Like many good stories, it all started with a Facebook post.
When Jasmine Haywood, a Ph.D. candidate at IUPUI, wrote about what she and seven
other women were close to accomplishing, the post went viral. One line read, “For the
first time in history eight black women will be graduating from the School of Education with Ph.D.s.” Thus, #TheGreat8 was formed.
Not only are these women students. Their lives are balancing acts as mothers, wives and full-time professionals – for some, all three. With the demands of day-to-day life and the demographic challenges that come with being women of color, they’re the modern-day superhero.
It’s by chance that Tiffany Kyser, Nadrea Njoku, Juhanna Rogers, Jasmine Haywood, Johari Shuck, Demetrees Hutchins, Jada Phelps-Moultrie, and Shannon McCullough are graduating from the same school at the same time. But their friendship is nothing new. From classes, group projects and conferences to nights reserved solely for hanging out, they’ve shared a lot with one another. While juggling the many roles in their lives has been trivial at times, having a “sister circle,” as they call it, has been of major benefit throughout the years.
“We had so many barriers against us both demographically and personally but yet we still accomplished this,” said Shannon McCullough, one of the eight.
Two of the women are pursuing a Ph.D. in Urban Education and the other six in Higher Education. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2015 12 percent of U.S. population had achieved an advanced degree – doctorate, master’s or professional. However, the reason for the hype is not solely reserved for the Ph.D. but also the fact that they’re women of color graduating from the same school.
The group has received national and international attention. A girl from Nigeria wrote them and confessed she looks to the women as role models. Their story has encouraged her to pursue a furthered education.
“It’s a very unexpected and humbling thing that we’ve experienced all because of a Facebook post,” McCullough said.
At IUPUI, the great eight is working with the faculty to improve the curriculum within their specified fields for future students. Specifically, they want to offer support to women of color and mothers who are working to attain their Ph.D.
“This is about recognizing why we were so successful – it’s because of the women before us,” McCullough said.