What’s Next for IEEE’s Honor Society

As it celebrates its fifth anniversary, IEEE-Eta Kappa Nu focuses on career development and growth

15 October 2015

In 1904, in a shady spot under a cottonwood tree on the Urbana-Champaign campus of the University of Illinois, Maurice L. Carr and nine other engineering students discussed forming a society to recognize academic excellence and help its members find footholds in their careers. On 28 October of that year, the group formed an honor society, Eta Kappa Nu (HKN).

In 2010, more than 100 years after that start, HKN became IEEE’s official honor society. This month, IEEE-HKN celebrates its fifth anniversary. Though the merger brought about some change, HKN’s basic principles remain. Its inductees are still chosen on the basis of their academic, technical, scientific, and leadership achievements, but now they must be IEEE members. Membership in IEEE-HKN is a lifetime designation, which members are expected to uphold by pledging to continuously gain and share knowledge with others in their fields and use their technical expertise to better serve their communities. After the merger, society chapters began to form outside the United States.

IEEE-HKN is celebrating its anniversary this month with several activities, including a special issue of The Bridge, its quarterly digital magazine, and Founders Day, an event that honors its roots.


IEEE-HKN was founded not only to recognize excellent engineering students but also to help them stand out to prospective employers. For its first four decades, the honor society focused on helping members find jobs and excel in their careers, according to its director, Nancy Ostin. This became especially important after the Great Depression began in 1929 and lasted until the onset of World War II, a period when jobs were scarce.

The society accomplished this by focusing the content of The Bridge on employment issues. Articles included national salary surveys of engineering jobs, employment and career guidance articles, descriptions of companies and industries that were hiring, trends in engineering education, and biographies of prominent engineers.

In October a special issue of the magazine will delve into the society’s history and explore its plans for the future.


The society will be forming new chapters and reactivating dormant ones in an effort to increase membership. More than 200,000 people have been inducted into IEEE-HKN. People who were inducted into the honor society before the 2010 merger with IEEE and do not see IEEE-HKN on their IEEE membership cards should contact the society to correct their records, Ostin notes.

The IEEE-HKN’s board of governors has established a strategic direction to help its members excel in their careers, Ostin says. It also plans to establish more alumni chapters to assist the student chapters and support those starting their careers.

The honor society also plans to establish an industry advisory board to help it partner with engineering and tech companies and develop a corporate recruiting program for IEEE-HKN members.


Now in its third year, Founders Day will be celebrated by the honor society on 28 October. The event gives IEEE-HKN members an opportunity to celebrate the society’s roots and raise awareness of how it benefits members, the universities that host its chapters, and the communities its members serve. In past years, student chapters have marked the event by holding social events on campus, inviting alumni members to speak to students, and organizing community service projects.

The honor society is also hosting a Founders Day poster competition for IEEE-HKN chapters. The five chapters judged to have submitted the best designs will receive an IEEE-HKN banner. To enter, chapters or individuals must e-mail their poster designs to info@hkn.org by 13 November. IEEE-HKN members are also encouraged to post information about their festivities on Twitter using the hash tag #IAmHKN and share stories, photos, and videos on IEEE-HKN’s Facebook and LinkedIn pages.

IEEE membership offers a wide range of benefits and opportunities for those who share a common interest in technology. If you are not already a member, consider joining IEEE and becoming part of a worldwide network of more than 400,000 students and professionals.

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