RIP summer 😭 While my air conditioning bill will not be missed, the end of August means the school year is in full swing and there are a ton of moving parts between teaching and Cohort Sistas. I’ve got an empty house so a bit more time to focus on my massive to-do list next month, including figuring out what to do for my birthday, eek! There were some really good questions this month (like always), so let’s get into them.
P.S. I don’t post fashion links that much anymore bc tbh it’s time consuming and I don’t like promoting unnecessary consumerism but I HAD to share the info on this dress I wore to a wedding earlier this month because it is truly one of the most comfortable and flattering pieces of clothing I’ve ever worn! If you’re busty it’s probably not for you but for those of us on the itty bitty size, grab this dress in whatever color & you see fit (it comes in so many)!
Hair & Beauty
Would you ever start your own product line such as skin care line or hair care line?
Probably not. My entrepreneurial bend has always been more towards service based businesses as opposed to retail. So I’m much more interested in opening a spa or salon rather than doing a product line.
Your hair looks amazing!
Which hair product would you suggest for hair growth for babies between 5 to 9 months?
None. It takes time for a baby’s hair to grow in, especially if they sleep on their back. Stop stressing!
Did you take your nose ring out?
It was taken out by my son’s hair accidentally lol. First I didn’t put it back because I was waiting for a new ring from the place I get my nose jewelry, then I thought I’d switch to a hoop. But my new glasses are a quite large and I think would push down on a new piercing so I’m putting my re-piercing on pause until I decide what I want to do.
Get more style and beauty content here.
Teaching, Grad School & Academia
What kind of professor do you want to be and what impact would you like to have?
Love this question! I’ve always learned better through active learning — activities, discussions, group work — versus just staring at a board, so I definitely want to cultivate a culture of active participation in my classrooms. Since I’m probably the first Black professor that many of my students have had (and maybe the only one they will every have), I also want to normalize the idea that Black women are scholars and knowledge producers, so it’s important to make sure my syllabi reflect diverse thoughts and opinions and we’re not just reading the work of white men. I do also want to balance an air of authority with a touch of approachability (always a delicate dance), so they see me as a cool professor but respect my expertise and seek out my wisdom.
What class are you teaching? Is it something you learnt in your PhD?
This semester I’m teaching Contemporary Concerns in Medicine and next semester I’m teaching History of Race in Science. The latter class is my original class and very much rooted in my scholarship and coursework during my PhD. This semester’s class is more of a current events in health and medicine class, but the foundational first weeks of discussing what medicine is and how tensions and alliances between patients, providers, policy makers, and all the other players in the healthcare system came to be were things that I learned during grad school.
Have any of your students recognized you from your online platform? And if so, did you find it weird or are you indifferent. And if not, are you relieved? How do you feel about your students seeing your content online or following you?
These were two separate questions but I grouped them together since they’re related. None of my students have realized that I have more followers than them combined (lol) yet (I think — or at least none of them has brought it up yet). I’m probably going to bring it up in class as one of our topics towards the end of the semester is about how social media has changed medical care and health information & disinformation.
But I’m not at all worried about or bothered by them following me or finding my profile. My blog is a business, and it’s on my CV and LinkedIn, so the hiring committee knows about it. I don’t post anything that I wouldn’t want my mama to see lol, so it’s definitely all teenage-kid friendly. So I’m indifferent.
When I changed my blog and socials from Klassy Kinks to Ijeoma Kola, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to separate my digital work from my academic work moving forward, and I was ok with that. I do both, and I do them well, so I have no issue with my students realizing that.
I’ve also established boundaries and processes with how I interact with Instagram and YouTube in particular, so I can’t envision a situation where a student dms me or comments thinking that they’ll get extra credit and I’ll actually see it 😂
How has it been working a 9-5 job and how do you plan on being available once TKB comes to the states?
9-5s are EXHAUSTING!! My goodness! All these people talking about you have so much time after work to start a side hustle are lying out their teeth. I have been struggling adjusting to set work hours and not working from home, though I’ve also been trying to make it work for me by only going in on M-W and giving myself til 10 to arrive lol. I don’t do academic work outside of regular work hours, so I’m not worried about that once TKB comes, but more so blogging and Cohort Sistas work, which I typically do on the evenings and weekends. I’m trying to delegate more and hire additional support so I can be fully present with him from when I get back from work and when he goes to sleep.
