Family Affair:  Father and Daughter Receive Doctoral Degrees

By Sasha Manley

From the early days of primary school, high school and beyond — parents dream of seeing their children succeed. Devoted parents stress the importance of education and how it can open new doors for their children’s careers and personal development.

One of the most significant ways to highlight this importance is by setting a positive example. A parent with a college degree has a substantial influence on their children advancing their education. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, “Students are more likely to attend any college within three years of high school if at least one of their parents earned a college degree or certificate.”

Meet James Carrothers, 63, and his daughter Jasmine Carrothers, 27, a dynamic father and daughter duo in Charlotte who completed their doctoral degrees just two years apart. James completed his Doctor of Business Administration from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2021, and Jasmine completed her Ph.D. in chemistry from New York University in May 2023.

This family is all about following their educational dreams together. They share an impressive total of six academic degrees and one graduate certificate.

The road to college

Education has always been a top priority in the Carrothers household. In 1955, James’ mother graduated from Johnson C. Smith University. She was also the salutatorian of her high school class and became a teacher. Her determination set the stage for James’ future endeavors. “From her example, I knew that I had to do something positive in my life; an education was the way,” he said.

James completed his first degree from North Carolina A&T State University in May 1982. He received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and majored in management and marketing. Nearly 40 years later, he said going back to school was about a continuous journey to advance. “I never looked at it in the term of years but as a goal that I had always had of earning or gaining the highest level of education possible,” said James.

Jasmine’s earliest memory of college life was when she was about 6 or 7 years old. “My parents are very involved in their alma mater and attended Homecoming almost every year. It was then that college piqued my interest, and I knew I wanted to have an experience like that,” he said.

With a natural interest in chemistry, Jasmine worked in a research lab during her sophomore year and realized she was where she needed to be. “When I entered college, I wanted to be a physician or surgeon,” she said. “But after I got into research I knew that that was a better fit.”

While at NYU, Jasmine received a Global Fellowship from NYU Abu Dhabi and studied abroad. “I transitioned to the NYUAD campus, where I conducted most of my doctoral research. While living in Abu Dhabi, I pursued my love for traveling; my first research conference was in Bangkok, Thailand. I enjoyed my time in Abu Dhabi,” she said.

James’ spouse and Jasmine’s mom, Valerie Richard Carrothers, is a contracts specialist and graduate of North Carolina A&T State University. She’s also the former owner of JazJan bakery shop. Jasmine’s twin sister, JaNey, is an environmental safety specialist with FEMA who graduated from North Carolina State University in 2017. She now lives in Iwakuni, Japan.

Setting examples for our children is something James said he and his wife always kept in mind. “A parent cannot have been partially engaged with their children’s education and all of a sudden expect great things once they go off to school. … You have to be engaged at the start, he said.  

Support and understanding

Although they attended schools in different states, James and Jasmine maintained a robust support system. James said he had a considerable understanding once he started his program shortly after Jasmine’s. He said, “Once I got into my doctorate program and saw how demanding it was, we had that common thread that this will be hard work from now until the end.” 

James had an opportunity to visit Jasmine while she was studying in Abu Dhabi. “I knew I had to continue so that I could be an example to her that I could do it,” he said. “Although the NYU campus in Abu Dhabi is very nice, it was still far from home. So when I got a chance to visit, it was great to see what she was experiencing. It helped knowing someone else knew what you were going through.”

Beyond the degree

Since graduation, Jasmine has been working as a graduate research assistant and has big plans for her future. “I’m currently looking for a post-doctoral research position. I want to continue research and perhaps have a lab of my own someday,” she said. 

Besides her career, Jasmine enjoys reading, gaming and watching anime. Over the summer, she even found the time to build an entire computer.

James plans to continue working as an IT consultant and educator, focusing on strengthening his community. “Although I had never planned on being a college professor, that is one way to reach young people and give back,” he explained. “I want to do more in that regard.” 

In addition to his love for education, James is a bass player in a Charlotte area band called Mama’s Shirt. He spends time creating music in his home studio. He said, “I’ve always enjoyed music and the arts.”

The demands of advancing your education can be intimidating. Still, Jasmine said there are a few critical elements for success. “My biggest advice is to ensure you are having fun along the way,” she said. “Having a goal and always striving towards it is great, but if you don’t make room for joy and living life, it can turn what could’ve been a fulfilling experience into a miserable one.”

Taking the time to focus on your education is extremely important, according to James. “As someone who has a lot of years in college and now as a college professor, it is attainable by anyone who wants to invest the time,” he said. “It’s always possible and it’s never too late to learn. College provides a way to achieve knowledge for both economic and personal reward.”

He gives the following advice to parents: “The seed has to be planted early. College doesn’t have to be the outcome, but stressing education all along the path starting from before school is important,” he said. “Once students have a foundation of learning and confidence, going to college should feel like a natural progression. Students who have already achieved at an early age will have that success to bank on when things get difficult.”

Both James and Jasmine plan to share their experiences and speak to audiences about the power of education.