Kendra A. White-Drayton, doctoral candidate in chemistry, has been inducted into the Edward A. Bouchet Graduate Honor Society.
The Bouchet Society promotes diversity in academics and recognizes graduate students who are exemplars of academic and personal excellence in scholarship, leadership, character, service, and advocacy for traditionally underrepresented groups.
Only a handful of inductees were selected from Washington University, following a careful nomination and interview process. “I am very grateful and humbled to be selected as one of the five students in WashU’s cohort,” said White-Drayton. Members of the Bouchet Society come from 18 elite universities around the country, including Yale, Howard, Cornell, Northwestern, and Emory, as well as WashU.
Inductees from WashU joined their peers for the annual Bouchet Conference on Diversity and Graduate Education hosted at Yale University. White-Drayton was powerfully impacted by the opportunity to interact with other scholars and researchers from underrepresented minorities: “Being at the conference meant a lot to me because it was specifically minority students. Seeing all this black and brown excellence around me, hearing their accomplishments, hearing their career goals, hearing about their research, it left me speechless. It felt good to see other people who look like me striving to get a PhD and make a difference."
The network of academics constituted by the Bouchet Society provides ongoing professional support and advice to members. Already, White-Drayton can feel the positive effects of joining the organization. “I’ve had plenty of moments throughout my career where I felt like I didn’t fit in,” she said, “but being at the Bouchet conference gave me the push I needed to continue. Since I’ve been back, I’ve been more aware of who’s coming up next. I want to set the example for them that I didn’t have.” For White-Drayton, the most important example she’s setting is for her young daughter, who attended the Bouchet Society induction ceremony along with White-Drayton’s husband.
Looking ahead, she anticipates career benefits from being a Bouchet Society member. Beyond networking with other scholars and getting job market advice from established faculty, White-Drayton says her experience at the Bouchet conference expanded her horizons as a teacher and scholar. “In grad school, you’re in your own little world, but meeting people across disciplines, across campus, and across the country and making those connections opened my eyes to other research areas and helped me step out of my comfort zone.” Connecting with these interdisciplinary peers, White-Drayton said, has helped her more clearly envision the kind of engaged, creative professor she intends to become.
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