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KC women's group encourages more women to pursue doctoral degrees

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Posted at 5:30 AM, Mar 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-25 08:01:26-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Societas Docta National has chapters across the country, including Kansas City. Its purpose is to encourage and support African-American women seeking a doctoral degree.

Their membership locally includes women in several different fields.

"My mother was an educator, and I have a twin sister who's also in education," Dr. Jennifer Collier said. "She (my mother) always told us that you are expected to do more than what I did. I expect for you to achieve higher than what I did."

Collier is the chief human resources officer for Kansas City Public Schools, and the mentee coordinator for Kansas City's Societas Docta chapter. She said that when she was pursuing her doctorate, her membership in the organization was almost vital.

"These ladies had successfully completed their doctoral degree, and they were there to encourage us, inspire us, just to let us know that we could do it, reminding us that we had what it takes, to do it," Collier said.

The national president of the organization, Dr. Everlyn Williams, is also part of the Kansas City chapter.

"I really see there being a need for women to pursue their dreams," she said. "A lot of times we have dreams and ambitions, and they're halted by our responsibilities, what we see as our responsibilities."

Williams said the feeling of accomplishment her organization is helping women to achieve can be life-changing.

"It gives you a feeling of I can, and I did, I will, and I will not stop," Williams said.

The impact that these women are having can be surprising, even for the long-term members.

"We were on a virtual call the other day, and she (a Societas Docta mentee) pulled out this dress," Dr. Brenda Harris, local Societas Docta treasurer, said. "She said, 'Dr. Harris, do you remember making this dress when I was in preschool, or kindergarten?' And I'm like, 'That's one of my kindergarten students, and now she's working on her doctorate.'"

Women's History Month in 2021 is the first to be celebrated after the election of Kamala Harris as vice president of the United States. The local members of Societas Docta said that adds to the feeling of momentum for women right now.

"I think it represents, for many of us, the psychological breaking of chains and barriers that have held us back, or prevented people from pursuing or pressing into what it is they have a God-given gift for," Collier said. "I think about the little girls in schools all across America that are re-imagining what leadership is, and what it looks like for their future."

Societas Docta is also looking forward to their Nefertiti Awards Luncheon this summer. It's a chance to honor members, mentees and other women in the community.