Quick Hit: That’s Dr. Shante to You

Roxanne Shante gets her Ph.D. on Warner Music’s dime because of a clause in her contract that said they would pay for her education for the rest of her life.
Frickin’ love that. Shante said: “This is a story that needs to be told. I’m an example that you can be a teenage mom, come from the projects, and be raised by a single parent, and you can still come out of it a doctor.”

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  • Pencils

    Good for her! And now she’s working in the community as a psychologist. What a great role model.

  • goddessjaz

    i love it! another reason why artists need to know their contracts and what they are signing. you know this would never happen in today’s industry.

  • Serena

    OMG – good for her. Roxanne Shante is fierce.

  • RMJ

    Love this story. Covered her success on Sunday, and posted some of her (awesome) music on Monday.

  • livinginthefridge

    “This is a story that needs to be told. I’m an example that you can be a teenage mom, come from the projects, and be raised by a single parent, and you can still come out of it a doctor.”
    This line kinda made me frown. I mean, it’s not like she got a scholarship. A record company paid for her. The vast majority of people who go from the Projects to a PhD do so on the strength of their academics (getting scholarships) or they make the sacrifice of getting into crippling student loan debt. Now THAT is inspiring. THAT is a story worthy of telling.
    I’m not saying this story isn’t inspiring, it is, it’s just having your way paid for you because you’re a great musician isn’t something most of us can aspire to.

  • crushdmb.myopenid.com

    “The vast majority of people who go from the Projects to a PhD do so on the strength of their academics”
    You’re implying she didn’t get her PhD on the strength of her academics.
    This is just another type of grant/scholarship, imo.
    And she still went through the classes and gradated and is a doctor.
    To shrug it off and say, “But you didn’t sacrifice enough! You didn’t work HARD enough!!” is bullshit.

  • Lily A

    I don’t think that’s what livinginthefridge was trying to say. It’s not that Shante doesn’t deserve what she got, it’s not that she doesn’t have a right to be proud.
    But just because she was able to get her Ph.D. funded through a record company doesn’t mean that her story means that just anybody who works hard enough can get from the projects to grad school. She had a specific talent (music) which has nothing to do with her aspirations in academia, but which allowed her to have the funds necessary to pursue higher education. Most folks in the project can’t count on getting a non-academic talent (music, sports, etc) to fund their academic ambitions, so Shante’s model of success is not one that most students could easily replicate.
    To get a Ph.D. you need academic talent plus financial resources. Obviously she had the talent, as do many kids in all walks of life. She just had an unusual funding source that is not accessible to most people.

  • livinginthefridge

    Thank you Lily, you understood me precisely.

  • EKSwitaj

    This is still a story worth telling. She found a way to work with what she had. That is inspiring.

  • brightred

    “To get a Ph.D. you need academic talent plus financial resources.”
    Actually, one of the things that confuses me about this whole story is that PhD programs, particularly higher-tier ones (and I assume programs at Cornell fall into that category) tend to be fully funded. I’m a PhD student and I never would have dreamed of applying to a program that would have actually required that I pay for it myself and I was looking at programs that were much less fancy than psychology at Cornell — my understanding is that it’s pretty par for the course for PhD programs to pay full tuition plus offer some sort of living stipend either on a fellowship basis or in exchange for TA/teaching work by the students.
    Don’t get me wrong, any circumstances that enable lower-income people, people of color, women, etc to get doctorates are awesome in my book, and the fact that it was on Warner’s (yuck) dime is even better, I’ve just been scratching my head a bit over this story, cause like, why did she need her record label to pay for anything?

  • brightred

    Well, let me amend that… of course you need financial resources to get a PhD in the sense that like, our whole educational system is structurally classist… you just don’t usually need them to pay for a PhD program once you’ve been accepted to one.

  • Pantheon

    I know that for math and sciences PhD’s are pretty much always funded, but is that also true for social sciences and humanities?

  • brightred

    sure, i’m in a humanities program, and an interdisciplinary one at that (generally even further down the university funding hierarchy than traditional humanities programs like english and whatnot).

  • Pantheon

    Fair enough. So she probably just got to live nicer as a PhD student, and maybe didn’t have to spend time TAing (although I don’t think its a waste, you do get good experience as a TA or RA). You can live on a PhD stipend, but its not like its a lot, especially if you have anyone else to support, and you usually don’t end up with much free time. And coming with funding makes a department more likely to accept you, so all in all it makes the whole process a bit easier.
    I think the story is interesting more because the record company probably never suspected that a musician like her would make it that far in school when they put that clause in the contract.

  • Tenya

    I find it inspiring that she did not opportunities pass her by or contract execs talk her out of education, as they were trying to do. She was still a single mother, in the projects, who they hoped would not take advantage of the contract to such ends. She had an excellent opportunity, and so what if it was based on a single she made? Anymore so than a randomly determined scholarship? No, making a hit rap single is not something tons of people can do, but she didn’t only get her PhD because it of Warner, she did it and then got it paid for by them.
    I think it is pretty awesome myself, that she is a PhD anyway AND that she didn’t let them weasel of a contract they offered a 14-year-old.

  • salad_shooter

    Funding hinges on a number of factors, and in this day and age, funding is getting more scarce for people wanting to pursue PhDs, especially in the social sciences and humanities. A lot of people have to pay at least something into their PhD education, especially if you are NOT at a higher tier school (I went to a big ten school and it was hit or miss – the ‘hard sciences’ of math, physics, chemistry and engineering had pretty much guaranteed funding for PhDs, the social sciences and humanities did not).
    At the end of the day, it’s irrelevant to sit here and analyze whether or not she benefited greatly from having her education paid for by her music contract or by the program she was in. The point is that she had an unusual source of funding that benefited her greatly and it was good thinking either on her part or whoever wrote the contract that make sure it was included.

  • monkeyhaterobot

    The label put into the contract that they would pay for her education for life, and then when it came time for her to actually want to go to college, they did not want to pay for anything.
    So it was a huge deal for her to get her BA, MA, and finally PhD via a record label that more than likely put the clause in the contract as a throwaway idea because she was a 14 year old single mother and they probably never imagined she would even pursue higher education.

  • tangiblefate

    Amazing story, but unfortunately, it’s not true at all. More on the phd myth here: http://www.slate.com/id/2227090

  • Pantheon

    You’re not going to update this to show that the story was revealed as a fake?