By Elisa Maldonado, Ph.D.
Pictured at the 12 th Annual Yale Bouchet Conference at Yale University (L to R).
On April 1, 2016, 10 UC San Diego graduate students were inducted into the Edward Alexander Bouchet Graduate Honor Society. The induction ceremony took place at the 12th Annual Yale Bouchet Conference on Diversity in Graduate Education at the Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Graduate Division staff member, Elisa Maldonado, accompanied the scholars. This was a return visit to Yale for Elisa, who obtained her Ph.D. from Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 2009 and was inducted into the Society as part of UC San Diego’s inaugural cohort that same year.
Edward A. Bouchet was the first African-American to earn a doctorate from an American university when he earned a Ph.D. in physics from Yale University in 1876. He was also among the first 20 Americans to receive a Ph.D. in physics and the sixth to earn a Ph.D. in physics from Yale. In 1884, he was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s most prestigious honor society. After graduation, he was unable to find a faculty position, likely due to racial discrimination. For the rest of his career he taught at various high schools, including the Institute for Colored Youth in Philadelphia for 26 years.
The Bouchet Society was founded in 2005 by Yale University and Howard University to recognize and continue Dr. Bouchet’s pioneering contributions to doctoral education by developing a network of pre-eminent scholars who serve as examples of leadership, character, service, and advocacy for students traditionally underrepresented in the academy. In Fall 2008, UC San Diego became the first institution on the West coast to establish a Bouchet chapter.
Students in this year’s cohort were recognized for the research and service they are conducting on a local, national, and global scale. Nathan Combes, who is finishing his graduate studies in political science and has accepted a tenure track faculty position at Columbus State University in Georgia, had this to say about his research in Kenya: “I am motivated to conduct research on topics that improve the human condition. Diarrheal disease kills more than 1.5 million children per year, and I believe that governments have a role in providing solutions. My dissertation asks why governments have previously failed to find those solutions.”
Even though they had never met, the Bouchet Scholars from UC San Diego found many connections across their research, outreach, and personal interests with each other and with scholars from other chapters at the conference. Leilani Cruz found that “attending the conference meant interacting with prestigious colleagues I have not been able to meet at UC San Diego because we were separated by an invisible wall across different disciplines. I realized that while each of us is a Ph.D. candidate in various fields, we had one thing in common: trying to raise awareness of what it means to be a diverse Ph.D. candidate. They have allowed me to think about my thesis as well as my future endeavors with a new perspective and offered support when I shared graduate challenges in my field. All I could think about is that I would have never been able to meet them if we weren’t inducted in the Bouchet Society!”
This year’s inductees are: Marlene Brito – Scripps Institution of Oceanography; Nathan Combes – political science; Leilani Cruz – biological sciences; Jahmese Fort – communication; Joshua Francois – bioengineering; Tracey Kiser – education studies; Shanthi Manian – economics; Alina Mendez – history; Steven Naleway – materials science and engineering; Heidi Schneider – sociology.
To view biographical sketches of all members, please visit the Bouchet Graduate Honor Society page.