The Triple Gown

Maria Baxter-Nuamah, Malik Baxter and Mymique BaxterIf you’re in North Mankato’s Wheeler Park Saturday, May 16, you may come across a family celebrating three similar milestones.

Malik Baxter graduates from Mankato’s Loyola High School this spring. He’s planning to major in Aviation at Minnesota State Mankato, where both his mother and grandmother work, next fall.

But at that party, his mother and grandmother will also be able to claim a portion of the graduation cake. Malik’s mom, Mymique Baxter, and her mother, Maria Baxter-Nuamah, both crossed the stage at Bresnan Arena on Saturday, May 9, when they earned doctoral degrees in education (Ed.D) from Minnesota State Mankato.

Although the two women studied different areas—Mymique focused on K-12 education and Maria on higher ed—and went in different directions with their research, they applied at the same time and were accepted into Minnesota State Mankato’s first cohort for the doctorate.

“Both my mom and I said, ‘Let’s do it, let’s put in our applications and see what happens,’” said Mymique, whose formal dissertation is currently being finalized. “We didn’t know if we’d get selected because a lot of other people had applied for the program.”10471087_10152891970338775_5952531168895533323_n

Mymique is currently the student relations coordinator for the College of Education. She came to Minnesota State Mankato to pursue her master’s degree in environmental science after graduating from Tuskeegee University in 1993.

Maria earned her master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling and later a specialist’s degree in educational leadership from Minnesota State Mankato. She has worked at the University for 20 years as coordinator, assistant director and director of African-American Affairs. She is currently the director of Diversity Outreach.

Earning her doctoral degree was in part a bucket-list accomplishment for Maria, although she hopes it will create opportunities to pursue leadership positions in higher education. She’s more excited about the world of opportunity that now exists for her daughter.

“She can be a superintendent, she can be in higher ed … Me, I don’t really want to leave the area. I don’t know if I can go back to the cities because I’ve become a rural girl. I would love to end my career as a dean of students or maybe president of a community college.

“I don’t want to lose my contact with students,” she adds. “They’re sort of my high.”

Mymique’s post-doctoral plans aren’t fully fleshed out yet—but they are big.

“A doctoral degree can open doors to other things,” she said. “It could open doors to writing and research. I want to be a published author. I want to work for social equality and change. I want to help our black and brown students become licensed teachers. I really want to go out into the world and promote the social justice agenda, so for now I’m focused on that.

“I feel like a flower ready to bloom,” she says. “I’m not ready yet but pretty soon I’ll be ready to open my petals and let the sun in.”

This isn’t the first graduation walk they’ve taken together, Maria notes. When Maria received her specialist’s degree, Mymique received her master’s. But this, they both agree, is special, because they were able to support each other through the process.

“There was a lot of support,” Maria says. “When I’d get down and get ready to throw things out the window, she was there to catch them. And catch me.”

11182128_10152891842173775_5970847174710464410_nBecause they took such different directions, there wasn’t much opportunity for the two to collaborate. Nor were they able to study together, since their coursework was different. Even if it had been similar, however, they agree that they probably would not have been productive study-mates.

“Mymique’s not as flighty as I am—she’s more organized,” Maria says. “I want to talk and stuff, listen to music or do something. And she’s just ‘No—we’re focused here and we’re only going to do this. We’re going to focus.’”

Working toward the same goal at the same time put mother and daughter on level ground. Neither mentored the other in the process. “There’s no mentoring,” Mymique says. “There’s just being proud of each other.”

That pride will be part at the party at Wheeler Park, where it will be shared three ways.