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Kalonji L.K. Nzinga

Ph.D. Candidate, Learning Sciences

Northwestern University, School of Education and Social Policy

2029 Sheridan Road

Evanston, IL: 60208-2710

Phone: 614-946-1663



Stanford University, Stanford, CA, Human Biology B.A.,2006

Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, Learning Sciences Ph.D., expected 2018


Research Interests:

Moral Socialization, Ethics Across Cultures, Learning Across Cultures, Cultural Psychology, Hip-Hop Culture



“The Social Conscience of Rap: Moral Socialization Within Hip-Hop Culture”


This study explores the moral priorities that are voiced in rap music and hip-hop culture.  Using a combination of psychological assessment of moral attitudes, clinical interviews, and ethnography I investigate how young rap enthusiasts interpret these moral themes and are socialized into the subculture’s ethical discourses about justice, authority and authenticity.


Dissertation Readers:  Professor Doug Medin (chair), Professor Carol Lee, Associate Professor Eva Lam, Assistant Professor Shirin Vossoughi


Conference Presentations

Association for Moral Education, Common Schools, (Un)Common Values:  Which

Version of Tolerance Will Be Taught in American Schools?, symposium presentation, December 2016 (accepted)

Society for Applied Anthropology, The Flow of Moral Perspectives from Rap Lyrics to

the Everyday Discourse of Rap Listeners, symposium presentation, March 2016

Society for Cross Cultural Research, Moral foundations of Hip-Hop Culture: Exploring

the flow of Moral Perspectives from Rap Lyrics to the Everyday Discourse of Rap Listeners, symposium presentation, February 2016

Social Policy And Research on Cognition and Mathematical Education Conference,

research poster, Reciting, Remixing, and Responding: Hip-Hop Listeners Appropriate Value Laden Discourses From Rap Lyrics, May 2015

American Educational Research Association, Annual Conference, Dropping

Knowledge: Exploring How Hip-Hop Enthusiasts Revoice Rap Proverbs, symposium paper, March 2015


Professional & Research Experience

MOSAIC Lab, Northwestern University

Graduate Researcher                                                                              2012-present

The MOSAIC Lab is an experimental psychology lab investigating the role that culture plays in carrying out basic cognitive processes.  Researchers within the lab work with various cultural communities (from the Ngöbe of Panama to African-American parents in Chicago) researching the cultural models they employ while making sense of their worlds.  I work in the lab on my own dissertation project, and in conjunction with other researchers, running psychology experiments, interviewing community members and observing community lifeways.


Learning Linkages, Northwestern University

Graduate Researcher                                                                              2015-present

The Learning Linkages project is a collaboration across 4 universities researching the use of learning software for teaching various educational topics.  The project explores how video data of children working with learning tutors can be used to help us better understand what youth are doing cognitively and socially during these human computer interactions.  I collect video data from math classrooms and analyze it using interaction analysis. 


Solidarity Studios

Educator & Research Consultant                                                            2016-present

Solidarity Studios seeks to galvanize low-income youth civic engagement by helping them use hip-hop to engage in community storytelling and also connecting them with youth in geographically distant communities that are facing similar challenges (South Side of Chicago, Palestine, and Cape Town).   I designed and facilitated workshops on songwriting and music production.


Youth United for Community Action

Program Coordinator                                                                2008-2010

YUCA is a grassroots youth-led community organization that advocates for environmental and social justice issues in East Palo Alto.  I coordinated a staff of three in creating programming to train and develop youth leaders involved in community-wide campaigns including one for rent control and another for environmental protection.



Researcher                                                                                             2007

23andMe’s mission is to be the world's trusted source for personal genetic information. Using data from the appropriate scientific literature, I wrote web articles that helped customers interpret their own personal genetic information.






Teaching Experience

Northwestern University:  2014- Present

·       Culture and Cognition (Fall 2015) – Co-Instructor (with Dr. Shirin Vossoughi)

·       Field Methods (Spring 2015) – Teaching Assistant (with Dr. Shirin Vossoughi)

·       Culture and Cognition (Fall 2014) – Teaching Assistant (with Dr. Ananda Marin)

·       Race and Education (Spring 2014) – Teaching Assistant (with Dr. Carol Lee)

·       Psychology of Technology & Instructional Design (Winter 2014) – Teaching Assistant (with Dr. David Rapp)

·       Culture and Cognition – (Fall 2013) – Teaching Assistant (with Dr. Sonya Sachdeva)


Honors and Awards

Cognitive Science University Fellowship, 2012-2013

Brady Graduate Fellowship, 2013-2014

Mellon Mays Fellowship, 2005-present

Ron Brown Scholar Program, 2002-present


Service and Committees

Critical Contexts                                                                                 2013-2016

Founded an organization that facilitates dialogue and collaboration between social science graduate students that research culturally diverse and/or marginalized communities.


Diversity Committee (School of Education & Social Policy)   2016-present

Serves as the graduate student representative on a faculty committee to address concerns of diversity and inclusion (hiring, admissions, and curriculum) in the School of Education and Social Policy.


NU (TGS) Cross Cultural                                                                   2013-present

Leads a graduate student organization that creates programming to foster cross-cultural interactions between graduate students from diverse backgrounds.


Ethnic Studies Graduate Student Colloquium (President)      2013-2014


Black Graduate Student Association (Executive Board)                       2012-2013