San Diego State’s Mortar Board was recognized for its achievements in leadership, scholarship and service by the chapter’s national organization.
The Golden Torch is the second highest honor a Mortar Board chapter can receive.
SDSU’s Jane K. Smith Cap and Gown Chapter was one of 36 honored this year, and the only California State University club to make the cut.
The Mortar Board is an honors society exclusive to students with senior status, where only the top 40 applicants are accepted per year.
“We like to think of ourselves as the highest society,” said Alexander Miller, the chapter’s new president.
In order to win the award, chapters must submit a detailed outline of the events they have planned for the upcoming year. The National Mortar Board verifies the events and achievements throughout the year and honors chapters accordingly.
“I think what makes them unique, and what nationals look at when we get an award, is that we do so many projects that help the university and the community,“ Jane Smith, the chapter’s senior advisor, said.
What the members call “stuffing” make up a large portion of the their winning accomplishments. This is where the chapter makes care packages for troops overseas and prepares kits of school supplies for young students in Mexico.
“Some chapters do one thing a year,” Miller said. “But we’re doing two or three things a month and have our hands in a whole bunch of different societies and colleges.”
The Mortar Board is also behind the production of the SDSU planners sold in the campus bookstore every year.
“I think it’s especially helpful for freshmen because it has all of the deadline dates for tests and all the kinds of things they need to know,” Smith said.
This year they added a new feature. Inside the planner is a description of every honors society on campus, giving students easy access to on-campus involvement information.
Amid the chapter’s victory, Miller is already tackling next year’s plan. His vision for the year includes a lot of care packages while continuing to break the cookie-cutter mold of an honors society.
“We don’t like to be bound by the label of an honors society,” he said. “We get people with different causes and interests so if they can organize something and they want to present it to us, we are more than willing to put it on the schedule.”
Miller knows he has some big shoes to fill. The chapter was passed down to him from his Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity brothers.
“Some mortar board chapters have very low involvement and aren’t organized very well,” Miller said. “We just happen to be very organized, and the reigns are kind of just passed down.”
Smith also has high expectations for the upcoming year.
“I am very excited about this chapter,” she said. “We had excellent participation out there during orientation when we had 1,000 students and their parents there. Then we participated in the student expo last week. The attendance is excellent, we’re off to an excellent start.”