Nine doctoral students attended orientation Monday as the inaugural cohort for the new Ph.D. program in Criminology and Justice Administration at Grambling State University. Held in Grambling Hall auditorium, this is the first Ph.D. program ever offered by the institution.
“Welcome to our inaugural cohort for this new program,” said Grambling State President Rick Gallot as he was introduced. “As a group of us were in Baton Rouge fighting to get the program established and underway, I couldn’t see your exact faces, but I could see you in the concept that you would be here on campus as we welcome you to this program.”
“This really means a lot, not just because it’s our first and only Ph.D. program, but when you think about the work we’ve done for many, many, many years in our Criminal Justice Department, on the undergraduate level and the master’s level, and now being able to expand this now to the doctoral level at this time is really important because the work and research that you all will do will actually impact people’s lives.”
Gallot told the group that as Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards is preparing to leave office after completing his second term as governor, one of his plans is to attempt to clear out and reduce the number of the state’s death row inmates.
“That’s going to be an incredible area to research, with what has happened with death row and how Angola (the state’s primary penitentiary) has been transformed during Gov. Edwards’ administration,” Gallot said. “Obviously there’s the whole George Floyd effect and how that we’ve seen happen in our country.”
Gallot said that as a student currently working on a dissertation himself, he knows the challenge ahead for them.
“I know that you all will have things you’re trying to juggle and work through, but just keep persisting,” Gallot said. “As Dr. O’Rourke from our system office always tells me, just keep swimming. Be tough — there’ll be challenges, but just keep swimming one class at a time, one day at a time and you’ll get there.”
“Thanks to all of you for entrusting us with this journey you are taking here at Grambling State University. We certainly want to be here to be supportive, to challenge you, and to also see all the amazing work you’re going to do. So, on behalf of everyone I say thank you, welcome, and I look forward to all of you being part of this initial cohort of our first and only PhD program.”
Members of the inaugural class include: Alexus Angram, Mackisha Brumant, Constance Hester, Euckle Hunter, Willie Jefferson, Andra Richards, Shurunda Thrower, Jacqueline Winston, and Pearl Wise.
GSU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Connie Walton told the group that she knows they will do great things under the leadership of Dr. Tazinski Lee, head of the Criminal Justice Department, Graduate Coordinator Dr. Karletta White-Langhorn, and their team of faculty members.
“Just remember, you’re going to set the bar high for the cohorts that come behind you,” Walton said. “I know you all are going to do great things under the leadership of Dr. Lee and the faculty – they plan to build a great program – one that is both rigorous and very rewarding.”
“You’re going to, as President Gallot told you, make an impact and make our world better. So, I’m going to put on my calendar four years from now looking for you (as Ph.D. graduates). Some of you may do it in less than four years. When you walk across the stage and we’re able to confer the first Ph.D. on a student, you will finally reach the prize — become a Doctor of Philosophy and more importantly, leaders. I’m looking forward to that day.”
Dr. Carolyn Hester, dean of GSU’s College of Professional Studies, said she had to come up with a new kind of speech to talk to this historical cohort.
“I’m used to talking to undergraduates,” Hester said. “But when you have people who can actually work in the field and who have put forth that effort — you come with different skill sets, but you also come with a certain type of passion. And I say that because I went through it while working on my Ph.D. at an age older than I originally wanted to do it.
“But there was something different about my idea, my desire — and that desire is so very different and so strong, but it’s at a place where you really don’t see it. You just kind of feel it as you go along. I tell undergraduates that the most demanding degree they’ll ever get is an undergraduate degree, and the least demanding is a Ph.D. Why? Because it’s what you want, what you do, and what you’re interested in. My wish for you is that you keep this initial passion and initial zeal. It’s because of those that you will make it and earn this degree.”
More information about the Ph.D. program can be found at www.gram.edu/cja .