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Sister scholars: Supporting black women in academia and life

Kathryn Kao

January 18, 2019

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What started out as an academic writing group evolved into something so much more for three College of Education alumnae navigating and exploring their professional and personal identities in higher education.

Tiffany Davis (PhD '13), Christa Porter (PhD '13) and Ginny Boss (PhD '14) first met as doctoral students in the College of Education's college and student affairs administration program. Together, they aimed to enhance their knowledge on policy, practice and service as student affairs professionals.

The three recently authored an article for the National Center for Institutional Diversity on how they advance and sustain each other through an academic writing group they created as doctoral students.

"The writing group was helpful while traversing the doctoral process, but it did not offer the levels of support we found ourselves in need of upon entering the academy," they wrote. "When we transitioned into our first faculty appointments, our interpersonal relationships deepened."

While all three of them began their doctoral programs with plans to return to administrative positions in student affairs, they left with new aspirations to pursue faculty positions in higher education.

As black women in academia, Davis, Porter and Boss navigate both macro- and microaggressions connected to not only their research, service and teaching, but also to their presence in the academy. While they started the writing group as a way to encourage and challenge each other in the field, the group's focus eventually shifted from writing to research after they graduated from UGA to align with their new goals as faculty members.

Currently, Davis serves as a program director and is focused on service and teaching at the University of Houston in Texas, while Porter and Boss hold tenure-track appointments and are focused on conducting research at Kent State University in Ohio and Kennesaw State University in Georgia, respectively.

"This project has not only become one thread of our individual research agendas, but also a way for us to support one another's scholarly productivity in a tangible way on the path to tenure and promotion," they wrote. "Put simply, we are assisting each other to have the required number of publications and presentations to earn tenure, a permanent position at our respective universities."

Today, Davis, Porter and Boss hold bi-weekly video conferences, as well as calls and group texts, which consist of more than just research plans; these meetings also remind the group of their humanity and wholeness. From job searches and grant proposals to marriages and life transitions, the three have provided and continue to provide emotional support and constructive feedback in their personal and professional lives.

"Our calls are a reminder to breathe and (re)gain the strength to keep pushing no matter what life may bring, to laugh louder and love harder and that we are enough," they wrote. "Even more importantly, however, our connection (re)solidifies our place and space in the academy and as black women."

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