Conference Reflections

Reflection is an evaluation of experience, beliefs and knowledge.  It can be a powerful tool, especially in education.

2018 Annual Yale Bouchet Conference on Diversity and Graduate Education Reflections...

"The Annual Edward A. Bouchet Graduate Honor Society Conference was a unique opportunity to network with diverse scholars and learn about the latest research across disciplines and the nation. The formal and informal discussions were stimulating and uplifting. There were a lot of great questions asked that deepen thought and will lead to improved scientific endeavors. The overall energy of the conference was filled with warmth, openness, and curiosity. I appreciated the ability to be a part of witnessing so much excellence at the highest levels from people of color and having it acknowledged on such a prestigious platform. This experience is definitely a gem amongst conferences for graduates and researchers."--Andrae Banks 

"My time spent at the 15th Annual Yale Bouchet Conference on Diversity and Graduate Education afforded me the opportunity to meet with a diverse group of scholars from various institutions across the country with shared research interests. The noted accomplishments and empirical research projects being conducted by so many of my peers was invigorating. In addition, I was able to speak in-depth with peers and faculty members about potential research collaborations and career opportunities. The conference provided a much needed space for networking, research presentations, and dialogue, which are cornerstones to promoting diversity and excellence in doctoral education and the professoriate. I am forever grateful for being able to participate in the conference and be associated with such a prestigious society of scholars. This experience revealed the great scholarship that is being done and future work that is needed to continue the legacy of Dr. Edward A. Bouchet. I am confident that my cohort of Bouchet scholars and alumni from across the country have the ingredients (i.e., scholarship, leadership, character, service, and advocacy) to carry the torch!"--Robert Motley, Jr. 

"I thoroughly enjoyed attending the 15th Annual Yale Bouchet Conference on Diversity and Graduate Education. I was most impressed by the extent to which several different disciplines were showcased throughout the conference via poster or oral presentation. Additionally, the interdisciplinary nature of the conference was also a great opportunity to network and talk with other students outside of my research area. In doing so, I was able to view my research from a unique perspective that has helped me to develop innovative approaches for my work. I was also repeatedly awed at the persistence and scholarly excellence of the other Bouchet inductees and their commitment to diversify academia. The conversations that I had with these doctoral students were invaluable in strengthening my commitment to champion diversity in higher education and to give back to my community. The Bouchet conference was also a great opportunity to get to know my fellow Washington University Bouchet Graduate Honor Society inductees. Throughout the conference, these relationships blossomed, and I'm excited to see how we further the connections established at this conference. Overall, I am incredibly grateful that I was able to attend this conference and that I was able to create lasting relationships with students across various academic disciplines."--Elisa Murray

"While I already felt honored to have been selected as a Bouchet member, I was not fully aware of how prestigious the society was until I had the opportunity to meet the rest of the members at the induction ceremony. It was both humbling and inspiring to listen to the extensive successes of each of the new inductees. In line with the conference theme, "Celebrating Legacies of Excellence: Past, Present, and Future," new and established scholars listened to a recently rediscovered speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. The hour-long discussion that followed was one of the more powerful moments of the conference. The variety of emotional responses and comments on the practical implications of listening to his speech 50 years after his death felt very much as though we, as a group, were processing the tortured legacy of the civil rights movement in this country, and our own places and strategies to develop within it. The conversation flowed out of the auditorium: in between panels I spoke with a historian about the changing dynamics of race relations since Dr. King's speech, and another put her panel presentation on poets and cultural activists, including Bobbi Sykes and Assata Shakur, in dialogue with the speech. To put it in the words of Claudia Jones, whose work -- newly introduced to me at the conference -- has suffered from historical erasure, I feel I could have said to the other Bouchet scholars, "It seems I knew you long before our common ties -- of conscious choice/ Threw under single skies those like us." In short, the Bouchet conference was a new way of feeling at home, and I hope to cultivate the friendships and professional connections I made at the conference for years to come."--Erika Rodriguez

