"Education is an important social institution for understanding mobility, inequality and life outcomes," says Constance Iloh, who deferred her faculty appointment at UCI after receiving the prestigious UC Chancellor's Postdoctoral Fellowship. "So it's essential for people without financial means to be able to access higher education." Steve Zylius / UCI

Change agent

UC Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow Constance Iloh makes Forbes’ list of “30 Under 30” in education

Forbes magazine recently featured Constance Iloh in its fifth annual “30 Under 30” list, the popular who’s who of up-and-coming movers and shakers.

Iloh, 28, a Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Irvine, said she was incredibly honored by this recognition, adding, “It’s phenomenal!” When she completes her studies this summer, she’ll begin a faculty appointment as assistant professor of higher education at UCI.

“I’m interested in exploring the changing landscape of higher education and its impact on underrepresented students,” Iloh says.

She’s examining equity, access and the experiences of minority students and alternative approaches to postsecondary education, including privatization of colleges and universities. She also received a research grant from the Educational Credit Management Corp. Foundation to study online learning in vocational programs.

Iloh is clearly off and running.

In 2015, she presented her work at a summit sponsored by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. This year, she’s writing a book about for-profit higher education and the 21st-century college experience for Johns Hopkins University Press.

What motivates this education scholar?

“Learning was my first love,” Iloh says. “As a kid, I felt fortunate just having a library card that allowed me to discover a world I thought I could know only through reading.”

She wasn’t sure what career she would pursue, but Iloh was interested in access and equity in education, especially after receiving a college scholarship.

“Education is an important social institution for understanding mobility, inequality and life outcomes. So it’s essential for people without financial means to be able to access higher education,” she says.

A native of Maryland, Iloh earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology & communications at the University of Maryland. She studied business management at Wake Forest University and considered its applications in educational organizations and access. And it was at this point that Iloh knew she wanted to advance higher education through research.

“Research is a love project for me,” she says. “I’m inspired to immerse myself in scholarship that includes people from marginalized communities to understand their experience regarding access and equity.”

With her master’s in business management, Iloh was off to USC for a doctorate in urban education policy. She was the first from the Rossier School of Education to receive USC’s Ph.D. Achievement Award and also won a Rossier Dissertation Award of Merit.

“I am both motivated and blessed to explore narratives that are hidden in plain sight,” Iloh explains. “I’m driven to provide visibility, nuance and perspective to the higher education literature and to broaden education discussions grounded in the realities of low-income communities, communities of color and nontraditional students.”

Iloh’s research addresses two primary areas: equity, access and the experiences of underserved student groups in postsecondary education; and privatization in higher education. She’s particularly interested in students and practices at for-profit universities and community colleges. She also explores online platforms, virtual learning and approaches to vocational training.

In addition to maintaining a rigorous research agenda, Iloh has been a guest speaker for the Hammer Museum, the Institutional Design Frontiers Summit, the Educational Credit Management Corp., the African American Policy Forum, the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and other colleges and universities. She has been quoted and featured in popular media, such as The Chronicle of Higher Education, National Public Radio, Inside Higher Ed and Diverse Issues in Higher Education – which headlined her as a “Higher Ed Powerhouse.”

“I enjoy public speaking opportunities because they provide platforms for communicating messages outside of academia,” she says. “As a scholar, I can be effective not only by who I am and the research I do, but also by how I share my work. Like others in the millennial generation, I want to make a difference by taking chances and changing narratives.”

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