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My PhD experience

22 July 2020

4 mins

Dr Adaku Jennifer Agwunobi is our first Black doctoral researcher to complete her PhD, and the first doctoral researcher to complete their PhD within the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. What’s more, Dr Agwunobi also completed her PhD in an impressive 2 years and 10 months – pretty exceptional, right?

In this blog, hear from Dr Agwunobi in her own words as she reflects on her PhD experience at Loughborough University London.

Being the first Black PhD student to obtain a PhD at Loughborough University’s London campus is an honour that I’ll always cherish. Having passed my PhD viva within 2 years and 10 months of starting my PhD programme, and at the age of 26, is also another accomplishment that I’m immensely proud of.

This PhD is more than just a degree; my research focuses on the link between health and discrimination, and in the context of entrepreneurship in the digital economy as well as using intersectionality as a theoretical lens. Some of the topics covered include micro-aggressions, whitewashing, physical health, mental health, digital well-being, cyberbullying, stereotyping, stigma and more. Exploration of these topics is vital and fundamental to my research, particularly due to the ongoing social injustice and maltreatment of Black lives.

At Loughborough University London, I really loved being based on the Olympic Park and taking part in everything that was going on! I ensured that I made the most out of my experience, and I established several collaborations at Here East, too. I am so grateful for this experience, and it was always so amazing being based around such innovative practises, people and inspirational projects. Nonetheless, there were a number of challenges, but I really enjoyed doing my PhD.

People would often ask me why I was so happy and how I had so much energy all the time; one of the main reasons is because I’m genuinely passionate about my research area and it makes me happy to know that my work can contribute to positive change. Being a young, Black woman undertaking this research has been important, motivational and eye-opening, to say the least! While conducting interviews and surveys for the PhD, meeting entrepreneurs and employees at events, networking with stakeholders, lecturing, presenting at conferences and conducting entrepreneurial well-being workshops, it was clear that introducing this subject matter to their narratives was crucial because of the ‘high-stress’ context and links between stress and negative health outcomes. Delving deep into inter-sectional health inequalities further motivated my interest in health disparities and their connections to discrimination.

Being a co-ethnic researcher in the field also brought comfort to the participants. They felt they could be themselves, without judgement, and responded to someone whom they felt would understand their experiences as well as cultural nuances. I am Black ‘British’ of Nigerian descent, Igbo to be specific. I was born and raised in London, one of England’s most diverse cities. It is extremely important for me to ‘give voice’ to the marginalised and be a voice representing those whose voices are generally not included. I, too, have been ‘the only Black girl’ and ‘the only Black person’ particularly during this PhD process and I have created my own ‘table’ from scratch.

Undertaking a PhD has privileges in itself, and I aim to use this to make a positive change through intersectional action, making several contributions to literature, giving voice to the marginalised and, thus, overall raising awareness, making a difference and helping to improve marginalised individuals’ health and well-being through knowledge and evidence-based research.

We literally need to speak about mental health, racism, patriarchy and world peace. I hope to make a difference with my research and continue to centre the experiences of Black individuals in order to work towards the reduction and subsequent elimination of health disparities; ultimately aiming towards making the world a better, happier and healthier place.

Loughborough University London would like to congratulate Dr Adaku Jennifer Agwunobi on her achievement!

To find out more about Dr Adaku Jennifer Agwunobi’s PhD, take a look at our website.

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