LOS ANGELES – Dr. Constance Iloh recalls seeing Forbes magazine on newsstands when she was a little girl growing up in Prince George’s County.
Now, Iloh can see herself in it.
The education scholar, who received the prestigious UC (University of California) Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Program Fellowship at the University of California, Irvine, never thought that at 28 years old her name would be included among 600 of the brightest young entrepreneurs, breakout talents and change agents in 20 different sectors.
Iloh, who currently lives in Los Angeles, was recognized by Forbes magazine as one of “30 Under 30” in the education category. Several colleagues and established figures in her field reportedly nominated her for this honor.
“I just thank God, not only for this opportunity, but just the journey that has led to this point,” Iloh said. “I feel extremely blessed. I also feel very grateful for my family, friends, mentors and colleagues that have supported me for so long and have believed in the quality of my work and the contributions that I have made. I was the only education scholar/academic to make that list, so I feel especially honored in that regard.”
Iloh pursued undergraduate studies at University of Maryland, College Park (UMD) from 2005 through 2009 as a Gates Millennium Scholar (GMS). The elite, private scholarship program for outstanding minority students is administered through the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and is funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Iloh then earned a master’s degree in business management from Wake Forest University in 2010 and a Ph.D from the University of Southern California (USC) in Urban Education Policy in May of 2015.
As a researcher, Iloh’s current agenda addresses the changing landscape of higher education and how it impacts underserved communities, particularly low-income students, students of color and post-traditional students, which often includes working adults. A large amount of her research has examined the privatization of higher education and the emergence of for-profit colleges and the impacts on underserved student groups.
Iloh first became interested in how underserved communities access higher education when she became a GMS. She became passionate about the topic while attending UMD, where she was a research assistant in psychology labs. Iloh explained that she always wanted to be a researcher and earn a Ph.D, although she did not become aware it was possible to earn one for examining and studying higher education until attending business school at Wake Forest.
“While I was at Wake Forest, I realized the pursuit of knowledge, and research particularly, was what I loved the most. A business degree is more practical and I really yearned for the philosophical underpinnings that openly piqued my curiosity, so I knew then that I needed to be in a Ph.D. program,” Iloh said. “I already knew people could get a Ph.D. in education, but I later realized people were advancing and doing substantial work in the area of higher education and post-secondary education. So I started applying for a number of Ph.D programs and I got into my top program, which is USC. I moved to California and started the dream.”
While crediting individuals who supported her throughout her journey, Iloh highlighted her family as a collective. She said her mother, Mercy, has been a cheerleader. Additionally, she described Jackie Iloh as the epitome of a caring big sister who wants her three siblings to have the best of everything. She explained that Jackie told her to apply for the Gates Millennium Scholarship and empowered her with information about higher education.
Since their parents emigrated from Nigeria, they did not have first-hand knowledge regarding American college-going. Jackie, who now resides in Boston, was a rising junior when Iloh was an incoming freshman at UMD.
Jackie is happy that her sister is being acknowledged for the wonderful work that she is doing.
“She has always worked really hard,” Jackie said. “I think she has always thought about how she can use her gifts to best support other people and I think the research she is doing is going to give the underrepresented students and people a voice they deserve to have on a larger platform. So I am proud of her for maintaining her drive and for continuously working hard.”
Jackie said she also her sister to be a game changer.
“I think there is a pull for quantitative data she found a way to highlight the wonderful work that qualitative research can bring,” Jackie said. “In doing so, she has created a voice for students, and created a narrative, as far as how a lot of people select what kind of college they are going to go to. I think she is changing the way in which we talk about higher education. We usually think of higher education as students going directly from high school to college, but she is showing that there are growing numbers of people who wait and go later and go to for-profit universities.”
Iloh’s forthcoming book about for-profit college-going in the 21st century will be published by the Johns Hopkins University Press.
Visit www.constanceiloh.com to receive future updates about Iloh’s endeavors.
City of Los Angeles