Florida State University hosted two intense, one-week programs designed to help women of color, particularly black women, thrive in academia earlier this month.
Nearly 100 women, including undergraduates, postgraduates and faculty members, participated in the Sisters of the Academy (SOTA) Research BootCamp and the Priming the Pipeline mentoring program held July 30 – Aug. 5, 2017. These educational workshops, now in their 16th year, are hosted by SOTA and co-sponsored by the FSU College of Education.
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), of the 2.9 million postbaccalaureate students enrolled in fall 2014, less than a quarter were black. That number drops even lower for faculty. NCES reports that in fall 2013, there were 1.5 million faculty at degree-granting postsecondary institutions — only three percent were black women.
“Black women are underrepresented in academia,” said Tamara Bertrand Jones, an associate professor of higher education at FSU and a founding member of SOTA. “In these workshops, we help prepare undergraduate and graduate students for careers in higher education by addressing the issues that black women scholars frequently experience in academic environments, such as work-life balance and learning to excel in male-dominated departments.”
Both programs go beyond just academics, though. Through afterhours sessions, such as “Sista Chats,” yoga and self-defense, the Research BootCamp and Priming the Pipeline program take a holistic approach to professional development that involves mind, body and spirit.
The Research BootCamp assists women doctoral students and junior scholars to develop sound research projects. Senior scholars – prominent black women who hold or have held leadership positions in higher education – facilitate workshops to help doctoral students conceptualize and design components of their dissertations (i.e., formulating research questions or hypotheses, developing literature review, selecting instrumentation, designing methodology and completing data analysis). Senior scholars also assist junior scholars in the development of manuscripts for publication and advisement for tenure and promotion.
“Often, the process of pursuing a doctoral degree is confusing,” Bertrand Jones said. “The goal of the BootCamp is to demystify the process and provide black women the support to foster success in the areas of teaching, scholarly inquiry and service to the community.”
Priming the Pipeline is focused on providing undergraduate women mentoring, leadership and community engagement. SOTA scholars mentor undergraduate and graduate women of color as they develop their educational and career goals, identify their strengths and passions, learn to work in collaboration with others in a research environment and gain the skills and motivation necessary to complete postbaccalaureate degrees.
“Through Priming the Pipeline, we hope to increase the number of black women students who take the big step of pursuing graduate degrees,” Bertrand Jones said. “This program offers individuals access to a supportive network of influential women who can provide the invaluable support young women need as they navigate higher education.”
Sisters of the Academy (SOTA) Institute was founded at Florida State University in 2001 by a group of students who bonded as they worked on their doctoral studies. SOTA aims to establish an educational network of black women in higher education, and through programs such as the Research BootCamp and the Pipeline Mentoring Program, facilitate collaborative scholarship and success.
For more information about SOTA and their programs visit, http://www.sistersoftheacademy.org/.