What has the transition to academia been like?
Aside from the actual labor of going to work physically (expanded above), the academia transition has been pretty smooth. I’ve been meeting people in different departments and starting to meet students (both undergrad and graduate). I have a mentor who has helped me prepare for this transition and what to expect so I feel like I was well prepared. The only thing I wasn’t ready for was how much some people like to gossip about what’s going on in other departments! I guess maybe if I was working in a large corporate setting there might be a similar dynamic, but office politics is the most surprising adjustment.
Why did you choose Columbia for your PhD. Would you recommend?
I went to Columbia because the department I was interested in seemed to be a good fit for my research interests, it was in a place I desired to live, and they matched my funding offers from other programs. I can’t recommend Columbia carte blanche because you don’t apply to a school, you apply to a program, and I can’t speak for any other Columbia PhD program other than the one I completed.
What would you advise a public health graduate who wants to network and get out of their comfort zone?
I would join a public health association — whether a big one like APHA or a smaller niche one (I’m a member of IAPHS). Joining a membership organization is a great way to stay on top of public health research and developments, as well as expand your network. A lot of conferences are still virtual, so attending one and actually introducing yourself in the chat can be a way to connect with people.
How do you get better at writing research papers?
I actually read a few books to help me learn to write. They were discipline specific, so for history scholars, but helped break down how to write history for academic settings. I also read a lot of published literature, not for content, but for structure, to better understand how experienced writers organized their thoughts and laid out their arguments.
What led you to decide to pursue a career in academia?
I think I covered that here.
How do you think having a strong social media presence will affect your prospects in academia?
To be honest, I’m not sure. As I said above, my social media work is on my CV, so it’s not like I’m hiding it or separating it from my academic world. During my postdoc application cycle I actually leaned into my social media experience as a way to better engage students and meet them where they are, and it’s allowed me to introduce some additional topics on how social media impacts health & medicine in a way that didn’t have to be laid out in coursework or a publication. I don’t know if there are different expectations/if my social media would be perceived differently for tenure-track positions, but there’s a whole professor on Real Housewives so I feel like I’m good.
Do you have concerns that people will not take you seriously in academia?
Nope. I think a lot of academics are pushing back against this idea that we need to only be writing and researching to be serious scholars. Some academics LIVE on Twitter all day long 🤣 — I happen to take very nice pictures and tell stories in longer form content on different platforms. I actually think as long as the work speaks for itself (aka I need to get my first publication out!), my social media presence actually makes me valuable as a public health thought leader, which has been demonstrated lately since I’ve been getting many more campaigns in the health & medicine space as opposed to beauty or style.
I want to pursue a PhD in Public Health. What made you choose Sociomedical Sciences over Epidemiology?
I had no interest in statistics or quant methods, and was far more concerned with the social determinants of health. You can do social epidemiology and do qualitative research, which could probably go either way. But I’m a historian, so I work with archival and oral material, not data, so SMS was a good fit because of the history track.
Is there something you did not expect about teaching?
Lecture prep takes mad long!
Get more school-related content here.
Work & Finances
What site would you recommend for a YouTuber with 1k subscribers to find product sponsorships?
This list is a bit old but I share some networks for monetizing your social media here. I know other bloggers have more extensive lists. Hot take: I know everyone says you can monetize as a nano-influencer but at your stage those sites probably won’t get you much because you have to keep in mind there are creators on there with thousands of subscribers. I think your best bet is to pitch your unique ideas for product integration to brands. But your success is contingent upon whether you’re already doing the work to show brands that you’re a good potential partner.
How do you manage taxes as an expat?
I’m not an expat. I’m a US citizen.
How do you and your spouse handle finances?
Answered previously, but thanks for the reminder that this needs a full post!
Which strategies can one use to add value at their place of work?
Learn new skills that no one else at work has that make you indispensable to the team and the work your company is carrying out.
