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D.I.V.A. Diaries

The Road to the Ph.D. and Stories of Black Women Who Have Endured


Edited By Cherrel Miller Dyce and Toni Milton Williams

The Distinguished, Intellectual, Virtuous, Academic Sistas (D.I.V.A.S.) is a group of Black women who formed a bond with one another as doctoral students as a means of support on their journey through the academy. The acronym defines the women individually and as an entire group. This anthology can be used as a practical, student-centered sourcebook for Black female doctoral candidates. By providing narratives about the importance of race, class, culture, religion, socioeconomics, and nationality, this book aims to encourage more Black women to pursue a terminal degree and to continue professional development throughout their careers. It provides readers with strategies to sustain themselves while in a graduate program, on the job market, and during the tenure-earning process. Contributors are full of passion as they encourage one another while bringing the reader into their realm of the academic battlefield.


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Chapter 5. Invisible Woman: A DIVA Seizing Visibility (Toni Milton Williams)


5. Invisible Woman: A DIVA Seizing Visibility Toni MilTon WilliaMs Without light I am not only invisible, but formless as well; and to be unaware of one’s form is to live a death. I myself, after existing some twenty years, did not become alive until I discovered my invisibility. — Ralph Ellison I was sitting on my front porch enjoying the warmth of the mid-morning sun massaging my arms and legs while I was on the phone with Cherrel, a fellow doctoral student who had recently completed her PhD. While we spoke I was reminded of the nightmare and degradation that I had experienced as a Black woman in the academy. Nonetheless, I utilized this experience to navigate my way through the completion of my doctoral program. Cherrel and I were dis- secting my comprehensive exam experience. The comprehensive exam is one of many capstones in the doctoral process. It is a written and oral examination required of all doctoral students who have completed coursework with the next step resulting in designing a pilot study. I had to retake the oral exam because I had failed. I was left defeated and feeling as though I did not belong in the (White) academy. I felt invisible. Up to this point in my academic career, I negotiated and enacted iden- tities with which I was not always comfortable. Glenn (2012) recounts, “we often receive conflicting messages from varying sources about who we are, who we are becoming and who we should be” (p....

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