By Adeeba Deterville (BAC '10) June 1, 2015
Joy DeGruy received her Honorary Doctorate from CIIS at Commencement in May.
I was first introduced to the work of Dr. Joy DeGruy while attending the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans in 2002. She was one of the featured speakers in the Empowerment Experience that opens the multiday festival. One of the things that always stayed with me was how DeGruy was a recent graduate-having successfully defended A Dissertation on African American Male Youth Violence: Trying to Kill the Part of You That Isn't Loved-for her PhD in Social Work and Social Research the year before.
Her dissertation was based on sociocultural theory, social learning theory, trauma theory, as well as her newly formed theoretical framework, Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome (PTSS), which takes into account multigenerational trauma.
I asked DeGruy to reflect back 13 years to her experience of being a (then) recent graduate and bringing her work to the world. "I was very sure about the significance of PTSS, but quite unsure about how it was going to be received in the broader community, so I had some concerns that there would be a struggle finding receptivity," she says. "But, much to my surprise, it was widely accepted and supported."
CIIS has been very fortunate to be a part of the community that has embraced her scholarship-as one of the Seven Ideals of CIIS is a commitment to cultural diversity. DeGruy believes that her "experience with the school has been that many students and administrators have honest willingness to self-reflect and self-critique, and perhaps most important, to be accountable to change any identified weaknesses and shortcomings regarding culturally appropriate and competent teaching practices."
This willingness was demonstrated during DeGruy's most recent engage- ment with CIIS-an intensive four-day workshop that was open to students, faculty, staff, the Board of Trustees, and the community at large. The workshop has had a lasting impact on CIIS: It was the catalyst for the Board of Trustees to create the President's Initiative on Diversity and Inclusion.
"I have never to date seen an institution of higher learning respond so expeditiously to the needs and requests of its student body with regard to teaching practices and policies!" she says about the Initiative. "While many institutions provide the acceptable language and lip service regarding issues of cultural competency, equity, and social justice, few move beyond this tertiary gesture. CIIS stood by their mandate and mission by being totally responsive to the needs of the CIIS community.
I am both humbled and honored to know that CIIS has so graciously embraced my work and has chosen to formally acknowledge my contribution to healing the wounds produced by racism in this country by awarding me with an honorary doctorate degree."