Iheoma Iruka has devoted her career to understanding bias in early-childhood education, but she has very few memories of that period in her own life. Iruka was born in Texas, but her parents moved back to Nigeria when she was 3. She stayed there until after second grade when she and two of her sisters moved to Boston with her mother, and the family was split between Nigeria and the U.S.
Returning to the U.S. was a challenge: her family was living in poverty and Iruka struggled with culture shock in her American school. Iruka studied psychology in college, got a master’s degree in applied developmental psychology and worked briefly as a social worker specializing in infantile and child sexual abuse cases. Her experience working with these families fed into her curiosity about how policy changes and social programs could improve outcomes for young children.
Today she is a research professor of public policy and director of the Equity Research Action Coalition program at FPG Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She is also the author of "Don’t Look Away: Embracing Anti-bias Classrooms." Iruka joins host Frank Stasio to share her personal story, her research into bias in early-childhood education and tips for parents who are trying to enrich the lives of their young children during the pandemic.