2023 Alumni Awards Profiles

Irma McClaurin ’73Irma McClaurin ’73

Reunion: 50th
Residence: Raleigh, North Carolina
Grinnell major: American studies
Other degrees: MFA in English/creative writing from University of Massachusetts Amherst (1976); MA in cultural anthropology from University of Massachusetts Amherst (1989); Ph.D. in cultural/biocultural anthropology from University of Massachusetts Amherst (1993)
Profession: Writer, coach, leadership consultant, diversity strategist, and immigrant asylum expert

3 ways Irma embodies Grinnell College’s mission of lifetime learning and service

  1. As CEO at Irma McClaurin Solutions, Irma offers clients three decades of expertise in strategic planning, communications, program and curriculum, design, and championing diversity.  Her services include DEI assessments and strategies, fostering community engagement, leadership and organizational development, change management, executive coaching, research and evaluations, as well as writing and editorial support. 
  2. For over a decade, McClaurin has served as an expert witness for asylum cases on gender violence, LGBTQ bias, ageism, and mental health as well as on implicit biases cases.
  3. The author of the award-winning collection, Black Feminist Anthropology: Theory, Politics, Praxis and Poetics, the book has made a provocative and important contribution to contemporary Black feminism.

Something you probably didn’t know about Irma

She was invited to tour Taiwan in 2018 to teach and speak on Black feminism, disaster recovery and resilience, and the Black Feminist Archive (which she founded at UMass-Amherst in 2016) with indigenous women leaders, university students and faculty, and the Taiwan Fulbright staff.

Dr. Irma McClaurin with Dr. Kesho Scott

Bonus Irma Fun Facts

  • Her career path has included service as past president of Shaw University, Chief Diversity Officer at Teach For America, Ford Foundation Program Officer, and tenured associate professor of anthropology at the University of Florida and University of Minnesota. She also was the first Black faculty member in Grinnell’s Anthropology Department.
  • Irma is a member of Grinnell’s 50th reunion planning committee, and previously served on the Black Alumni Reunion Committee. She has been a GRASP volunteer and was a Grinnelllink D.C. speaker in 2015. She has consistently mentored Black Grinnell alums and faculty members.
  • At Grinnell’s Commencement ceremony on May 22, 2023, Irma received an honorary degree from the College, a Doctor of Social Studies, for her relentless pursuit of excellence in many fields, her innovative mindset, and her steadfast commitment to social justice in many forms.

A quote about Irma

“Irma’s focus is on helping others to advocate for themselves, and guiding institutions and leaders to facilitate the participation and co-sharing leadership of people of color and women. This task is like guiding a supertanker. You can’t turn it around quickly or effectively unless you have a lot of time, and I guess you’d say endurance. …What I take away from her experience is how strong, resilient and committed she has needed to be, to have accomplished what she has for 50 years.”

Kit Gage ’73

Read more 2023 Alumni Award Recipient profiles.