BLACK VOICES

Black Excellence Is 8 Black Women Making History By Earning Their PhD Together

These women used the common thread they shared to break new ground at the university.

Eight black women will make history as they walk across the stage to receive their diplomas in May in the ultimate display of "teamwork makes the dream work."

When these ladies -- Nadrea Njoku, Jasmine Haywood, Johari Shuck, Tiffany Kyser, Demetrees Hutchins, Jada Phelps-Moultrie, Juhanna Rogers and Shannon McCullough -- began their respective doctoral programs at the Indiana University School of Education, they realized how few women of color had come before them at the school.

"We understood very early on that we had a distinction, a commonality, a thread between all of us and so we began to meet as a group," said PhD candidate Nadrea Njoku.

Dubbed "the great eight," the candidates used the common thread they shared to break new ground at the university. They uplifted, motivated and encouraged one another right to the finish line. 

"We often deal with this idea that we always have to do more," Haywood told Fox 59. "And our collective black female community, here, we were able to tell each other you're enough." 

This will be the first time the university has ever had so many black woman complete a doctoral program at one time. Shuck told the news outlet that the group leaned on each other for emotional support, especially when the anxiety of being one of the only persons of color weighed heavy.

"When you're the only or one of a handful of people of color in the classroom particularly when it comes to speaking about issues of race," Haywood said. "You can often become the token or spokesperson."

The group said they want their work to inspire other women of color to thrive. 

"If we get more images of showing us in these positive lights," Hutchins said, "then we can truly say this is nothing special because it happens all the time. So until we get to that point we'll be the great eight and we'll shine that light on it."

After graduating in May, the women will defend their dissertations this summer. They will also meet with school leadership to talk about ways to make their program more inclusive.

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