Dr. Tonya M. Matthews is a thought-leader in institutionalized equity and inclusion frameworks,
social entrepreneurship, and the intersectionality of formal and informal education. Her
background as both poet and engineer have made her a highly sought-after visioning partner
on boards and community building projects, as well as a frequent public speaker and presenter
for communities across all ages and venues.
A non-profit executive leadership veteran, Dr. Matthews is currently President and CEO of the
International African American Museum (IAAM) located in Charleston, SC at the historically
sacred site of Gadsden’s Wharf, one of our nation’s most prolific former slave ports. IAAM is a
champion of authentic, empathetic storytelling of American history and thus, one of the
nation’s newest platforms for the disruption of institutionalized racism as America continues
the walk toward “a more perfect union.”
Dr. Matthews has storied career in leadership. Most recently, she served as Associate Provost
for Inclusive Workforce Development & Director of the STEM Innovation Learning Center for
Wayne State University and, prior to that, as the President & CEO of the Michigan Science
Center – flexing her science and tech educational equity chops in both roles. Dr. Matthews
credits her time at Wayne State University for a deeper understanding of the intersectionality
of education, career, community agency, and self-efficacy which she refers to as the “pre-K
through Gray” pipeline. While at the Michigan Science Center, she founded The STEMinista
Project, a movement to engage girls in their future with STEM careers and tools. She continues
this work today through STEMinista Rising, supporting professional women in STEM – and the
colleagues who champion them – with an inclusive emphasis on women of color.
Dr. Matthews’ dedication to community and her accomplishments is widely recognized. She
was noted as one of the Most Influential Women in Charleston (Charleston Business Magazine,
2021) and honored as Trailblazer by Career Mastered Magazine (2017). She is a member of the
National Academy of Sciences Board on Science Education and was appointed by both
Democratic and Republican administrations to the National Assessment Governing Board. Dr.
Matthews is a published poet, included in 100 Best African American Poems (2010) edited by
Nikki Giovanni, and has written several articles and book chapters on inclusive governance,
non-profit management, and fundraising.
Dr. Matthews received her Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from Johns Hopkins University and
her B.S.E. in biomedical and electrical engineering from Duke University, alongside a certificate
in African/African American Studies. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and
The Links, Inc. Dr. Matthews is a native of Washington, D.C. and, in each community she has
settled, is known for planting roots on the side of town best for keeping an eye on progress.