An IU first

PBS undergrad Logan Williams named Phi Beta Kappa “Key into Public Service Scholar”


Logan Williams, psychology and political science major Photo by Jordan Morning

On May 1 academic honor society Phi Beta Kappa announced its 2023 group of 20 “Key into Public Service Scholars.” Among them was IU psychology and political science major, Logan Williams, a rising senior in the IU College of Arts and Sciences, and the first-ever IU student to receive this prestigious award. With this award the Phi Beta Kappa Society, a leading national advocate for the value of a liberal arts and sciences education, recognizes students pursuing liberal arts and sciences degrees, who are “especially distinguished by their intellectual curiosity, community engagement, and dedication to the common good.”

Williams checks these boxes in spades. He’s a natural ambassador for the value of a liberal arts education. “I came to IU to study things I was interested in,” he explains, assuming he would later go to graduate school to pursue a narrower professional goal. And his wide-ranging curiosity extends to things large and small, near and far – from the mind and brain to comparative politics and U.S. foreign policy to the origins of a cup of coffee and the economic relationships on which it depends. (This last topic was the result of an honors seminar on the global coffee trade taught by Kelley School faculty member Clark Barwick.)

Among his most eye-opening classes was PBS Professor Ehren Newman’s neuroscience class, which, he says, “shows how the brain works at a fundamental level, which you can see in your everyday life, the way that the brain makes connections and is very pattern dependent.”


I’ve always wanted to do something in my life that is going to give back to people around me.


Community engagement? Check again. In his hometown of Muncie, Indiana, he volunteered with the White River Clean-Up and the Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign. At IU he has participated in the Sunrise Movement in Bloomington, which fights for climate justice.

Then there is the disarming clarity of Williams’ desire to make the world a better place. “I’ve always wanted to do something in my life that is going to give back to people around me,” he explains. Post-graduation this means becoming a teacher with Teach for America, an organization which enlists future leaders in the movement for educational equity.

Williams has already had several short stints as a teacher, first in high school teaching social studies to a middle school team competing in the Indiana Academic Superbowl and then in college as an undergraduate teaching assistant for a political science class in U.S. foreign policy. He hopes to be a UTA next year for a psychology class in PBS as well. Teaching, he believes, is “a great way to have impact on people’s lives.”

The award provides a $5,000 undergraduate scholarship. It also supports the participation in a conference this summer in Washington, D.C. which provides special training, mentoring, and reflection on the pathways into active citizenship.

“I’m very thankful for this award and I am going to make the most of it,” Williams adds. “I’ve never been to DC before, so I’m really excited about that. I think we’re doing a tour of the White House. That’s going to be cool.”


Science Writer