the above date, please see me ASAP.

I hope to hear from you soon. Congratulations again on your academic success!


<Chapter Advisor's Name>
Faculty Sponsor for Gamma Theta Upsilon

Gamma Theta Upsilon Candidate Biographical Sheet ^TOP

Gamma Theta Upsilon Candidate Biographical Sheet
(Please Print)

Name __________________________________________________         
               (as you want it to appear on your certificate)

Your Home Town ___________________________ 

Current year in school (circle one):   Grad Student     Senior     Junior   Sophomore

Major(s) ____________________________________  

Advisor _____________________________________

Minor(s) ____________________________________

E-mail Address _________________________________

Local Address ____________________________________________________________________         

Local Phone ________________________________

Permanent Address ____________________________________________________________________         


Your Parent(s)/Guardian(s) --include first name(s) ______________________________________________

Expected Graduation Date (circle one):

Spring 2014  Fall 2014  Spring 2015  Fall 2015  Other ________________________

Please complete the following statements to be read aloud at the initiation ceremony:

I enjoy studying geography because:




Other campus activities (clubs, orgs., etc.) include