Kenya-born Kingori is also one of the youngest women to receive a full Oxford University professorship in its 925-year history.
Kenya native Patricia Kingori has made history as the youngest Black woman to receive tenure at Oxford University.
Kingori, a sociologist who has been with the prestigious British university for eight years, was appointed at the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities at Oxford “in recognition of the quality and global impact of her research on academia and beyond,” the university stated, as reported by Quartz Africa.
She is reportedly the youngest Black professor at the institution and one of the youngest women to ever receive a full Oxford University professorship in its 925-year history. There are conflicting reports about her age; one outlet claims she’s 28 years old and another says she’s in her early 40s.
“Patricia has moved many mountains and shattered countless glass ceilings to secure this historic achievement,” said Jan Royall, the principal baroness at Oxford’s Somerville College. “In the truest tradition of Somerville, she is a woman of firsts, a trailblazer. And yet, I have no doubt that where Patricia leads with such determination, implacable good humor and brilliance, others will follow.”
The university said in a statement: “Patricia is currently the recipient of a highly prestigious Wellcome Senior Investigator award and leads an interdisciplinary team of researchers exploring global concerns around Fakes, Fabrications and Falsehoods in the 21st Century. She has consistently obtained large and competitive funding grants, written frequently cited and impactful publications, supervised numerous DPhil students and taught hundreds of students during her time at Oxford.”
Speaking of her promotion, Kingori said, “To have my body of work recognized in this way is a great honor, and I am deeply grateful to the many people who have inspired and supported me so far.”
The acclaimed academic gave birth to her first child when she received a studentship to fund her Ph.D. with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, per the report. Kingori was pregnant with her second child when she fled civil unrest in her home country and returned to the U.K., where she spent her teen years.
“I left friends and colleagues behind, not sure whether they were going to be OK. I didn’t want to leave, I didn’t believe what I was seeing,” she said in an interview on Wellcome’s website. “I didn’t ever think that I would see dead people in the streets, or face threats of physical violence. It was a very, very dark time.”
After completing her Ph.D., Kingori served as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford’s Ethox Centre. Within five years, she evolved from a research lecturer to an associate professor.
“Prof Kingori is also a fantastically enabling colleague, and a gifted & visionary shaper of research agendas,” one Twitter user said in response to the announcement of Kingori’s history-making job change. “Working with her on the SI on Fakery in Africa was a career highlight and one of the most meaningful collaborations ever.”
Another proud user commented: “Kenyans are pushing boundaries and breaking bounds.”
Zimbabwe’s News Hawk noted, “As of January of 2021, only 155 out of more than 23,000 university professors in the UK were black, according to official figures.”
Professor Kingori’s bio says that her work “has focused on the views, values and experiences of fieldworkers and other frontline research staff.”
“It sounds all really easy, but actually I didn’t have a plan for any of this. I don’t have academics in my family, so I had no example of how this is supposed to work,” Kingori told Wellcome. “It’s very difficult for me, but I’ve been really fortunate to do something I genuinely like. I can put in the extra hours, and I don’t mind doing lots of reading or teaching because I genuinely like it.”
She’s been published in numerous medical journals such as Social Science & Medicine, and she hosts the podcast, Exploring the Genuine Fake, on which she examines “fakes, fabrications and falsehoods in health and medicine.”
“I think academia is just still very conservative in the way that people are hired and promoted,” said Kingori.
“As a black woman from a single-parent, working-class background I’m very conscious that diversity is sometimes skewed to a very narrow interpretation – it’s generally gender diversity, so racial, social class and other forms of diversity get put on the back foot,” she noted. “That is changing, but it’s changing very slowly.”
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