IEEE-Eta Kappa Nu Has Expanded Its Reach in the Last Decade

Since it merged with IEEE in 2010, the honor society has grown to 265 chapters in 19 countries

5 min read
IEEE-Eta Kappa Nu students are among the top 33% of their senior class and top 25% of their junior class earning their first academic degree.
IEEE-Eta Kappa Nu students are among the top 33 percent of their senior class and top 25 percent of their junior class earning their first academic degree.

THE INSTITUTE With their merger on 1 September 2010, IEEE and the honor society Eta Kappa Nu created a pathway to identify and develop future leaders in the IEEE fields of interest. Ten years, 48 new chapters, 26,000 inductees, and hundreds of thousands of community service hours later, IEEE-HKN is an engine for innovation and excellence.

“The leadership of IEEE realized the potential of this merger, and many people worked tirelessly to make it happen,” says Bruce Eisenstein, 2000 IEEE president and 2010 IEEE-HKN president. “We can look with pride at the result today.”

With 265 chapters in 19 countries, the honor society has provided IEEE a way to reach—and bring into its volunteer and leadership ranks—bright students, industry professionals, and academics. Some 23 IEEE presidents, including every one since the merger, are members of the honor society.

IEEE-HKN offers a strong feeder system for IEEE societies because it is populated with ready and willing volunteers for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education-outreach programs, tutoring, humanitarian activities, and committee- and board-level positions throughout IEEE.

In turn, the honor society gained the resources it needed to grow and transform into a multifaceted, global organization. All of its international growth has occurred since the merger. The honor society now has 26 chapters in IEEE Regions 7–10. About 3,000 new members from all IEEE regions are inducted each year.

“IEEE-HKN embraces its roots as an American university honor society, but it has grown into a global professional organization that brings professional development, career development, life skills development, and leadership skills development to our members throughout their careers,” says Edward A. Rezek, 2020 IEEE-HKN president.

Programs and services, such as the Student Leadership Conference, the Pathways to Industry professional-development series, and the annual awards programs, have been added or improved to better meet the needs of members and the communities they impact.

Leadership training, networking opportunities, a career center, and chapter mentoring programs are offered to help develop “the complete technical professional,” says IEEE-HKN Director Nancy Ostin, who recently celebrated her eighth year with IEEE and has led the society through a period of solid growth and transformation.

The honor society is celebrating the anniversary of the successful partnership through the rest of this year, encouraging all members—students and professionals—to raise the profile of IEEE-HKN through social media, coordinated service projects with IEEE student branches and within IEEE regions and sections.

Consider contributing to the $116,000 giving campaign and to donating in other ways.

Serving the local and global community is a requisite for the society's members, but members go above and beyond having logged more than 85,000 hours of service in 2019 alone.Serving the local and global community is a requisite for the society's members, but members go above and beyond, having logged more than 85,000 hours of service in 2019 alone.Photo: IEEE-HKN


The honor society was established 116 years ago, on 28 October. At its core, IEEE–HKN is dedicated to recognizing students and professionals who have proven themselves through outstanding scholarship, unimpeachable character, and a positive attitude that propels them to serve others.

Only the top 25 percent of undergraduate university juniors and the top 33 percent of university seniors are invited to join. Graduate students, doctoral candidates, and professional members also are invited.

Many tech pioneers are members, including Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn, “fathers” of the Internet; Martin Cooper, inventor of the first handheld cellphone; ARPANET developer Leonard Kleinrock; and Ethernet inventor Robert M. Metcalfe. They also include industry giants such as Norman R. Augustine, former president and CEO of Lockheed Martin; Google cofounder Lawrence Page; and Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak.

“IEEE-HKN is never given; it is earned,” Ostin says, noting that the society designation is lifelong. Those who have earned it are expected to give of their time and talents for the betterment of their local and global community.

Last year IEEE-HKN student members logged more than 85,000 hours of service to the society, their communities, and others, Ostin says.

The IEEE-HKN Epsilon Xi chapter at Wichita State University, in Kansas, for example, partnered with Go Baby Go—an organization that adapts ride-on vehicles for children with disabilities—to engineer and build customized cars for toddlers based on their needs. The Mu Eta chapter and the IEEE student branch at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, in South Africa, organized career talks for more than 200 female high school students.


The honor society has been tested this year like never before: The global pandemic demanded that the primarily in-person business model that IEEE-HKN has used be moved online so chapters could maintain their operations and members could live up to the promises they made when inducted. IEEE-HKN did not just augment its offerings with online programming; it also developed a new method of delivering resources and chapter support.

By 5 April, the society introduced an online induction ceremony, which holds fast to the 116-year-old ritual and has been used by dozens of chapters. IEEE-HKN also launched a Virtual Tutoring Center Initiative.

On 31 May, IEEE-HKN held its first graduation celebration to recognize those who more than likely would not have an in-person event. Eminent member Henry Samueli, founder of Broadcom, offered advice during a live broadcast.

Chapters have since shared best practices with one another on monthly calls, and the first-ever IEEE-HKN online Tetris competition was held, strengthening the sense of community among the worldwide membership.

A remote new-chapter installation ceremony, which was used to add three chapters, was created. The Pathways to Industry program was transitioned into a series of webinars. The society’s premier educational and networking event, the annual Student Leadership Conference, is being reimagined as an 11-day, interactive online event that will be open to all IEEE-HKN members, students, and professionals.

“Our students and faculty advisors built upon the resources we provided and used their creativity to mentor and tutor students, support their universities through hosting online classes for younger students, and came together for social events, such as online scavenger hunts and trivia games, to stay connected,” Ostin says. “Their commitment to IEEE-HKN and the brilliant way in which they responded to the crisis underscores the character these students possess and why they were invited to join IEEE-HKN in the first place.”

S.K. Ramesh, 2016 IEEE-HKN president and current chair of its development committee, says the merger happened because of the foresight of champions such as Eisenstein, Stephen Goodnick (IEEE-HKN 2011–2012 president), and John A. Orr (2013–2014 president). They “guided us through the formative years to make IEEE-HKN what it is today: a vibrant, globally diverse organization that engages students and professionals, celebrates excellence in scholarship and service, transforms individuals, and brings IEEE’s mission to life in communities worldwide.”

Are you Eta Kappa Nu? If your HKN affiliation is not on your IEEE membership card or record, the information is not included in our records. To update your record or reconnect with the honor society, please fill out this form.

Stacey Bersani is the program manager for IEEE–Eta Kappa Nu.

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