My personal and professional journey spans the globe. Born in the USSR, educated in post-socialist Ukraine and in the United States, and having taught in colleges in China, the United Arab Emirates, and the US, I had multiple first-hand encounters with the challenges of cultural change and educational reforms in the context of global transformations. The dilemmas I grappled with in my professional practice as an international teacher educator in countries that were undergoing educational modernization brought me to graduate school. During my time at Michigan State University, I explored curriculum transfers in the United Arab Emirates, Bologna-related educational reforms in Russia, and commodification of teacher education on the global scale.
These explorations culminated in a dissertation study entitled “Teacher Education Reforms as Political Theater: Modernization Dramas in the Russian Federation.” Conducted as a multi-sited critical ethnography with the support from the Fulbright Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship, my dissertation examined how globally circulated policy scripts become the foundation for national education reforms. In my analysis, I examined the parallels between policy-making processes and rules of theatrical productions to underscore the performative nature of reform efforts. The educational change underway in Russia echoes educational transformations around the world, which naturalize inequality and seek to produce spectators rather than active social agents. This research was recognized by the Outstanding Dissertation Award from the American Educational Research Association (Division K: Teaching and Teacher Education) as well as by an honorable mention from the Council of Anthropology and Education of the American Anthropological Association.
I received my PhD in Curriculum, Instruction, and Teacher Education from Michigan State University in 2015. I was also awarded a graduate certificate in qualitative methodology. I completed my MA in Linguistics with specialization in sociolinguistics and English language teaching at the University of South Carolina in 2005.
After two years as a Post-doctoral Research Scholar at Arizona State University, I joined the Department of Educational Foundations, Leadership, and Technology at Auburn University. Currently, I am working on projects that build on my prior research and branch out into related fields of privatization, standardization, and surveillance of teacher education worldwide. To that end, David Berliner and I have co-edited a special issue of Education Policy Analysis Archives titled “Navigating the Contested Terrain of Teacher Education Policy and Practice.”
Across my scholarship and my teaching, I am committed to the issues of social justice, equity, diversity, and decolonial ethics. To support my commitments to these issues, I was selected as a 2016 Concha Delgado Gaitan Presidential Fellow by the Council of Anthropology and Education, American Anthropological Association.
In my free time, I enjoy reading, taking long walks, swimming, and cooking.
In July 2016, I changed my first name from Olena to Elena. I use both Elena and Helen in my daily interactions.