The Edward A. Bouchet Graduate Honor Society (BGHS)

Edward A. BouchetSpartan Helmet

Mission Statement

The purpose of the Edward A. Bouchet Graduate Honor Society is to recognize outstanding scholarly achievement and promote diversity and excellence in doctoral education and the professoriate. The Edward A. Bouchet Graduate Honor Society seeks to develop a network of preeminent scholars who exemplify academic and personal excellence, foster environments of support, and serve as examples of scholarship, leadership, character, service, and advocacy for students who have been traditionally underrepresented in the academy. In the spirit of Edward A. Bouchet and the scholarship, leadership, character, service, and advocacy he exhibited, both inside and outside academic realms, inductees into the honor society bearing his name must also exhibit these same outstanding qualities.

The national charter of the Edward Alexander Bouchet Society was inaugurated on September 15, 2005, in commemoration of Bouchet’s birthday, by Yale University and Howard University. There are currently eighteen chapter institutions. The society is named in honor of Edward A. Bouchet (1852-1918), who became the first African American to earn a doctorate from an American university when he earned a Ph.D. in Physics from Yale University in 1876. "One can only imagine the ‘inner strength’ he must have had given that he lived during a time that was exceedingly difficult for Black people,” observed Dr. Michelle Nearon, Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Student Development and Diversity at Yale University, in 2018, “We don’t know for sure, but it is probably safe to say that Dr. Bouchet knew that the odds of him being able to secure a faculty position were relatively nonexistent. Yet, owing much to his persevering nature, resilience, deep love of knowledge, and sheer brilliance he continued to excel academically." The Edward A. Bouchet Graduate Honor Society recognizes outstanding scholarly achievement and promotes diversity and excellence in doctoral education and the professoriate. In particular, the Bouchet Society seeks to support and cultivate a dynamic network of outstanding and multitalented scholars who are commited to the society's core values, serving as exemplars of scholarship, leadership, character, service, and advocacy for students who have been traditionally underrepresented in the academy. In the spirit of Bouchet’s life, work and commitment to these pursuits in academic and public spaces, inductees into the honor society bearing his name should also embrace and exemplify these principles. Membership into the Bouchet Graduate Honor Society is by nomination only.

Bouchet Graduate Honor Society at Michigan State University

In February 2019, Michigan State University's application to become a Bouchet Graduate Honor Society (BGHS) institutional partner was accepted. On April 5, 2019 during the wonderful “New Chapter Installation Ceremony” at the 16th Annual Yale Bouchet Conference on Diversity and Graduate Education, Michigan State University was formally welcomed as an institutional partner into the society. MSU Associate Provost for Graduate Education and Dean of the Graduate School Thomas Jeitschko was delighted to deliver appreciative remarks at the “New Installation Ceremony” and University Distinguished Professor of History and Associate Dean Pero G. Dagbovie, who will serve as the MSU chapter’s institutional National Steering Committee representative, delivered the “Opening Plenary Presentation” that addressed the theme of the 2019 conference, “Reflections on Racism and U.S. Racial Tensions in the 21st Century.” The MSU Graduate School is thrilled to be an institutional partner in this society that significantly aligns with the mission, values, and goals of our Strategic Plan (2019-2024) and our enduring commitment to diversity and inclusive recruitment and retention practices. Ph.D.-granting institutions that have exhibited a sustained record of recruiting, retaining and graduating scholars, and particularly those who are traditionally underrepresented in the academy, are invited to establish BGHS chapters. Invited institutions, moreover, are expected to demonstrate prior reform efforts designed to promote diversity and excellence in doctoral education and should demonstrate their dedication to diversity in graduate education by exhibiting a track record of training underrepresented students in the academy for employment in academia and beyond. The MSU Graduate School also takes great pride in the fact that long-time Bouchet enthusiast Dr. Curtis L. Patton, Professor Emeritus, Epidemiology and Public Health, Yale University, earned his Ph.D. from MSU in Microbiology in 1966 and in January 2013 established an Endowment Agreement with MSU to create The Edward A. Bouchet Graduate Award.

Further Information Related to the BGHS at MSU

For more information pertaining to the Edward Alexander Bouchet Society’s mission and five core values; Bouchet’s facinating life; and the procedures and instructions for being nominated and applying for membership in the MSU BGHS chapter, see the links below.


Contact Dr. Pero G. Dagbovie at

2021 MSU Edward A. Bouchet Graduate Honor Society Inductees

The 2021 inductees are Courtney M. Bryant (Organizational Psychology), Briona Simone Jones (English), Ti'Air Riggins (Biomedical Engineering), Chistopher M. Shell (History), and Jennifer Watts (Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Physiology).

All are Ph.D. candidates at MSU who, in the spirit of Bouchet, exemplify the five core values of the society (character, leadership, advocacy for those traditionally underrepresented in the academy, service, and scholarship).

Courtney M. Bryant

Courtney M. Bryant

Organizational Psychology

Courtney M. Bryant is a Ph.D. candidate in Organizational Psychology at Michigan State University. Her research focuses on dimensions of authenticity in the workplace, including minority experiences at work, diversity and discrimination, and coworker relationships. Her dissertation, which has been awarded a Michigan Psychological Association Foundation Dissertation Award and The Benjamin Schneider Scholarship by the Macey Fund, explores the relationship between identity switching (colloquially known as code-switching) and well-being and burnout at work for Black employees. As a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, Courtney has worked on several publications in academic journals such as Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion: An International Journal and The Harvard Business Review. Courtney currently works as an Associate at Ford Motor Company in the Global Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion where she employs data and analytics to guide corporate decision making that creates, maintains, and improves a diverse and inclusive culture of belonging. Courtney has also served in leadership positions at MSU as a College of Social Science Leadership Fellow, one of two graduate students on the Graduate School Strategic Planning Committee, a member of the Steering Committee for the Alliance of Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP), and the founder of her her program’s Community Service Committee. Courtney plans to continue personifying the science-practitioner by remaining active in academia while also working in the field with organizations.


