Julia Chinyere Oparah
Transformational Leader * Social Justice Educator * Activist Scholar
Chinyere Oparah is a social justice educator, activist scholar and mindful leader who has dedicated her career to racial and gender justice. She serves as Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at the University of San Francisco. At USF, she has overseen the development of the university's first community-driven strategic plan centering innovation, radical inclusion and excellence; launched projects to advance Latinx excellence and belonging, and reconciliation with indigenous communities; spearheaded a successful faculty diversity hiring initiative and developed a culture of collaboration, innovation and co-design. Previously, Chinyere served as Provost and Dean of the Faculty and Associate Provost at Mills College, after serving for almost twenty years on the Mills faculty. She is professor emerita of Ethnic Studies at Mills College.
Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, raised in the South of England and with roots in SE Nigeria, Chinyere’s educational background includes the study of languages, literature, philosophy, sociology, ethnic studies and community development. She received her BA and MA in modern and medieval languages from Cambridge University, Postgraduate Diploma in community practice from Luton University, MA in race and ethnic studies from Warwick University, and PhD in sociology with a focus on black women’s civic engagement from Warwick University.
Chinyere's first career was in nonprofit administration, culminating in the directorship of a national development agency for black non-profit organizations based in London, England. In 1997, she joined the Ethnic Studies Department at Mills College where for over two decades, she provided leadership around social justice, inclusive excellence, retention, racial equity and trans inclusion at Mills. She received awards for excellence in teaching, student organization advising, and research. Chinyere chaired the Ethnic Studies department for over a decade, co-created the Public Health and Health Equity program at Mills, participated in successful efforts to establish a Queer Studies program and co-lead the College’s transgender initiative, which led to Mills becoming the first women’s college to adopt a trans-inclusive admissions policy. Oparah has also served as Canada Research Chair in Social Justice at the University of Toronto, and has taught within the University of California system.
Chinyere has edited and written numerous books, book chapters and journal articles. She is author of Other Kinds of Dreams: Black Women’s Organizations and the Politics of Organization, the only comprehensive history of the black women’s movement on Britain. She is editor of Global Lockdown: Race, Gender and the Prison-Industrial Complex, a seminal work that mapped the connections between globalization, gender and mass incarceration. She is also co-editor of Activist Scholarship: Antiracism, Feminism and Social Change, Color of Violence: the Incite! Anthology, and Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption. Her co-edited book Birthing Justice: Black Women, Pregnancy and Childbirth is a seminal text in university midwifery, reproductive health and women’s studies classrooms. A top selling title, a second edition is currently in press. She co-authored with Black Women Birthing Justice, Battling Over Birth: Black Women and the Crisis in Maternal Health Care, a human rights report and social media campaign based on a five-year long participatory action research project about black women’s experiences of pregnancy and childbirth in California. This work challenges existing research paradigms used to investigate black women’s perinatal health, using a research justice framework and has informed national policy work on black maternal health. Most recently, Chinyere worked with BWBJ to conduct a research study on Black birthworker and birthing mamas' experiences during the pandemic, resulting in a book chapter in the second edition of Birthing Justice.