Heather Nicole McCambly
Assistant Professor

Heather McCambly is a mixed-methods, interdisciplinary scholar of higher education. She also studies the role of organizations in (re)producing systemic, racial inequalities. She draws on a range of analytic and interpretive methods to study the influence of aspiring change agents on institutionalized racial inequities in higher education practice and policy. She does this work with a commitment to producing knowledge that can help us, collectively, build alternative pathways toward just futures fo Black, brown, indigenous, and low-income students and institutions over time. Constructs central to her work include racialized organizations, institutional persistence and change, racial frames, political development and racial backlash, and organizational sensemaking.

Dr. McCambly's current research asks: 1) What is and what could be the role of private philanthropy and public grantmaking in effecting racially just policy change in U.S. postsecondary education? and 2) Under what conditions do equity agendas address racialized inequalities rather than operating as new labels for old practices? She is a lso building up new lines of inquiry on the role of minority-serving community colleges as sites for political contestation of white-serving postsecondary histories.

As a first-generation college student, a community college graduate, and a multi-ethnic Latina, she is personally invested in generating clearer explanations for how, despite years of equity interventions, students of color continue to have limited access to life-affirming postsecondary experiences.

Instructional Interests

Dr. McCambly is part of the Department of Educational Foundations, Organizations, and Policy and positioned within the Higher Education Program, although some of her work crosses multiple boundaries. Her teaching interests include liberatory, equity-focused research methods; policy development and politics in education; community colleges; race, equity, and justice in organizations and policy.

Scholarly Interests

  • Critical organizational sociology
  • Race and equity in higher education
  • Grantmaking, philanthropy, and funding
  • Social movements, abolition, and campus policing
  • Community colleges

Selected Grants

Featured Publications

  • McCambly, H. & Colyvas, J. (2022). Dismantling or Disguising Racialization?: Defining Racialized Change Work in the Context of Postsecondary Grantmaking, Journal of Public Administration Research & Theory (link)

  • McCambly, H., & Colyvas, J. A. (2022). Institutionalizing Inequality Anew: Grantmaking and Racialized Postsecondary Organizations. Review of Higher Education, 46(1). (link)

  • McCambly, H. & Mulroy, Q. (Under Review). Equalizing access and the rise of (e)Quality politics: The political development of higher education policy at FIPSE, 1969-1999. (link)

  • Baber, L. & McCambly, H. (eds.) (Accepted). Critiques for Transformation: Reimagining colleges & communities for Social Justice. Edited Volume. Information Age Press.

  • McCambly, H. & Anderson, E. (2020). Moving the needle or spinning our wheels?: A research-based framework for philanthropic investment in postsecondary equity. The Foundation Review. A Special Issue on Philanthropy and Postsecondary Completion. (link)

Awards and Honors

  • American Political Science Association 2022 David Brian Robertson Award for Best Paper in Politics and History for The Rise of (E)quality Politics: The Political Development of Higher Education Policy at FIPSE, 1969-1999

  • American Educational Research Association 2022 Outstanding Dissertation Award (Division J—Postsecondary Education)

  • NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship (offered), $27,500

  • Association of American University Women Dissertation Grant (offered), $20,000

  • Presidential Fellowship Grant, Northwestern University, $86,000

Engagement, Partnerships, and Professional Service

  • Founding Board Member, SREE Researchers of Color Collective

  • Member, AEFP Scholars of Color Collective

  • Research Affiliate, Office of Community College Research and Leadership at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

  • Co-Chair Philanthropy & Education SIG, AERA
Heather Nicole McCambly


University of Pittsburgh
5519 Wesley W. Posvar Hall
230 South Bouquet Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15260

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