"John Hope Franklin. Orlando Taylor. John Ruffin. Marion Wright Edelman. All of them are Bouchet honorees, African American PhDs and alumni of a Historically Black College or University (HBCU). After obtaining my PhD in Microbiology, I too will have these characteristics describe me. Each one serves as an exemplary example and reflection of how scholarship, leadership, character, service and advocacy allows for one to reform and shape academia and society. I am truly honored and humbled to be inducted into the Bouchet Society because it places me within a unique community of scholars that understand “to whom much is given, much is required”. Upon arriving at the ceremony, it was amazing to see scholars embrace and talk to each other as if we were family. Some of us instantly connected by hometown, our field of work or simply where we went to undergraduate school; but most importantly, we connected on the importance of scholarship, current social issues and how to address them as we move forward in academia and in our careers. As the ceremony progressed and each scholar’s achievements were called, it was remarkable to hear all of the academic research and outreach each minority scholar was creating. At the commencement of the ceremony, I was overwhelmed with pride and the sense of community. This feeling continued throughout the conference as we learned more about each other, how we can collaborate and support each other. Overall this conference was refreshing because often times I am one of the few African Americans within my field or department and demonstrated that there are other minorities that are researching pertinent issues."--Ninecia Scott

2017 Annual Yale Bouchet Conference on Diversity and Graduate Education Reflections...

“Being inducted into the Bouchet Honor society and attending the annual conference were powerful experiences. It was deeply inspiring to be surrounded by so many scholars of color from various institutions around the country. Because we represented a number of different disciplines, the conversations were had were incredibly interdisciplinary. I presented a paper on a panel, and established connections to the other scholars on my panel, as well as individuals who approached me after the panel. I look forward to continuing these relationships as I advance in my academic career. Additionally, at meals, I met older scholars who generously shared tons of wisdom and advice. The plenary panel, too, was full of practical tips for surviving and flourishing in academia. I was most pleasantly surprised, however, by the presence of undergraduate students of color who traveled to the conference from nearby academic institutions. One undergraduate, also Latina, had never met a Latina PhD candidate before meeting me. Moreover, she said that she now feels that if I can do it, so can she. As a result of all of these nourishing experiences, I left the conference personally, intellectually, and professionally ready to honor Edward A. Bouchet’s legacy!”  Andrea Bolivar

“Conducting research at a top university can become daunting at times, especially for students of color. Feelings of loneliness or exclusion within a department or program compound the average stresses of graduate life and start to weigh heavily on the conscience. Even at an institution as good at recruiting and supporting students of color as Washington University, it becomes easy to forget that others share your struggle. The Bouchet conference not only served as a reminder, but also as a revitalizing experience. Seeing so many black and brown faces, all conducting research, in various fields, at top institutions around the country was a powerful sight. A vision I now hold on to as a source of comfort. The science, as at most research conferences, was thought provoking and rewarding by itself, but the dialogue between students demonstrating a shared struggle, navigating the path to a doctorate degree, was by far the most beneficial aspect of the conference. The commonality of thought and the channeling of that into viable solutions when faced with minority-specific conflict were invaluable. The scholarly rationalization of the minority graduate experience by the faculty panel was meritorious. The opportunity to speak with undergraduate and high school students interested in research, purposely rejuvenating. All in all the Bouchet conference refocused me, giving me more motivation to not only succeed for myself, but also for those who came before me and will come after.”  Jabari Elliot

“The opportunity to attend the Annual Edward A. Bouchet Graduate Honor Society Conference was a humbling experience to say the least. Although my experience during this conference could be considered as one of little to no value for my thesis work, given the lack of expert neurobiologists in attendance or the fact that my research area was not the focus of this gathering, it was quite the opposite. Due to the multidisciplinary nature of the conference and its emphasis on using this opportunity as a forum to discuss issues that pertain to all minority scholars, it was a refreshing but sobering reminder that there is still work to do and we as future academics will be in a privileged position to be activists. I believe that all these reasons make this conference a unique and worthwhile experience. We were all given a chance to showcase our work, share our stories and initiate conversations that would eventually lead to shared interests, such as disparities, social justice, access to academia for unrepresented minorities, etc. Therefore, I believe we need more forums like the Edward A. Bouchet Honor Society conference, in order to enable the next generation of academics, leaders and activist to voice their opinions and to find solace in the fact that they are not alone in the fight.”  – Jose Grajales

“I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the Edward A. Bouchet conference before arriving in New Haven, so I was pleasantly surprised by how it turned out. The keynote speakers and the roundtable discussion provided insightful commentary on what it means to be a black or brown person in the academy – the history of the struggle to make space in universities, and the challenges and opportunities that come with occupying this space. The research symposiums were engaging. I’m always intrigued by the research methodology and presentation styles outside of my discipline of psychology. I enjoyed getting to know my fellow Washington University Bouchet Fellows, and learning about their experiences in different parts of the university.  Two colleagues I know from other universities were also being inducted, and it was nice to have another opportunity to connect with them. One highlight of the trip for me was meeting a group of undergraduates from my alma mater. One of them was currently a research assistant in the lab I worked in as an undergrad. I left the conference encouraged and inspired in my scholarship and in my efforts in diversifying the academy. I enjoyed the conference, and I am happy to be included in the legacy of this organization.”Kelci Harris

