UC grad strives to make space for future Black, male school psychologist professionals

When examining the impact of someone on their community, culture, and surroundings, people can't simply be placed into one-dimensional categories. We involve our complex personalities and impact much more than one category with every action. To truly understand how no individual is monolithic, it is necessary to consider every group they fit into, alongside how they deviate from the status quo.  

This sentiment fits educator Kamontá Heidelburg, a school psychology doctoral graduate from UC's College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services (CECH). Heidelburg's  passion and accomplishments have established him as one of CECH's prominent social reform and research alumni who spent most of his career teaching and researching the psychological aspects of education in Cincinnati's public schools. By doing so, he has experienced the importance of acknowledging the many personality features that define someone's character.  

photo of Kamontá Heidelburg

Kamonta Heidelburg, PhD in School Psychology graduate. Photo Credit: unknown

Currently, Dr. Heidelburg works at the University of Buffalo as an assistant professor of school psychology, where he researches positive social-emotional & academic development and its relation to the current education system. However, he has been observing this aspect of psychology his whole life, experiencing these nuances in his childhood, teaching experience, and education at UC. 

What Heidelburg found most significant about his research in the school psychology PhD program was how it related to race in the school system. Being the first Black male to graduate from the program, Heidelburg realized the importance of setting the standard for the next generation of college students, showing them the room for diversity within post-graduate programs. Specifically, Heidelburg became fascinated and concerned with the well-being of Black males in schools. Considering his experience as a Black male coupled with extensive research on Black males, he realized that reform was needed to support equitable student outcomes in schools.  

Throughout his work within the many facets of the American school system, Heidelburg realized that the framework regarding Black men was frequently geared in a negative light instead of recognizing the positive and constructive aspects of their lives.  

[In psychology classes], we're talking about all the things that we can't do as Black males, and I thought, 'what about all the positives?'. So being in that advocacy mindset, I realized we have to change that narrative."

Kamontá Heidelburg, PhD

When working as a practicum student in a North Norwood alternative school, Heidelburg began realizing the impact that society's view of young Black males had on their ability to learn, along with their self-esteem. To combat this viewpoint, which had impacted generations of students, Heidelburg began utilizing his knowledge of psychology to make a difference.  

"Historically in education, we've had models and scholars that are typically white males use the one-size-fits-all model. [However], we know that people are not monolithic at all, so you can't take that approach." 

Kamonta Heidelburg wit young black male students

Heidelberg with students within the M.O.R.E program at Hughes High School. Photo credit: unknown

At the dawn of his career in education, Heidelburg began his work by focusing on mainly Black male students who had been shown the negative connotations of who they were throughout their time in the education system. 

During his time supporting youth, Heidelburg began recognizing the same issues in older students he saw with younger children, which led him toward a passion for dealing with these issues through early prevention. Heidelburg found the most effective way to combat this phenomenon was to tutor and support students through academic & social-emotional interventions, which were intentionally geared towards children’s specific cultural needs.  

These interventions help students navigate through these oppressive systems to the best of their abilities.

Kamontá Heidelburg, PhD

Heidelburg began to realize the benefits of understanding the complexities of each student's learning style through these interventions. For example, involving an emotion-based curriculum was critical to some students, who may not have received the same amount of attention at home.  

"What the education system is starting to realize is that you can have the best lesson plan, but [without acknowledging emotions], you can't get to the academics. [Educators] must do social-emotional development in addition to academics." 

Heidelburg first began developing research around social-emotional development while working at Hughes High School, starting a curriculum called 'Blacks to Success,' which was aimed to recognize and construct the emotional well-being of Black males. This program contributes to a social shift that Heidelburg views as a widespread awakening towards the racial disparities within the education system. This newly found desire for activism, which has recently spread on a societal level, is a glimpse of progress toward Heidelburg's overall goal of equal opportunity and empowerment.  

"People are starting to realize that [the education system] is doing a disservice to our marginalized students. If we can support students throughout their educational experience, we can have better outcomes [for our marginalized youth]." 

Kamonta Heidelburg at graduation

Kamontá Heidelburg, PhD. Photo credit: unknown

To change the culture within our schools, Heidelburg prioritizes a shift in the way we view students and their learning styles. For example, creating a conversation-based discourse around race and finding ways to have the corresponding conversations, despite how uncomfortable they may be, is the first step towards a more inclusive learning space, Heidelburg cites.  

Heidelburg recognizes that he is an anomaly within the School Psychology field. With more than 80% of the graduate students in this profession being White, according to the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), being a Black male with a doctorate demonstrates the dimensions that exist within Black culture that are often considered rare.

I am my ancestor's wildest dreams.

Kamontá Heidelburg, PhD

In the future, Heidelburg is looking to be tenured at the University of Buffalo to pursue his studies further. In the long term, Heidelburg is also interested in working for a civil rights unit within the U.S. Department of Education, creating strategies to support Black students around the country further.  

The College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services (CECH) is proud to begin its ongoing diversity awareness campaign, "BE Historic," with Black History Month, highlighting notable alumni making a change in their respective fields.

Written by Luke Bisesi, undergraduate student in the Department of Journalism

Featured image at the top by Getty Images

Impact Lives Here

The University of Cincinnati is leading public urban universities into a new era of innovation and impact. Our faculty, staff and students are saving lives, changing outcomes and bending the future in our city's direction. Next Lives Here.

Related Stories


UC's CECH recognizes students, faculty and staff for outstanding...

April 19, 2024

In the early weeks of April 2024, UC's College of Education, Criminal Justice, Human Services, and Information Technology recognized and celebrated students, faculty and staff achievements annual Outstanding Student Awards and All College Awards ceremony, the latter of which awarded both Faculty and Staff Awards and the college's Golden Apple Awards.

Debug Query for this