Triple Crown: A Historic First at UVic Law as Professor Iyioha granted Reappointment, Tenure and Promotion

Ireh Iyioha

Ireh Iyioha has recieved tenure at the University of Victoria, Faculty of Law.

In a history-making motion by the University of Victoria, Dr. Irehobhude O. Iyioha has received tenure and promotion to Associate Professor of Law after a unanimous vote by the Reappointment, Promotions and Tenure (RPT) Committee of the Faculty of Law. While professors at the University of Victoria are hired usually for a three-year term—after which they are required to apply for another three-year term before they can apply for tenure and promotion—the RPT Committee voted separately to reappoint, tenure and promote Dr. Iyioha “without any hesitation” on October 1, 2021. Dr. Iyioha’s application for tenure came less than two years after joining UVic Law, with the Committee’s recommendation following shortly thereafter—a historic recognition of her years of service in the Canadian legal academy.

Dr. Iyioha joined UVic Law in 2019 after nearly a decade teaching at various law and medical schools across Canada. Often finding herself the first or one of two Black scholars in a given department or faculty, Dr. Iyioha is acutely aware of the challenges faced by Black scholars in Canada in both hiring, retention and grant of tenure and promotion—even though these scholars have the requisite qualifications for the relevant academic position. In Dr. Iyioha’s case, both the Committee and peer reviewers were emphatic about her distinguished career in the academy and the fact that the recognition was long overdue. Thus, UVic’s recognition of Dr. Iyioha’s teaching, scholarship and service is especially remarkable given her journey through the academy—one that involved surviving and overcoming anti-Black racism in Canadian legal education and excelling against all odds. For Dr. Iyioha, her promotion and tenure affirm what she already knows of UVic Law.

“[UVic] is a place where the commitment to social justice for those who have experienced marginalization is affirmed in the faculty’s culture, as well as in its institutional programs and offerings,” says Dr. Iyioha.  

“From establishing the world’s first Indigenous Law Program and the National Centre for Indigenous Laws to specialized supports for Black and Indigenous students, UVic consistently demonstrates its commitment to reconciliation and advancement of those whose voices have historically been silenced.”

In granting tenure, the Committee relied on Dr. Iyioha’s teaching, publication and service record, as well as assessments submitted by expert peer reviewers and leading law professors from across the country. The submitted opinions, much like that of the Committee, were unequivocal in their support for Dr. Iyioha’s tenure and promotion. Regarding the two principal qualification standards for tenure and promotion, one reviewer even noted that “Dr. Iyioha clearly meets and greatly surpasses these two standards.”

Dr. Iyioha’s recognition comes in the wake of a string of successes since joining UVic Law, including an award-winning teaching program, several research and project grants, and exceptional service commitment. In 2022, she received the University of Victoria’s Law Students’ Society First Year Class Teaching Award, which is granted annually to a law professor who, in the opinion of the 1L class, “has made a special contribution to legal education through effective and engaging classroom teaching and a demonstrated commitment to assisting and supporting the academic work of first year students.” Dr. Iyioha’s commitment to these values is reflected in the Committee’s notes, which described her, in a peer reviewer’ words, as an “excellent and experienced teacher” and her teaching practice as a “forward-looking…approach to legal pedagogy.”

Outside the classroom, Dr. Iyioha’s research pushes the boundaries of issues on moral and legal philosophy, torts, legal feminism, international human rights law, and comparative health law. Dr. Iyioha’s award-winning research program broadly examines the effectiveness of law, while also interrogating the role, capacities, and limits of law as an instrument for advancing the health and wellbeing of marginalized, underserved and equity-seeking groups. Dr. Iyioha’s research relies on empirical data and real-world practices in a variety of legal, social and geo-political contexts. Whether the focus is the role of law in ensuring healthcare access or the limits of law in addressing healthcare challenges for women and racialized groups, Dr. Iyioha’s research, as one peer reviewer notes, “demonstrates a mastery of her subject matter across borders and time.”

Dr. Iyioha’s work has been recognized locally and internationally through notable awards. Dr. Iyioha has been the recipient of over sixty academic and service awards and honours, including a 2017 Canadian Association of Law Teachers Award given to a scholar whose work has made a substantial contribution to legal literature and the World Congress on Medical Law Award (1st Place Prize)—for her study of legal effectiveness and the limits of criminalization as a tool to protect women’s health.

Dr. Iyioha has also received a number of grants to support her recently expanded research examining the limits of pandemic law and policy, the impact of pandemic law on marginalized groups and legal compliance in pandemic times. These grants include a Canadian Bar Association (CBA) Law for the Future Award, an Internal Research/Creative Project Grant (IRCPG) and a Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Development Grant. She has also presented on these issues as an invited speaker at several international conferences and platforms.
Beyond these local and international honours for her research, Dr. Iyioha’s books, including the most recent, Women’s Health and the Limits of Law—which peer reviewers described as an “incredible accomplishment,” are also currently being used in at least fifteen university undergraduate and graduate-level courses and programs in Canada, UK, France, China, Iran and around the world. According to the Committee, “Dr. Iyioha’s work has been widely disseminated through discipline-appropriate methods, and is clearly in significant demand by a variety of audiences who appreciate the depth, scope and value of her original and very clearly conceptualized work.”  The Committee further characterizes her 2015 book, Comparative Health Law and Policy, co-edited with Dr. R.N. Nwabueze of Southampton University, as “the first and ‘leading comparative text’ on Nigerian and global health law.”

“UVic’s recognition has come with renewed confidence in what’s possible when systems work the way they should,” says Dr. Iyioha, whose experiences with discrimination and barriers to access to the legal academy as a Black scholar have inspired her to support others like herself who face similar challenges. One of the ways she has accomplished this has been by supporting increased enrolment of Black law students through mentorship, outreach efforts and support for admission initiatives.

“It has been heartbreaking to find one or no Black students in a classroom in my previous teaching experiences,” says Dr. Iyioha. “Black students belong in law schools too and can excel regardless of the stereotypes.”
Another major initiative Dr. Iyioha has founded and championed to promote Black student enrolment in law school is the Black Professionals Leadership Program (BPL)—an educational support and leadership training program for Black students at the University of Victoria. The BPL Program is a holistic mentorship and professional support initiative that implements UVic’s strategic priority to entrench “equity, diversity, inclusion and dialogue throughout the university community so that all members feel welcomed, valued and supported to achieve their highest potentials.”

Dr. Iyioha credits UVic with the opportunity to expand on her community mentoring initiatives through the establishment of the BPL Program. The Program’s pilot stage is being supported by seed funding from the University of Victoria Strategic Framework Impact Fund (SFIF). The Program is unique in that it offers comprehensive supports to promote learning and wellness for Black post-secondary students. With the support of departments and faculties across UVic and a world-class Strategic Advisors Committee, the Program is focused on supporting Black law students with programs designed to promote Black representation and retention in the legal profession and academy.

In addition to her work at UVic, Dr. Iyioha also lends her time to teaching, supervising, and mentoring students in other Canadian universities, like the Osgoode Hall Law School’s Professional Master of Laws (LL.M.) Program.

As she begins the next step of her career, Dr. Iyioha has many reasons to count her blessings. She also isn’t taking any of her success for granted, even if it was long-overdue.

“My UVic experience has been an exceptional one—and those who know my journey in legal academia—those who know where I have been would certainly understand this. I came here, was received with open arms, and now a historic reappointment, tenure and promotion all in one. What can I say?”

For starters? It’s about time.