Briona Simone Jones

Briona Simone Jones


Briona Simone Jones is a doctoral candidate and scholar of Black Feminist Thought and Queer Theory in the Department of English at Michigan State University. She is a Black Lesbian Feminist of Jamaican and African American descent, born and raised in Rochester, New York. Briona’s edited collection of Black Lesbian writings titled, Mouths of Rain: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Thought, the companion anthology to the most widely sold text about Black Feminism, Words of Fire: An Anthology of African American Feminist Thought, was released by The New Press in February 2021. Briona’s record of service to the university and to the profession reflects her commitment to the fields of English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She has served as the Graduate Representative for the English department’s Mentoring Underrepresented Scholars in English (MUSE) program, a College of Arts and Letters funded program directed at recruiting students from marginalized groups who are interested in pursuing a career in the field of English. She also recently served as the Graduate Assistant for Womxn of Color Initiatives (WOCI), a collective that organizes events for womxn of color and their allies on the MSU campus and in the greater Lansing community. The myriad facets of Briona’s academic life (research, teaching, service) are united in the common goal of identifying the socio-literary power structures and hierarchies and calling attention to and centering the authors, works, and identities that have been traditionally—and unjustly—rendered invisible.


Ti’Air Riggins

Ti’Air Riggins

Biomedical Engineering

Ti’Air Riggins is a Ph.D. candidate in Biomedical Engineering at Michigan State University. She received her bachelors in Biomedical Engineering from The Ohio State University in 2011 as the first Black undergraduate BME student, and proceeded to earn a master’s from the University of Cincinnati in 2013. Beginning her Ph.D. at Purdue, she transferred to Michigan State in January 2019. Her research focus is integrating tissue engineering with implantable electrodes to tune immune response in the brain, in the REIL lab under the direction of Dr. Erin Purcell. She is a co-founder for Black In Neuro, the Academia Chair for the Health Innovations special interest group of the National Society of Black Engineers, a local organizer for Com Sci Con MI, and a member of the speaker’s bureau for the Rape and Incest National Network. She has also served in the community under her platforms of sexual assault awareness and exposing underrepresented students to STEM as Miss Indiana United States 2015. She has received awards for her social justice work (2016) and humanitarian efforts (2018). She was named a fellow in the Society for Neuroscience from 2016 – 2018 and is also a NIH F99/K00 fellowship awardee. Her future goals include managing her own lab and being a successful entrepreneur and mentor for students who are underrepresented students in neuroscience and engineering.


Christopher M. Shell

Christopher M. Shell


Christopher M. Shell is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History at Michigan State University. Christopher’s research interests include the modern Caribbean, immigration and migration, labor history, Black theology, and Black socio-political liberation movements during the twentieth century. His dissertation is a political narrative of the impact that Black Leeward Islanders had on radical socio-political organizing in Bermuda and New York City during the interwar period, told through the lens of Antiguan-born Reverend Richard Hilton Tobitt. A recipient of MSU’s University Endowment Fellowship, his research has also been supported by several MSU awards including the Walker Hill International Award and the TIAA Ruth Simms Hamilton Graduate Research Fellowship. He has served as an editorial assistant for the African American Intellectual Historical Society (AAIHS) and The Journal of African American History. Since 2019, he has served as the on-campus advisor for MSU’s Zeta Delta chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Community is extremely important to Christopher. He is a member of MSU’s Black Graduate Student Association (BGSA) and Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP). Upon completion of his Ph.D., Christopher looks forward to fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a history professor. In this capacity, he intends to publish his research, teach courses on the African diaspora, and mentor undergraduate and graduate students.


Jennifer Watts

Jennifer Watts

Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Physiology

Jennifer (Jenn) Watts is a Ph.D. candidate in the Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Physiology program at Michigan State University. Her research focuses on the Zika virus (ZIKV) origins of congenital birth defects. In her efforts to study viral pathology in development, Jenn utilizes mouse embryos, embryonic-derived stem cells, and single-cell functional analysis. She has discovered that ZIKV infected embryos days after fertilization undergo embryo demise, particularly affecting cells that become the baby. These findings are significant to human health providing knowledge on the impact of infections on early pregnancy outcomes. Jenn’s work has resulted in National Institute of Child and Human Development (NICHD) funding through MSU’s Reproductive and Developmental Sciences Training Program and multiple presentation awards. Jenn is dedicated to outreach and professional development which includes her work with MSU’s Summer Research Opportunities Program, Graduate Women in Science’s Girls Math and Science Day, and the 2019 Alliance for Graduate Education and Professoriate (AGEP) Capitol Hill Trip team. In 2020, Jenn won the faculty-nominated Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award and secured funding for the last year of her studies. She serves as the Editor-in-Chief of the inaugural AGEP Graduate Student Survival Guide and an inaugural member of the Advancement, Cultivation and Training Future Faculty Program, both of which help upcoming generations of underrepresented trainees navigate graduate education and their future careers. Jenn is passionate about leveraging her achievements to promote inclusivity in the biomedical field, something she plans to continue in the future.