A native of Zebulon, Georgia and a self-described “lover of the South” with a “futuristic vision of teacher education,” Dr. Asia S. Thomas Uzomba is the American University School of Education’s (SOE) postdoctoral fellow.
She earned a doctorate in teaching and learning (teaching and teacher education) from Georgia State University (GSU) in December of 2022. She has a Master of Science degree in teaching, learning, and leadership from Oklahoma State University-Tulsa and a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from GSU.
“Dr. Uzomba’s demonstrated commitments to equity and culturally responsive teaching were evident in the interview process, and they align nicely with our projects’ aims. The decision to hire her was an easy one,” states Dr. Brian McGowan, SOE’s Provost Associate Professor and Uzomba’s supervisor and mentor.
As a postdoc fellow, she is appointed to a research staff led by principal investigators McGowan and SOE Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Associate Professor, Dr. Corbin Campbell. A 2022 Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant allowed the duo to (along with grantees from Florida International University and the University of Connecticut) construct a playbook for adopting equity-based college teaching and fund Uzomba’s role.
“It’s an equity-based teaching collective that I’m supporting primarily with project management and research,” she explains. “I research equity-based teaching in higher ed and what that looks like, what the current research and understanding of it is, as well as ways we can create a playbook on how to carry it out.”
“I’m facilitating, making sure the project is running smoothly, helping with the IRBs, and supporting the research team in any way I can. Higher ed wasn’t my area of specialty, but I’m learning so many skills that will definitely help me as a faculty member.”
Uzomba is galvanized by historic African American educators and activists. Most significantly, her great aunt Geveva Woods, who integrated Zebulon’s Pike County High School as its first Black teacher. Uzomba is a 2011 alum of Pike High. Another chief inspiration, and her doctoral dissertation research subject, is Dr. Anna Julia Cooper, a distinguished author, teacher, and activist who fought for quality education for African Americans and was the fourth African American woman to receive a PhD.
“My research, overall, is in unearthing and elevating the voices of Black women and girls in education. It has, so far, focused on the experiences of rural Black girls in K-12 schooling,” states Uzomba. “There’s significant research on how Black women and girls are overpoliced in schools and classrooms with, for example, dress codes that are unfair, hair style policies…their natural hair not being considered professional.”
“I looked at how, despite this, the Black women teachers, in terms of their presence in the classroom, understood their bodies as forms of resistance in pedagogy…how they unapologetically adorned themselves with hair styles, their locks, nails, culturally distinct clothing…how they use that as a reclaiming of resistance in the classroom. My research in this area looks at how this inspires the next generation of teachers to do the same.”
The opportunity to participate in the creation of a manual replete with equity-based teaching methods and strategies for higher ed is not only a career boon for Uzomba but also reflects the growth of SOE, which recently launched a successful Education Policy and Leadership doctoral program and appointed former superintendent of Alexandria City Public Schools Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings as its first Executive-in Residence.
“Asia brings a strong research background to SOE and our group,” says McGowan. “In addition, her project management and organizational skills are invaluable. She has her hand in multiple aspects of the project and is a primary driver of our collective work. We are very fortunate to have her on our team.”