Howard University Graduate School

HUGS Research Magazine
and Graduate School Research Archive

ARTICLE Issue 020

Howard University Graduate School Celebrates Doctoral Candidates at Inaugural Candidacy Ceremony

"The World Awaits Your Genius"

By Jamie A. Triplin


The Howard University Graduate School held its Inaugural Doctoral Candidacy Recognition Ceremony on March 1, 2018. The ceremony included the medallion draping of 50 doctoral candidates.

The idea for the ceremony was earlier introduced to graduate faculty by Dr. Constance Ellison, senior associate dean of the Graduate School. Faculty had enthusiastically welcomed the idea. The goals of the ceremony include

1. Acknowledging the challenging work and dedication of candidates in pursuing their Ph.D. degree
2. Providing a time for candidates to network with their peers from across all disciplines
3. Offering inspiration and support for the remainder of their journey.

Jamie A. Triplin, director of communications and development of the Graduate School, served as mistress of ceremony for the event. Triplin set a tone of excellence for the ceremony stating that the 44th President of the United States Barack Obama once said, "We need to internalize this idea of excellence. Not many folks spend a lot of time trying to be excellent."

"We found it very important to acknowledge the significance of this milestone in your academic career, since you have spent a lot of time not just trying, but being excellent," she stated to candidates.

Dr. Dana Williams, chair of the English Department, delivered a powerful speech regarding each candidate's doctoral journey. "Today, we pause a moment to acknowledge this latest milestone, your move from Ph.D. student to Ph.D. candidate. There are many Ph.D. students at Howard and in the world. But, there are far fewer Ph.D. candidates. You've braved the sun when its heat felt unrelenting, the rain when it felt like a flood in which you'd surely drown, and the winds of bitter cold and of change that you were not quite sure how you would survive," she stated.

Dr. Williams also reminded the candidates that "only completion with excellence could do justice to the sacrifices" made. She encouraged them to celebrate together with their peers and dissertation advisors as they paused for a moment in their journey. The world awaits your genius," she stated.

The ceremony included an address by Dr. Gary L. Harris, dean of the Graduate School. He not only acknowledged the candidates' academic excellence, but he read the poem, "On the Origin of Things" by Listervelt Middleton, which punctuated the tone of excellence for the candidates:

Look around you Black child
your creation is everywhere
Though painted, distorted,
given new names
they bear your prints
just the same
so sharpen your eyes
tune your ear
so you'll know what you see
understand what you hear
you were the first to write
the first to read
humanity sprang
from your black seed
for 110,000 years ...


As candidates' names were called, their dissertation advisors draped them with candidacy medallions. Once all the candidates returned to their seats, they were asked to stand to seal their commitment by repeating a vow of excellence, led by Dr. Kelechi C. Fluitt:

"I am officially a doctoral candidate at Howard University. I will diligently work to complete my program in a timely manner. Upholding the values and preserving the rich legacy of Howard University, I will work, serve and lead with a spirit of excellence."

The pledge was written Dr. Fluitt and her husband, Dr. Maurice B. Fluitt, in 2017. They are both former Howard University doctoral candidates, having received their doctorates in 2017 and 2016, respectively.

The ceremony closed with an acknowledgment of the hard work of the dissertation advisors. "I just want to say thank you very much for your commitment to these wonderful doctoral candidates. This is an opportunity for us to let you know we appreciate you. You have given us such greatness and such excellence," said Dr. Ellison. She then instructed the doctoral candidates to stand and give a round of applause to their dissertation advisors.

Finally, Dr. Ellison also acknowledged the "illustrious Dean Gary L. Harris" for his critical role in supporting and encouraging the success of the Graduate School. She called him to the podium to lead the audience in singing the Alma Mater. The students celebrated with their loved ones, peers, and dissertation advisors at a reception held immediately after the ceremony in the Interdisciplinary Research Building. The Candidacy Ceremony will be held annually on the first Thursday of March.

For more information about Howard University Ph.D. programs, please visit here.

Jamie Triplin is director of communications and development in the Graduate School.

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