8 Black Women Unite Through Facebook to Pursue PhDs

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The numbers are impressive and show a rapidly changing world. Since 2008, more women than men have been earning doctoral degrees, and the percentage has continued to increase over the years.

Black women are no exception, but according to the website blackwomenphd.org, they make up less than five percent of the total Ph.D. population in the United States.

That’s part of what makes the eight African-American women who will earn their Ph.D.s in education this summer from Indiana University so special. For them, this graduation is a small victory and the credit goes to their support group, called Sister Circle.

The women’s reasons for pursuing doctorate degrees vary. As children, Nadrea Njoku and Johari Shuck watched their mothers earn college degrees, while Tiffany Kyser and Jada Phelps-Moultrie saw inequities while teaching that they wanted to address. No matter their motivation, Phelps-Moultrie says they are grateful to Sister Circle, aimed at women of color.

“It was refreshing, I would say, to have other people that look like you,” she told VOA. “Particularly when I was in a bachelor’s and master’s program where I was the only one.”

Sister Circle was born of a Facebook post, asking if there were any female minority students attending Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis pursuing advanced degrees.

‘Isolation, solitude’
The eight women had met each other here and there before the group cemented their friendship and helped them toward their goal. Jasmine Haywood says it was a great place to vent frustrations, offer help, and cheer each other on.

“It helps the take away the feelings of isolation and solitude,” Haywood said. “No matter who you are, getting a Ph.D. can be a lonely process. Then add layers of woman of color, mother, wife — it can become that much more isolating.”

In addition to meeting in person, the group offered a lot of online support — from posting announcements about helpful educational opportunities, to sharing encouragement. On many occasions, it facilitated one-on-one assistance, like watching each other’s children or helping those — like Shuck — who live several hours away.

“We’ve all had each others’ backs,” she said. “I’ve been here in Chicago, but I still have business in Indiana, so needing things being signed, helping paperwork get around, I’ve relied on Jasmine to do that.”

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SOURCE: VOA News, Erika Celeste