Toniqua Mikell makes history becoming the first Black person to earn a PhD from the University of South Carolina in Criminology and Criminal Justice

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By The Black Detour Team

Toniqua Mikell will make history as the first Black person in the University of South Carolina history to earn a PhD in Criminology and Criminal Justice. After deciding not to attend law school, Mikell determined pursuing a PhD was the best option to fulfill her purpose of advancing social justice for marginalized communities.

“In all these years of school I can count on one hand the number of Black teachers I’d had. One in elementary school, one in college, and one in grad school. And only the elementary school one was a Black woman,” Mikell told Because of Them We Can.

Mikell said she was in the second year of her PhD program when she found other Black women with PhDs. She credits women like Dr. Allison Cotton and Dr. Kimya Dennis for connecting her with a village of Black scholars.

“Their collective support and inspiration has molded me into the kind of scholar, teacher, and mentor that I want to be. I know how important it is for me to be ‘the face that looks like me’ for the next Black student, especially young Black women. I have the opportunity to be that face this fall” Mikell said.

Mikell is now headed to the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth as an Assistant Professor in the Crime and Justice Studies department. She plans to prepare her students to be agents of changed by challenging them to think beyond themselves.

“Of course we all hope that our work changes the world. But truthfully, my greatest accomplishment is knowing that other Black women see me and know that a Black woman with natural hair, tattoos, and piercings has a PhD and is a college professor. So why not them?”

“I want my research to complement the work of other intersectional feminist scholars and activists. Making people pay attention. Forcing people to demand better” Mikell added.

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