Referred to as “The Great Eight,” a group of Black women made history this weekend after they all received Ph.D. degrees from the Indiana University School of Education, reports IndyStar.
Demetrees Hutchins, Shannon McCullough, Nadrea Njoku, Juhanna Rogers, Johari Shuck and Jasmine Haywood have all earned doctorates in the field of higher education and student affairs. In addition, fellow classmates Tiffany Kyser and Jada Phelps Moultrie earned doctorates in urban education studies.
According to Robin Hughes, the school’s interim executive associate dean, it’s rare when the School of Education graduates three or four Ph.D. candidates in one year. Typically, there might be one or two people of color in all disciplines earning a Ph.D. so to graduate eight Black women from one school is “a big doggone deal,” Hughes said. “And not just for IU, but across the country. That just doesn’t happen.”
Njoku, a New Orleans native who had felt “distant and isolated” after having completed the higher education student affairs master’s program in Bloomington, found herself working with Rogers. Going through a shared experience, the two of them thought it would be powerful to unite the Black women from the two campuses.
“At that first meeting, we had at least 10 women, even though we knew very little about one another,” Njoku recounts. “Two campuses, plus life and our studies, were keeping us in a silo when we should have been supporting each other. If you never see anyone who looks like you, if you never see anyone who understands your perspective, that can be isolating.”
It was in this “sister circle” that these phenomenal women found support and strength among each other.
“The sister circle gave us a space to talk about what was going on beyond class,” Njoku said. “We were able to affirm each other, encourage and bounce ideas off each other in a safe space.”
“My hope is that our individual and collective stories of sisterhood, perseverance and community commitment will inspire those who come behind us to persist in the face of challenging circumstances and remain committed to social justice through education,” said Shuck.
The sister circle hopes to set an example and increase opportunities and access for Black women coming behind them.
Congratulations to the Great Eight. Here’s to Black sisterhood!