McNair Spotlight Interview with Professor Ifeoma Ajunwa - Cornell University

McNair Spotlight Interview with Professor Ifeoma Ajunwa - Cornell University

Professor Ifeoma Ajunwa Cornell University

By Juan Cervantes

Please provide me with your academics and professional accomplishments: 

2018 recipient of the Derrick A. Bell Award from the Association of American Law Schools, I'm an Assistant Professor of Labor and Employment Law in the Law, Labor Relations, and History Department of Cornell University’s Industrial and Labor Relations School (ILR), and Associated Faculty Member at Cornell Law School. I'm also a Faculty Associate at the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard Law School and an Affiliate of the Center for the Study of Inequality at Cornell University. My research interests are at the intersection of law and technology with a particular focus on the ethical governance of workplace technologies. My research focus is also on diversity and inclusion in the labor market and the workplace. I earned a Ph.D. in Sociology at Columbia University in the City of New York (emphasis on Organizational Theory and Law and Society). My doctoral research on reentry received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and an honorable mention from the Ford Foundation. Prior to graduate school, I also earned a law degree from the University of San Francisco School of Law, and have been admitted to the Bar in the states of New York and California. My scholarly articles have been published or are forthcoming in both top law review and peer review publications including the Fordham Law Review, the California Law Review, the Northwestern Law Review, the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, The Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law, the Journal of Law, Medicine, and Ethics, and in Research in the Sociology of Work, among others. I've been invited to present her work before governmental agencies such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (the CFPB), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the EEOC), as well as, many national and international conferences. My law review paper, Limitless Worker Surveillance, (with Kate Crawford and Jason Schultz) has been downloaded more than 3,000 times on SSRN and was endorsed by the NYTimes Editorial Board. My writings have also been published in popular media such as the NY Times, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, the Harvard Business Review, the ACLU Blog, etc. My forthcoming book, “The Quantified Worker,” which examines the role of technology in the workplace and its effects on management practices as moderated by employment and anti-discrimination laws will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2019.

The year you participated in the McNair Scholars Program: 


Which institution did you receive your Ph.D. and other degrees?

I received my Ph.D. from Columbia University and JD from the University of San Francisco

What was your Ph.D. dissertation title?

Brokering Freedom: An Organizational Case Study of a Reentry Organization

Background on current work or research?

Please visit my website: to learn more about my work. I am primarily interested in research on law and technology, the future of work, ethics, and management.

Please share a favorite memory of UC Davis?

Riding my bike on campus and evening walks in the arboretum

Please share with us your McNair story and what impact would you say McNair had in your life? 

I came into UC Davis as a pre-med student. Finding the McNair program was so helpful for me when I decided to pursue a social science advanced degree. The research opportunities and learning I received through McNair have carried me through to a Ph.D. program in Sociology at Columbia and now informs my mentorship of under-represented students.

What are the biggest obstacles to obtaining your Ph.D.?

It was difficult not having as much financial or family support as many of my peers who came from backgrounds in which pursuing a Ph.D. was a more familiar or appreciated path.

We always let our scholars know that self-care is an important thing besides academics. What are some of your current hobbies outside of work?

I like to exercise - I practice both HIIT and hot yoga as my primary exercise forms. I also like to read fiction and interact socially with friends and family. I plan to return to dance classes and do my traveling for fun in the future. It's important to have/keep friends outside of academia as they will help you keep a balanced view of life as you juggle the pressures and high stakes of academic life.

Any words of advice for our scholars?

Perseverance and persistence are the two key qualities for being successful in academia. An academic career is certainly more of a marathon than a sprint and taking a steady approach and being tenacious are the actions that will get you through. Try never to give in to despair, even as you remain clear-eyed about the challenges you face.