Profile: Dr Nina Yancy
Nina Yancy (2015, DPhil Politics) is a consultant in McKinsey & Company’s public and social sector practice. Originally from Texas, Nina came to Oxford with the support of a Rhodes Scholarship. Her academic research examines the relationship between geography and politics, with a specific focus on the Black-White “color line” in the United States. Nina continues to write on topics related to American racial politics and is the author of the upcoming OUP book How the Color Line Bends, which is based on her DPhil thesis.
Why did you choose to do a DPhil at Univ?
Univ chose me! I transferred to Univ to take the role of Junior Dean, after completing my MPhil at New College. But I can’t imagine having done my DPhil anywhere else. Univ’s down-to-earth friendliness, sense of community, academic opportunities, and graduate funding are all hard to beat. And of course, the beauty of the College speaks for itself. My room was off staircase 10, which is where the first photo that currently appears on the Univ homepage was taken, looking out at the tree in Radcliffe Quad. I must have taken dozens of photos of that view, in every season over the course of three years, since I never stopped pinching myself that I got to live there.
How do you think you changed from walking through Univ’s doors for the first time to your graduation?
That’s a hard question to answer (concisely, at least!). But between the intensity of doing a DPhil, living in the UK, and studying US racial politics at a fast-moving time, my years at Univ were definitely formative ones. One important disclaimer: I’ve yet to attend my graduation ceremony, since my plans to do so in 2020 were cancelled by the pandemic. I hope I can still make it back to officially graduate one day, even if it feels like a reunion tour by that point…
Do you have any favourite moments from your time at Univ?
So many only-in-Oxford moments make me smile thinking of them now: from the glamorous (when Stephen Hawking made a surprise appearance at the college feast) to the comical (wearing hi-vis and slowly being covered in confetti while manning the entrance to Logic Lane as Junior Dean during exam season…).
But a standout academic moment was actually the summer I spent in Louisiana doing fieldwork, which Univ generously supported. I went to Louisiana to study an ongoing fight to create a new city, and with it a new school district, in a disproportionately White and wealthy part of the Baton Rouge area. By chance, I arrived amidst some of the most racialized violence Baton Rouge had experienced in decades, sparked by the police killing of Alton Sterling. This all made for an unexpected, tragic, and theoretically rich background for my research. It was a pivotal experience that deeply shaped my thinking, was critical in enabling my study of the US from afar, and went on to form the foundation of the book I wrote based on my thesis.
What does your work involve at the moment?
I currently work in management consulting — which in some ways couldn’t be more different from academia, but in other ways has offered amazing opportunities to apply my academic experience. I primarily focus on topics related to supporting economic development (particularly workforce development) and promoting racial equity. My clients have included US local, state, and federal government entities, along with social sector organizations. I also try to stay close to research and writing on issues related to race, including by contributing to the McKinsey Institute for Black Economic Mobility, and, separately, by working to publish my academic research.
Do you have any words of wisdom to share with current students?
I’m trying to think back to the wisdom I appreciated as a student, and hilariously the one piece of advice I seem to remember verbatim is: “just don’t eat the chips.” This came from a fellow Junior Dean friend who knew that, as part of the job, I would get free meals in Hall. Don’t get me wrong — the chips were always delicious. But sometimes in life, it’s good to pace yourself!
Describe Univ in three words.
Home in Oxford
Published: 14 February 2022