Emerging Scholar Spotlight

February 2020

Nkemka Anyiwo, Dr.   Website   Department   Twitter

Dr. Nkemka Anyiwo is a Provost and National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. She is affiliated with the Racial Empowerment Collaborative, where she examines sociocultural factors that promote the resilience and empowerment of Black youth. Central to her work is the investigation of proximal (e.g., family) and distal (e.g., public figures) cultural forces that shape Black youth’s social identities, sociopolitical beliefs, and sociopolitical behaviors. Given the ubiquity of media in the lives of youth, Dr. Anyiwo also investigates the role of digital contexts and art as sociocultural influences.

Dr. Anyiwo’s program of research is shaped by her own experiences as a youth activist, artist, and racial justice advocate. As a high school student, she was involved in student government and later created a social justice organization at her high school focused on raising awareness about issues that impact Black youth (e.g., police brutality, the school-to-prison pipeline, miseducation in school systems). Her advocacy in high school became the catalyst for her passion for youth empowerment and community healing. As she pursued baccalaureate degrees in African American Studies and Psychology at the University of Maryland, College Park, she maintained leadership in cultural and social justice organizations and become involved in culturally relevant youth development programs for Black and Latinx adolescents. Through her experiences working with youth and her research training with the Black Families Research group (led by Dr. Mia Smith-Bynum) at the University of Maryland, Nkemka cultivated her interest in pursuing a career in research.

Dr. Anyiwo earned her M.S.W. and Ph.D. in Social Work and Developmental Psychology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. As a graduate student in Social Work, she developed skills in the use of social media for culturally relevant mental health interventions as a research assistant on Dr. Daphne Watkins’ Young Black Men Masculinities and Mental Health Project. Furthermore, her work with the P.R.I.D.E. (Parenting and Race in Development and Education) Lab led by Dr. Stephanie Rowley helped to strengthen her skills in developing and sustaining research partnerships in schools and translating research findings in community settings. 

As an interdisciplinary scholar, Dr. Anyiwo uses approaches and frameworks from social work, African American studies, communications, and psychology. Her current work, the Black Youth Identity, Media, and Political Action (IMPAct) project analyzes the racial and cultural experiences that shape Black youth’s critical sociopolitical development, which involves an awareness of cultural, economic, and political factors that shape inequality and participation in behaviors to promote social justice. The goals of Black Youth IMPAct include 1) understanding how Black youth make meaning of racial inequity, 2) identifying the strategies they engage in to promote racial justice, and 3) unpacking the implications of their sociopolitical beliefs and behaviors on their psychological and academic outcomes. Using the findings of her work, Dr. Anyiwo seeks to work in collaboration with youth and their communities to develop research-informed digital, school, and community-based programs to support the wellbeing of Black youth and their families.

Advice For Emerging Scholars

  • Be sure that your work is not disconnected from the people who you study. Remember that youth and families are experts of their lived experiences. Approach your work with humility, seeking to learn and understand through the data and through conversations with communities. Your work has the ability to shape narratives and create tangible change, but it must reach the people who need it the most.
  • Remember that your research objectives should drive your methods. Focus on strengthening your methodological toolbelt to ensure that you have a broad arsenal to draw from.

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