Symposium to celebrate 10 years of the Bouchet Society at UW–Madison

By Meghan Chua

Edward A. Bouchet
Edward Alexander Bouchet was the first self-identified African American to receive a PhD from an American university. The Bouchet Graduate Honor Society creates a community of scholars who exemplify the same principles as Dr. Bouchet.

The UW–Madison chapter of the Edward Alexander Bouchet Graduate Honor Society is turning 10 this year, marking the first decade of the scholarly network’s presence on campus.

The Bouchet Society serves to recognize outstanding scholarly achievement, promote diversity and excellence in doctoral education and the professoriate, build a network of preeminent scholars, and foster environments of support for these scholars. Since the UW–Madison chapter formed in 2010, it has inducted 45 graduate students and postdocs into the ranks of Bouchet Scholars. Members must demonstrate the five Bouchet Society qualities, summarized as CLASS: character, leadership, advocacy for students traditionally underrepresented in the academy, service, and scholarship.

Over the past few years, the UW–Madison chapter’s involvement on campus has grown, spurring a seminar series for Bouchet members to present their research and other opportunities for them to collaborate with colleagues.

“Things like that have built the Bouchet Society into an important aspect of students’ experience here,” said LaRuth McAfee, Assistant Dean for Diversity, Inclusion, and Funding at the Graduate School. “There’s been a lot of excitement growing about the Bouchet Society on campus in the past few years. The society is really taking off as something that people see as an honor to be part of.”

The inspiration for the national Bouchet Society traces back to Edward Alexander Bouchet, the first self-identified African American to earn a doctoral degree from an American university – a PhD in Physics at Yale in 1876.

In 2005, Yale University and Howard University co-founded the Bouchet Society on Sept. 15, marking Dr. Bouchet’s birthday.

“The Bouchet Society helps link people who might be scholars but also advocates together,” said alumna Karla Hall, a 2018 inductee who has since earned her PhD in Materials Science and Engineering. “It’s a really good platform to stand on for people who are interested in contributing to their community, because it actually opens you up to other people who are doing the same thing where efforts could be combined and then really become impactful.”

To celebrate its 10th anniversary, the UW–Madison chapter of the Bouchet Society will host a symposium Nov. 15 in the Lake Mendota room at DeJope Hall. The event will celebrate scholarly connections, personal and professional development, and the national network of Bouchet scholars.

The symposium features a keynote by Pero Dagbovie, University Distinguished Professor of History and Associate Dean in the Graduate School at Michigan State University. Dagbovie’s research and teaching covers a range of topics across African American studies and black intellectual history. His most recent book explores the use and misuse of African American history in the 21st century. Additionally, Graduate School Dean William J. Karpus and Deputy Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion, Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer Patrick Sims will give remarks.

To celebrate student research, the symposium will also include a poster session featuring UW–Madison students, presentations from current Bouchet Society members, and a reception. Events are free and open to members of the campus community and the public.

This spring, the UW–Madison chapter will again look to induct a number of outstanding scholars into the Bouchet Society. Inductees must exemplify the five qualities of a Bouchet member in both their academic and personal lives. Graduate students who have dissertator status and PhD-holding postdoctoral scholars may self-nominate for membership November 1, 2019, through January 27, 2020.

UW–Madison Bouchet Society 10th Anniversary Symposium

Date: Friday, Nov. 15, 2019
Time: 11 am – 6 pm
Location: Lake Mendota Room, DeJope Hall
Cost: Events are free and open to the public.