Would you ever do those “what YouTube paid me” videos?
I typically only make videos that I myself would watch, and I don’t watch those videos. Those vids also work best (in terms of engagement) when they’re about what people were paid after a viral video, and I’ve never gone viral on YouTube. But I average $500/month from YouTube.
Do you censor yourself online in case colleagues or employers are following you?
No. My parents follow me so I don’t post anything that I don’t want THEM to see lol. Ain’t nobody worried about coworkers.
How do you balance your academic career as a public figure sharing lifestyle content?
I’ve kind of touched on this above, but I honestly don’t think about it. This is who I am — I have multiple interests and I’m good at multiple things. I can’t change how people might perceive me and I’m not going to live a life that won’t completely fulfill me for fear that someone in academia won’t respect me. If my social media work doesn’t resonate with them, that’s their prerogative and not mine.
Any tax tips for a postdoc wanting to start two LLCs?
Sounds like you need to talk to an accountant!
How will you manage multiple relationships with students potentially on and offline?
I don’t plan to engage with my students online. We talk in class and in office hours and via email, dassit.
Find more posts on work, productivity, and finances here.
Home, Living & Moving
How has it been living around more white people again?
I didn’t know what kind of white folk Indiana would have but so far everyone has been nice! Our house is on a pretty diverse street — our neighbors on either side are Black and white — so it’s not like I never see Black people. Now I have no idea where the other racial-ethnic groups live cuz it really seems like there are only Black & white people here so far.
What would you say your house decor style is?
I think it’s primarily mid-century modern with some transitional elements. I think my style also evolves over time as well as with spaces — my Jersey City apartment was more scandi modern because it was pretty much IKEA furnished, while my Nairobi apartment(s) are more global mid-century. This home has a lot of light and different tones of wood flooring, so I’m using those elements to play around with the design of every room. Can’t wait to show you more!
What is TKB sleeping on now that you don’t have furniture?
He’s sleeping in/on his crib in Kenya.
Did you ship everything back to the states again?
Nope, started all the decor from scratch. We still have an apartment in Nairobi.
Do you miss Kenya?
Not right now.
Has Jonathan moved back to Kenya? I thought y’all had moved to Indiana permanently.
We’re bi-continental, so split time between Kenya and the US.
How were your appliances stolen?
Haha well isn’t that the question of the century! Someone (more likely several people) broke into the door leading from the backyard to the garage then broke the door from the garage to the kitchen, after the previous owners moved out but before we moved in.
Where is TKB?
How will you and Jonathan split time between Kenya and the US?
I don’t know if I understand the how part of the question… we’ll just fly back and forth as need be lol.
What do you look out for when choosing a church community in a town you are new to?
To be honest, I’m not looking for a church in this new city; my plan is to do church online for now. Unfortunately, churches have been COVID-19 hotspots as the religious right have shunned sensible public health measures like vaccinations, masking, and social distancing, so I have no desire to be in a church building right now. I’m still trying to figure out how I will make up for the fellowship that I’ve been missing for almost 2 years, since I stopped physically going to church regularly once I had my son. I’m definitely open to ideas!
How did you manage home ownership at such a young age?
I should probably do a video or blog post on this but after we got married we made two saving goals: one for a kid and one for a home. The home savings was interrupted briefly when we decided to move to Kenya, and some of that money that had been set aside was redirected there, but once we were settled we went back to saving.
I have to say though, I didn’t buy a home by myself. I’m in a two person partnership where our joint income has exceeded six figures for the past five years, so we’ve been able to save a decent amount of money since we don’t have that many expenses each month (aka little, Jonathan, to no, me, debt). If I was single and childless, I probably would have still been able to purchase a home by now because I have multiple sources of stable income and spend & save practically.
Since you bought a house, does this mean you are in the states for more than 10 years?
No. Buying a house doesn’t mean you have to live in it forever lol. We bought a house because home ownership was a financial goal for us and because the South Bend real estate market made it affordable to do so. We’ll probably hold onto the house for a while and depending on whether we stay in the US or go back to Kenya will either rent it out furnished or unfurnished. But it’s a good property on a great lot in a nice neighborhood and the value will only go up. This home purchase was just as much of an investment as it was a place to live while I do my post-doc.
