Photo by Osose Oboh
It’s my honor to introduce you all to Dr. Constance Iloh, one of my hair and Black Woman PhD inspirations! She was recently named one of Forbes 30 under 30 for Education, because her work is completely changing how institutions think about higher education for people of color. Read more about her and her hair!
Name: Constance Iloh, Ph.D
Where I am from: Prince George’s County, MD
Location: Orange County, CA
Occupation: UC Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow, at the University of California, Irvine
How did you become interested in higher education?
Since I was a little girl I would tell people I am going to get a PhD. I love learning and I immersed myself in it whenever I was afforded the opportunity. While in undergrad at the University of Maryland, College Park I had the chance to be involved as a student leader while also considering the challenge and dynamics of college access, equity, and outcomes particularly for low-income students of color. Being a Gates Millennium Scholar also consistently reminded me of the importance of working to dismantle systemic inequalities and opportunity gaps in education. After completing my Master’s degree in Business Management, I knew I specifically wanted to combine my interest in privatization and business with college access and equity in research. I got my PhD in Urban Education Policy from the University of Southern California and I have continued advancing my research agenda in my current position as a UC Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow.
My research agenda encompasses two primary areas: (1) privatization and innovation in higher education, and (2) equity, access, and the experiences of low-income students, students of color, and post-traditional students in postsecondary education. Much of my published research focuses on student experiences and institutional practices at for-profit universities and community colleges.
What’s your hair story?
When I was younger I often wished my hair was longer and a different texture. In my twenties it hit me that God gave me the hair I have so therefore it is good. I have had so many hairstyles, especially after embracing the versatility of my natural hair. I even had locs for a few years. Since cutting them, I do protective styling most of the time because it works with my busy schedule and I can try so many new looks without putting pressure on my hair. Hair is fun and I love change.
What is the representation of black women in your field?
There are many powerful Black women doing amazing things in my field and in the academy in general. I would be remiss, however, to not point out that there is so much that needs to be challenged and dismantled for the academy to be more inclusive of the ‘Black Girl Brilliance’ that exists.
How has diversity, or lack thereof, either affected your learning or motivated you?
I’m driven to provide visibility, nuance and perspective to the higher education literature and policy arena and to broaden education discussions with research grounded in the lived realities of low-income students, people of color, and post-traditional students. It has been important to advance my research agenda in a manner that places primacy on the voices of these groups, which is why much of my research inquiries utilize qualitative methods.
Why should other naturally smart girls do what you do?
I’m grateful for the avenues God has provided for me to move in purpose through being a scholar. I hope through my faith and life I can encourage others to walk in the unique path God has called them to for His glory.
What other hobbies/passions do you have?
I am usually happiest when eating. I also enjoy spending time with loved ones, photography, reading, relaxing, movies, museums, the beach, hiking, traveling, and the arts. When not working, I like doing activities that inspire me to be more creative. I am also passionate about supporting my community through service.
Where can we find more of you?
Are you or a friend a brainy brown beauty? Share your story!