On Saturday, June 22, Dr. Tracy M. Cook, president of Alcorn State University, received the Doctoral Leadership Initiative Honoring Excellence Award and was the event’s keynote speaker at The Westin Jackson.

The event was part of the 2nd Annual Doctoral Leadership Conference Gala hosted by the Doctoral Leadership Initiative.

President Cook provided words of encouragement to students pursuing doctoral degrees.

“Completing your doctoral program is about endurance,” said Cook. “If you start it, you must complete it. Once you complete it, you enter an elite group of individuals. Only 2% of the United States population holds a doctoral degree. Completing this task will set the tone for the rest of your journey.”

He reminded the group to begin to focus on their next steps.

“You have to develop relationships early on,” said Cook. “You never know; it may be an opportunity for you later. You are being interviewed daily by how you carry yourself.”

Cook shared a personal story about his grandmother and the importance of paying it forward.

“My grandmother used to cook dinner on Sundays right before we went to church service at 11:00. Dinner used to be finished before 11:00. But on that Monday, she would give the leftovers to the needy. One day, I asked her why she was always feeding all of these people. And her reply was simple. So you can receive the blessings.”

He advised attendees on key characteristics of leadership.

“Be a servant leader. It’s important that you learn how to balance your personal life and your professional life. You have to learn to adapt, adjust, and be flexible to what life will throw at you.”

He continued, “You have to be a lifelong learner. Best practices change each and every day. You’ve got to constantly adapt yourself to what life throws at you. You have to develop mental toughness and manage stress well.”

Other honorees at the event included Dr. Shannon Anderson, curriculum coordinator and professor; Dr. Elaine H. Anthony, former acting president, chair, and full professor, Journalism and Media Studies, Jackson State University; Dr. Ebonee Magee Dorsey, education and supervision, Lawrence County School District; Dr. Tonyatta Hairston, founder and optometrist, EnVision; Dr. Roderick Henderson, superintendent, Brookhaven School District; Dr. Rosie J. Payton, education and leadership consultant, Greenleaf Consulting; Dr. James H. Young III, associate professor of education and dean of Doctoral Studies, Belhaven University; Dr. Jennifer Young Wallace, associate professor and coordinator of Doctoral Education Leadership, Jackson State University.