Constance Iloh becomes first from USC Rossier to win USC PhD Achievement Award

Constance Iloh PhD ’15 has become the first USC Rossier graduate student to receive the USC PhD Achievement Award, the highest honor given to any PhD candidate from the University of Southern California.

Dr. Constance Iloh

Dr. Constance Iloh

The award, established in 2012, is part of the USC Graduate School’s ongoing effort to support and recognize exemplary research. This year, five awards of $2,500 will be made to students from across the university; their dissertation advisers also receive a $500 USC Graduate School PhD Mentoring award. Each USC PhD program nominated one candidate. As an award recipient, Iloh will also lead the PhD column at the commencement ceremony in May.

“Constance is thoughtful, hard-working, a provocative thinker,” says Iloh’s adviser, William Tierney, who is the Wilbur-Kieffer Professor of Higher Education at USC Rossier and co-director of the Pullias Center for Higher Education. “The award speaks to each of those qualities and is well deserved.”

The USC Graduate School explains that the awardee’s overall profile as a doctoral candidate may include such elements as significant publications as the sole or primary author; job offers that signal the outstanding quality of the student’s doctoral work; major awards in a broadly conceived field; and other markers of excellence appropriate to the student’s field.

“I’m blessed to explore narratives in my research that are often hidden in plain sight. I am honored by this recognition from USC and know it is a testament to my community and those who inspire my work,” says Iloh, who will join the faculty of UC Irvine’s School of Education as assistant professor of higher education. This spring she defended her dissertation, a yearlong qualitative exploration of black student college-choice to the for-profit higher education sector.

Headlined as a “Higher Ed Powerhouse” by Diverse Issues in Higher Education, Iloh examines issues of college access, equity and privatization in higher education through her research. She has published several articles on for-profit higher education, community colleges and the changing landscape of postsecondary education. Iloh has also been quoted and has had her research featured in popular outlets such as the Chronicle of Higher Education, Diverse Issues in Higher Education and Inside Higher Education.

Earlier this year Iloh served as a panelist for a higher education summit hosted by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans and Ebony Magazine, presented her research at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and served as a panelist for a webinar on Black women in higher education moderated by Kimberle Crenshaw, executive director of the African American Policy Forum. Recently, Iloh was an invited speaker for the Institutional Design Frontiers Summit. Here, Iloh presented her research and moderated a distinguished panel on the future of for-profit colleges, including the former co-founder of the University of Phoenix and policy leaders of the Obama administration.

Just within the past month, Iloh was also awarded the highly competitive UC President/Chancellor’s fellowship and was selected as a Rossier Dissertation of the Year award winner.