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

  • New Scholar Award, Association for Education Finance and Policy, $1,000

  • Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness’ Summer Research Grant, $7,500

Featured Publications

  • McCambly, H. & Colyvas, J. (R&R). Dismantling or disguising racialization: Defining grantmaking roles and outcomes in higher education policy systems.

  • McCambly, H. & Colyvas, J. (R&R). Institutionalizing inequalities anew: Grantmaking and racialized postsecondary organizations.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Awards and Honors

  • 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
Heather Nicole McCambly


University of Pittsburgh
5500 Wesley W. Posvar Hall
230 South Bouquet Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15260

View CV