How often do you see 8 Black women receiving their Doctorate at the same time? Until recently, that number was never. But now, we have the “Great Eight” to thank for making history. Demetrees Hutchins, Shannon McCullough, Nadrea Njoku, Juhanna Rogers, Johari Shuck and Jasmine Haywood earned doctorates in the field of higher education and student affairs; while Tiffany Kyser and Jada Phelps Moultrie earned doctorates in urban education studies. Historically, the program would graduate between one and three (on a REALLY good year) African American Ph.D. students, so to have eight, and Black WOMEN, is a big deal.
Only it’s not just the fact that these women earned their Ph.D. at the same time that makes it an interesting story. The bigger story is, HOW. Of course, hard work, determination and grit is needed when success is accomplished; but in addition to those attributes, these women created a “Sister Circle”. After meeting at an educational conference, Nadrea Njoku and Juhanna Rogers started working together. They soon realized that there was more institutional support for Black Men, such as My Brother’s Keeper and like programs, but not much for Black women.
After talking to other women, across the two campuses of the university, the women realized they weren’t alone and had similar shared experiences. “We thought maybe we could come together and just talk and see if other people feel the same way, too,” Rogers said. Which, it turned out, others did.
Not only were the circle’s members often the only African-American students in a classroom, she said, they differed demographically in other ways as well. The majority of them are mothers, for example, and married or newly married. “If you never see anyone who looks like you, if you never see anyone who understands your perspective, that can be isolating,” Njoku shared.
43The sister circle gave us a space to talk about what was going on beyond class
52My hope is that our individual and collective stories of sisterhood
The Indiana University has been focused on expanding diversity in their faculty and the result has been seeing an increase in a diverse student population. It was interesting to see how that expansion has led to a larger graduating class and other specific positive effects from the school. This article gave a great outlook on how the work that is being done is directly affecting the school's student community.
How awesome would it be to start incorporating this idea across college campuses and even in high schools? Let’ face it, we have sororities and other clubs and groups that can yield support. But having a common thread, such as your major or field of study; or even spiritual life has been proven to work. For instance, Small Groups at church and Mom Groups- this type of support system is proven to work. You are happier and more successful when you have a support group, no matter where you are in life.
Do you have a Sister Circle? Perhaps these ladies can be the inspiration for us to start our own. Thank you, The Great Eight, for being role models for young women of what can happen when you support each other, hold her hand and build her up. We build ourselves up at the same time. I think this quote by Amanda Stenberg sums up greatly what happens when we realize that there are no limits, least of all our demographics.