When Dr. Janice Cade entered college, her dream was to become and educator, and her plan was to stay in school until she earned her doctorate. Her transition from her bachelor’s degree to a masters, was pretty flawless, she only took a semester off. However by the time she finished her master’s, she was married, raising children and working a demanding job. She found adding the rigorous demands of a doctoral program more than she could work into an already full, to overflowing life.
“It’s difficult to juggle that many hats, many times,” said Cade.
The juggling act can be particularly difficult for women, said Cade, who recalled being shocked when a female professors in her doctoral program at the University of Kansas told the class that the women would probably fail to complete their degree. The comment made Cade and her female classmates even more determined to complete the program. However getting across the finish line wasn’t easy, that’s why Cade joined Societas Docta, Inc., a national organization of women with doctorate degrees. The organizations major mission is to “mentor, motivate and inspire African-American Women to earn a doctoral or professional degree.
Societas Docta, which is Latin for “Society of Doctors,” was formed in Atlanta in 1988. With less than 2% of all Americans holding a doctorate degree, you can surmise that an organization of African-American females with doctorate degrees isn’t a huge organization. However, the national organization’s website identifies active chapters in Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Jersey, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida.
Dr. Cade is president of the Greater Kansas City Chapter of the Societas Docta. Dr. Everlyn Williams, a member of the Kansas City Chapter, is the current national president of the Societas Docta. The local chapter has an impressive 19 members, and growth is on the horizon. Three mentees recently earned their doctorates and have applied for Societas Docta membership.
Reducing the number of ABDs
When a doctoral student has completed their coursework, they have one final assignment: a dissertation, a research paper (of at least 200 pages) that involves in-depth exploration of a topic. It is a complex and exhausting project that often goes uncompleted: 50% of all doctoral students complete their coursework but fail to complete their dissertations. “ABDs” stands for “all but dissertations”—doctoral students who have completed their coursework but have not completed their dissertations.
Cade says there are so many ABDs because “it is a very, very difficult process.” After the doctoral coursework has been completed and the student is out of school, there is no one watching over them—they have to force themselves to sit down and do the work. She says, “You’ve just got to persevere. You can’t let life happen in the midst of that.”
That’s where the Societas Docta comes in. The members identify, work with, and encourage women who are pursuing their doctoral degree. The members share their wealth of knowledge and experience. In addition, involvement in the mentee program offers a level of accountability that helps keep the mentees motivated and on track. In addition, the Kansas City Chapter has a scholarship fund they use to assist their mentees.
Cade is proud of the support members provide the mentees. Members “have run down the road [the mentees] are stumbling on,” Cade said. The wisdom and support and encouragement provided by the Societas Docta is invaluable.
Key to Success
Cade received her doctorate before there was a Societas Docta, and she’s quick to identify the key to her educational success: her supportive husband and family. Even with the support the organization offers its mentee, she says, “If you’re married, and you are trying to climb the ladder, if you have a supportive spouse—my husband was excellent and was my best friend through my educational journey”—you can realize your dreams. Her husband encouraged her to continue her education and told her to focus on school; he would take care of the household. Her parents and siblings were also part of her support system.
Every other year Greater Kansas City Chapter recognizes unsung heroes at their Nefertiti Banquet, the program recognizing unsung heroes in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area. The program recognizes at least 10 women who are outstanding leaders and who have done outstanding work in their careers. During the last five banquets, the organization has recognized approximately 100 women.
Proceeds from the banquet helps to provide financial assistance to the mentees. The next Nefertiti Banquet is in 2018.
For more information, visit the website at societasdocta.org or e-mail Dr. Cade at firstname.lastname@example.org.