“The theme of this year’s Annual Yale Bouchet Conference was “The Urgency of Civic Responsibility: Building a Movement to Leverage Scholar-Activism in the Academy”. As the lead conference organizer, Associate Dean Michelle Nearon, reflected, the sad irony of this theme is that the need for members of the academy to create more diverse and inclusive communities has always been imperative. For me, it can be overwhelming to reflect upon how much time change can take and how much work we have left to do. Attending the Bouchet Conference left me feeling invigorated and inspired to continue fighting for change. Through research presentations, panels, and shared meals, the conference provided the ideal environment to interact with students and professionals from other institutions who represented a wide variety of identities, disciplines, and career stages. I met students from other branches of psychology, as well as students in environmental and earth sciences, political science, microbiology, and economics, among other fields. I really enjoyed interacting with the undergraduate and high school students who also attended the conference; they contributed some of the most thought-provoking comments and questions of the weekend. By meeting other scholars who promote diversity in higher ed, I not only had the opportunity to discuss their scholarship in a multidisciplinary context, but was also able to have conversations that are often devalued in academia, like the importance of self-care and strategies for responding to acts of bias in the workplace. Above all, the conference emphasized that if we are to create more diverse and inclusive universities, it is crucial for us to do away with the notion that “scholar” and “activist” are mutually exclusive categories.”Erika Wesonga


2016 Annual Yale Bouchet Conference on Diversity and Graduate Education Reflections...

“I had a great time participating in the 2015-2016 Bouchet Honor Society Conference at Yale University.  The conference was well planned and I learned more about the importance of diversity in higher education. It was great seeing so many students of minority descent in so many different fields of study who are so passionate, engaged, driven, and yet friendly, courteous, and warm. PhD student life can be very isolating, and I am glad I had a chance to see and meet Bouchet Fellows from all over the country.

I was able to present my research on social isolation among older adults at the conference and it was well received. I had to change my normal presentation style, full of jargon vocabulary, because I was presenting to students who were not in my field and not familiar with the research methods I use; however, it was also a good exercise in being able to present my research to a wide variety of different audiences.

I also had a really good time getting to know Dean Notaro and my fellow Bouchet Graduate Honor Society Fellows from Washington University: Boahemaa Adu-Oopong and Annah Hood.  We spent a lot of time together traveling before the conference, during the conference, and traveling after the conference, and we agreed that we should meet up some more after the conference concluded.  

The conference served as a reminder that there are many students of minority descent who are doing phenomenal things in institutions of higher education. It was also a reminder of the importance of diversity and inclusion; true diversity and inclusiveness must go beyond having numerical representation of minorities in higher education. Specific mechanisms must be created to foster a community and serve students of minority descent. I am grateful I was able to participate in the conference, and I have no doubt that many of the students in the conference will go on to become leaders in academia and around the world.” – Harry Chatters Taylor

"I really enjoyed attending the Bouchet Conference. I was able to meet a lot of people in different fields but what was a commonality was that we were all on the same journey of pursing a PhD. I think this conference really helped me understand how far behind academia still is when it comes to diversity. To be able to share my journey and frustrations with people in similar circumstances helped refuel my motivation to pursing this PhD but also in helping with other service activities to ensure others behind me don’t have to fight so hard. One of the highlights for me was the induction ceremony and seeing a room full of people with similar backgrounds reciting the oath. This really helped me realize that I’m not alone in this journey, that there are other people in similar predicaments who all are dedicated to changing academia for the better. " - Boahemaa Adu-Oppong

"Many conferences provide scholarship and a place to meet and interact with peers who share your academic interests. The Bouchet Conference is unique, as it provided me an opportunity to network and discuss my research with extraordinary graduate students of color from around the country. This special conference showcased excellence, but more importantly, I got to speak to other students and faculty about issues of diversity and advocacy not always discussed at typical scientific conferences. I am now a member of a community of graduate students and I am extremely grateful that I was able to attend this conference and create relationships with my other Bouchet fellows." - Anna Hood