What are your thoughts on the housing market in Kenya? You mentioned in passing about how the mortgage rates don’t add up.
Yes! We looked into buying an apartment in Kenya for a while — actually we were seriously house hunting in Nairobi early in the year before I got this position — but there was such a wide variety in home purchase prices in Kenya, that didn’t make sense. For example, we’d see two different apartments in Nairobi that were selling for 15 million shillings or 25 million shillings, but they were both renting for around 100,000 shillings a month. On top of that there are SO many houses for rent that are vacant in Nairobi because people can’t afford them, and idk how people are recouping their money (hot take/tea: a lot of the Nairobi housing market is bought by people laundering money so maybe they don’t need to recoup) but from a financial investment perspective, there just didn’t seem to be a return on investment in Nairobi real estate. But also we didn’t have 150 grand in cash laying around to buy a house and I damn sure was not about to pay 15% mortgage interest rates knowing I could use a fraction of that to buy a house in Indiana with a 3.25% mortgage rate.
Get more home & living content here.
Long Distance Marriage, Relationships & Fitness
Are you doing long distance with Jonathan?
Yup! More details here.
What are you doing to keep your weight under control?
Absolutely nothing. I’m in a weird space with my body/weight where I really flip flop between I want to have abs and I don’t care what I look like. I literally go back and forth every day. While I figure out whether I have the desire to get back into shape (note: nothing to do with weight), I just don’t have the energy to invest in serious exercise right now. I prioritize eating well and nutritiously and try to move my body by walking as much as possible.
How is your fitness journey? Are you back to pre pregnancy weight?
I was back to pre-pregnancy weight a few months after childbirth, but my body has changed shape and I haven’t and probably never will get back to my body composition during my wedding. I’m trying to focus on wellness more than fitness right now, which to me looks like eating well, sleeping well, and trying to get movement in however I can a few times a week (walking, doing house work, etc).
Does your spouse have a marriage visa for the US? How was he able to move with you?
He has a multi-year tourist visa!
How do you deal with chronic loneliness experienced in the states?
I have been alone for just a week, so I don’t think I can speak to this yet, if at all. The boys will be back in a month and I’m so busy that I’m actually relishing this time without them because I can lean into some of my other priorities without having to think about being a wife and a mom in the same ways I would if we were together.
Get more family motherhood content here.
What keeps you going?
Ooh! A combination of desire to help others and make an impact and a fear of failure and poverty (rooted in my immigrant upbringing and a desire to ensure I make something of myself due to my parent’s sacrifices).
Do you have any additional skills that you’d still love to learn?
I’ve been meaning to become fluent in Igbo, I even bought a course and everything, but alas, haven’t had/made the time to open it up.
What do you do to maintain your drive and confidence?
Hmm. In terms of drive, I do a lot of self-reflection about why I’m doing the different things I do — especially because I do a variety of things and they don’t always make sense to others. But I know that my heart and calling are intentional so I reflect on that in times when I need to jumpstart or reset my drive. As for confidence, tbh sometimes I just look at old pictures of myself and am like DAMN SIS YOU FLY or I’ll remember a past situation that I was able to thrive in thanks to grace & favor.
What shows are you currently watching?
Jonathan and I started Blacklist a few weeks ago so making our way through that. I just finished the latest seasons of Workin’ Moms (a bit raunchy but SO funny) and Grace and Frankie. For casual weekend viewing I’ve also been enjoying Fresh Fried & Crispy and Amazing Vacation Rentals. I’m planning to start The Chair this weekend!
What will you do for fun and selfcare in this new chapter of your life?
Excellent question! Interior decor & design is fun for me, so I have plenty to keep me busy as I work on making this house a home.
Did you pick a winner for the washing machine giveaway?
Yes! The winner was Kayla and she was contacted. Thanks to everyone who entered!
Not a question but I must say, you inspire me.
I appreciate you!
Don’t forget to check out the Q&A archives, which include tons more advice on a variety of topics.