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"We did it, Joe"

Madam Vice President, Kamala Harris


Dear Friends and Family,

Yassss! WE did it!

Thank you for supporting me on this doctorate journey since September 2017. From cheering me on, loving on me, praying for me, wiping the fears away from my tears, feeding me study snacks, putting up with my grad student attitude, and being patient with me while I had my head buried in my laptop...I appreciate you. I could not have done this without you!


And for that, I want to say "THANK YOU"!

WE did it!

I'm super-excited to celebrate this milestone with you. 

How do I login to watch Dr. Brandi's Oral Defense?

Click this link at 1:00 PM (EST) Join via Zoom:

Meeting ID:  940 2221 5989

So, what is an Oral Defense?

An oral defense is a 60-minute presentation in which I present my research findings to a panel of 3 advisors/readers as a part of my requirements for my degree.

What are you getting a degree in?

Great question. I will be fulfilling the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Education in the field of Organizational Leadership Studies. I will be receiving my doctoral confirmation from Northeastern University in Boston, MA. It was a hybrid model where I took all of my coursework online and went to Boston and Charlotte for my residency.

Are you getting an Ed.D or Ph.D.?

I will receive my Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership Studies. Starting April 1st, you can call me Dr. Brandi Rae Hicks, or Dr. Brandi.













What is the title of your thesis?

Resilience Qualities of Community-based Nonprofits Amidst the 2020 Disruptive Landscape: A Dissertation exploring stakeholder perceptions of organizational qualities that enable community-based nonprofit to respond to challenges as they seek to provide uninterrupted services to the communities they support through online questionnaire grounded in Organizational Resilience (Witmer and Mellinger, 2015)

In general terms... I researched the resilience qualities of nonprofits during COVID. Many nonprofits had to learn how to pivot or perish during last year and I wanted to figure out how to prepare nonprofits for the next wave of disruption so they can connect to financial resources and continue providing services without interruption.

What can I expect during the Oral Defense?

This is a recorded Zoom session, so please read the details below. All times are Eastern Standard-Times:

1:00 PM   Welcome to Brandi's Oral Defense

1:05 PM   Presentation of Research Findings

(Please turn off your cameras and mute your phones during this time)

1:25 PM   Dissertation Discussion with committee

1:45 PM   Committee goes offline to discuss my presentation for 15-20 minutes. During this time we can chat and have some fun while the committee deliberates.

2:00 PM    I am confirmed as Dr. Brandi Rae Hicks

2:01 PM    The Afterparty!! We celebrate!

What time does the magic really start?

Between 1:45 PM - 2:00 PM (depending on when we get started) my Advisor will notify me if I passed or failed (If I made it this far, I passed :). It is at this moment that I will be declared Dr. Brandi Rae Hicks.


Get your noisemakers and champagne ready!









When is Graduation?

Late Fall 2021. That's when I wear my fancy cap and gown and walk across the stage. Northeastern University has moved the graduation ceremonies to the Fall. I will send out a notification when the school sends me more information.

How do we send you a gift of acknowledgment?

Awwhhh, you're far too kind! Please send me an email at if you would like to mail me a gift or if you already know my parents' address in Shaker Heights, Ohio you can send it here. You can also send via Cash App $brandiraespeaks or Zelle


If you would like to celebrate me by make a tax-exempt donation to my college-bound nonprofit, please visit our website at or make your donation at

What's next after your Oral Defense?

Well, first off, I'm going to turn off my phone, unplug my laptop, and take a big nap... and then back at it on Monday morning! The disseration process is 4 stages. As of March 31st, I will have completed 3 out of 4 steps, which technically makes me Dr. Brandi Rae. The last step is to upload my 100+ page dissertation to Proquest before April 15th which makes it published for the public and available for your reading pleasure.

What happens if I can't make the virtual oral defense?

No problem! I will be recording it and sending a link to the viewing party after the defense (and after my nap).

Here's the link to watch or listen to Brandi's Oral Defense:

Wednesday, March 31, 2021 at 1:00 PM (Eastern)

(for my West Coast viewing party, this mean you have to be up and ready to rock at 10:00 AM PST)


Click this link at 1:00 PM (EST) Join via Zoom:

Meeting ID:  940 2221 5989

If you are joining by telephone: For higher quality, dial a number based on your current location.

Dial: US: +1 301 715 8592 or +1 312 626 6799 or +1 929 205 6099 or +1 253 215 8782 or +1 346 248 7799 or +1 669 900 6833

Meeting ID:  940 2221 5989

Passcode:  393512

I would like to thank you all for joining me on this educational journey. 


I failed math and English my senior year in high school. At the University of Cincinnati, I graduated with the bare minimum of a 2.0. Both my MBA and MPA programs at Keller Graduate School of Management were exciting and fufilling, but nothing beats this epic engagement of thought leadership in what I professionally love the most - philanthropy.

I look forward to seeing you at the finishline!


Love and light,

Dr. Brandi Rae Hicks

(...oooh that just felt yummy typing my "new" name")

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