Codou Diaw, Ph.D.


When I joined SisterMentors in September 2002, it was in anticipation of the dreadful isolation of dissertation writing. I was looking for a supportive environment that would allow me to complete my dissertation in a reasonable timeframe. SisterMentors filled that need beyond my expectations. Under the guidance of Dr. Shireen Lewis and the fellowship of SisterMentors sisters, I was able to overcome many unexpected hurdles during the writing process. By December 2003, I defended my dissertation in the ever-supportive presence of Dr. Shireen Lewis.

SisterMentors offered me a non-competitive, non-judgmental but structured setting in which I was able to set achievable writing goals. As we met regularly to assess the progress made by each one of us, we also exchanged strategies for staying on course and we supported one another through emotional ups and downs. Most importantly, Dr. Lewis often initiated one-on-one sessions and always extended specific advice to keep us motivated and writing.

For me, the relevance of SisterMentors goes beyond the dissertation. Given that my research focuses on girls’ and women’s education, the most fulfilling part of belonging to SisterMentors is the opportunity to work with middle school girls of color from disadvantaged backgrounds.

One of the major goals of our mentoring program is to motivate girls to pursue their education, at least up to the college level. As we share with them practical and general information that they may not get otherwise, we also expose them to the realities of college academic life by sharing personal experiences with them and taking them to area university campus visits.

It is our belief at SisterMentors that this experience will inspire the girls, help them dispel the negative myths they might associate with college education, as well as make them realize that they too can achieve academic success. Thanks to our program, they are able to see tangible models of educational achievement.

As the 18th woman to complete her Ph.D. through the SisterMentors program, I can attest to the effectiveness of Dr. Shireen Lewis mentoring philosophy. The impact of her unique vision of sisterhood in academia is far-reaching and will touch generations of women and girls. I am grateful and honored to be part of such an endeavor. What a rewarding experience! Many thanks.