Projects2Ph.D. Fund

Est. 2020 by Donald C. Sawyer III, Ph.D.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Sawyer

When Donald C. Sawyer III, Ph.D., was growing up in public housing in Harlem, his parents talked often with him about how education was the way forward.

When he was eight and started acting out in school, he was taken to see a child psychologist. “My parents were concerned about me and wanted me to have someone to talk to,” he says.

The psychologist and his teachers and school administrators told his parents that he was experiencing trauma based on what was happening in his neighborhood “related to the crack cocaine epidemic, the war on drugs, and increasing police violence.”

“My parents didn’t get judged,” he says. “No one said, `oh you’re just bad, poor parents with a bad kid.’” Instead, they recommended he find an outlet for his energy. He signed up for martial arts at a community center, learning new ways to channel his energy.

While the people in his community struggled, they also looked out for Sawyer. “They saw something in me that I didn’t see at the time,” Sawyer says. “They looked at me through the lens of possibility.”

In 2021, Dr. Sawyer, who is Quinnipiac University’s Vice President for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer and a tenured Associate Professor of Sociology, established the Projects2Ph.D. Fund so that young people growing up in public housing in New Haven see themselves through that same lens.

The donor advised fund will provide scholarships and a network of support to college bound students. The fund honors his father, Donald C. Sawyer Jr., who died in December 2020, and “the community that supported me growing up in Harlem. Some of the most marginalized people took the time to support me in any way they could, with a kind word or helping to keep me out of trouble. It made a difference and I’m just hoping to do the same.”