Edwin Achola (Ph.D. '13/E) named to Alumni 10 Under 10

Edwin Achola (Ph.D. '13/E)
Dr. Edwin Obilo Achola (Ph.D. ’13/E)

VCU Alumni's 10 Under 10 awards program recognizes the noteworthy and distinctive achievements made by alumni who earned their first VCU degree (undergraduate, graduate or professional) within the past 10 years. One of this year's recipients is Edwin Achola, who earned his Ph.D. in Education with a concentration in special education and disability leadership from the VCU School of Education in 2013. Below is a brief bio of Dr. Achola.

Edwin Obilo Achola, Ph.D., was inspired to pursue a career in education by the passion and dedication of his parents, who were both teachers. Born in Kisumu, a town in western Kenya, Achola grew up witnessing his parents’ commitment to serving children in rural communities.

Today, he is an associate professor and co-project director specializing in special education in the Department of Advanced Studies in Education and Counseling at California State University, Long Beach. Achola helps train teachers to work more effectively with students with disabilities who come from diverse communities and also to help students transition from adolescence to adulthood.

While pursuing his Ph.D. at VCU, Achola met Colleen Thoma, Ph.D., associate dean for academic affairs and graduate studies in the School of Education’s Department of Counseling and Special Education, who became his doctoral adviser, friend and mentor.

Achola calls attending the VCU School of Education “the single most influential event of my professional journey.”

“I was not confident in my ability to get a tenure-track position and be successful at it,” Achola says. Thoma supported him through the application process, wrote letters of support and helped him prepare for interviews.

In the end, Achola landed his “dream job” at CSULB and earned early tenure and a quick promotion. He has received $3.75 million in federal grants for his work since 2013.

Achola is a member of the Council for Exceptional Children, a board member of its Division on Career Development and Transition and chair of its Human Rights and Cultural Diversity Committee.

Amid the flurry of career achievements, Achola and his wife, Gloria Obilo, welcomed a son, Gor Obilo, in April 2018.

Achola calls attending the VCU School of Education “the single most influential event of my professional journey.”

“VCU opened doors that I never imagined would be open to people from my background.”

Learn more about VCU Alumni's 10 Under 10 awards program.