Washington native earns doctoral distinction

Published 7:25 pm Tuesday, January 9, 2018

By Ben Deck

For the Daily News


A Washington native has become the first black female to earn a doctorate degree from the Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management Program at North Carolina State University.

Sonya Reddick Shaw, a 1989 graduate of Washington High School, said she pursued her doctoral degree while serving as director of parks and recreation in Garner. She felt her practical experience, augmented by a terminal degree, would allow her to better give back through teaching.

“I’ve been in the field (of recreation management) for about 26 years,” she said. “I call myself a ‘pracademic.’ Now it’s my turn to give back.”

Shaw earned her doctoral degree on Dec. 15. She previously earned master’s degrees in public administration and agency counseling from North Carolina Central University and a bachelor’s in recreation administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Shaw’s parents, Fannie and William Reddick, still live in Washington. William Reddick, who is funeral director at Leon Randolph Funeral Home, said his daughter is the first member of the family to earn a doctorate.

“We just expected her to go for four years,” Reddick said. “We didn’t expect her to go this far – not that she couldn’t.”

Shaw said she has always enjoyed the academic environment, and that love of learning kept her coming back to college.

“I’ve sort of been the career student in the family,” she said.

Shaw’s dissertation focused on the career experiences of black female leaders in parks and recreation, specifically examining the challenges women face in the profession and negotiation strategies women used to gain upward mobility, according to N.C. State. Shaw said that she found there are only 17 black female directors of parks and recreation in the U.S., and that a combination of spirituality, strong relationships, a positive attitude, and understanding of their communities helped them rise to leadership positions. Barriers to advancement included racial and gender bias, she said.

Shaw still serves as director of the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department in in Garner. She also is an adjunct instructor at North Carolina Central University, where she teaches in the Physical Education and Recreation Administration Department.

Shaw said she plans to continue her full-time work in Garner while teaching part-time. Eventually, she hopes to become a full professor, but that goal is a long-term one.

“I’m going to keep a foot in both worlds for now,” she said.