Frances Vavrus (1965 - )

Vavrus Frances

Short Biography & Significant Contribution

Frances Vavrus is Associate Professor and Coordinator of the Program in Comparative and International Development Education at the University of Minnesota, where she also holds the title of McKnight Presidential Fellow. Born in West Lafayette, Indiana in 1965, Vavrus received degrees from Purdue (B.A.) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (M.A.) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Ph.D.). She served as a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin and as a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health before joining the faculty at Teachers College, Columbia University in 2000. While at Teachers College, Vavrus was an Associate Director for the Center for African Education and Coordinator for the Programs in Comparative and International Educational Development. As a tenured associate professor, she taught a variety of courses, including Education and Demographic Change; Gender, Education, and International Development; Issues and Institutions in International Educational Development; and a course in Tanzania on development policy and practice.

Dr. Vavrus has devoted the majority of her career to the study of education and gender in Sub-Saharan Africa and continues to pursue both teaching and research activities in the Kilimanjaro Region of Northern Tanzania. As a Fulbright Scholar in 2006-2007, Vavrus served as a professor of education at Mwenge University College of Education (Tanzania) and conducted the second phase of a longitudinal study of schooling and the lives of youth in the Kilimanjaro Region. Her research on education and development is primarily informed by the disciplines of anthropology, history, and political science, and by poststructuralist and feminist theory. Using ethnographic and discourse analytic approaches, Vavrus has explored how people make sense of educational development narratives that emerge from local, national, and international interactions, especially the widespread faith in education to transform lives even when socioeconomic conditions impede such transformations. Vavrus has also examined issues related to educational reform, quality, and access as well as education as employed in foreign aid policy. She is currently involved with several NGOs that aim to advance teacher education in Tanzania and continues to investigate the cultural politics of pedagogical reform in the country. Vavrus' major contributions to the field of comparative and international education lie in promoting the study of education in Africa, the use of critical discourse analysis in policy studies, and the development of long-term ethnographic approaches to educational research.

In addition to Desire and Decline: Schooling amid Crisis in Tanzania-a book spanning six years of research into the material conditions and discursive practices shaping students' experiences in secondary school-Dr. Vavrus has co-edited Critical Approaches to Comparative Education: Vertical Case Studies from Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas (with Lesley Bartlett) and is working on a second co-edited volume with Dr. Bartlett on teacher education reform in Tanzania. They have also recently completed a volume for UNESCO-IICBA on learner-centered pedagogy in Sub-Saharan Africa (with Matthew Thomas). Vavrus has authored more than thirty book chapters and articles and regularly delivers presentations at the annual meetings of the Comparative and International Education Society (including the New Scholars Workshop). She has served as an advisor to international organizations such as AfricAid, the Millennium Villages Project, and the International Rescue Committee and as a consultant for projects at UNICEF and the Harvard Medical School. Additionally, Vavrus continues to be an active reviewer for many scholarly journals, including Comparative Education Review, the International Journal of Educational Development, and the African Studies Review. She recently served a three-year appointment as a board member of the Comparative and International Education Society and continues her affiliation with the University of Minnesota's Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change and the Minnesota Population Center.

Professional Website

Educational Background

Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison (1998). Principal fields: Education (major) and African Studies (minor fields: Educational Policy Studies and History)

MA, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1991) - Teaching English as a Second Language

BA, Purdue University (1987) - Psychology (major) and Political Science (minor)

Professional Background

2009 to date: Associate Professor and Coordinator, Program in Comparative and International Development Education, University of Minnesota

2000-2008: Teachers College, Columbia University

2004 - 2008: Associate Professor

2004 - 2008: Associate Director, Center for African Education

2000 - 2004: Assistant Professor

1999 - 2001: Harvard University

1999 - 2001: Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in Anthropological Demography, Harvard School of Public Health

1999 - 2000: Takemi Fellow in International Health

1993-1999: University of Wisconsin

1999: Lecturer, Department of Curriculum and Instruction

1999: Lecturer, International Relations Major

1998: Researcher, Project on Academic Language Socialization, Wisconsin Center for Educational Research

1993 - 1995: Graduate Teaching Assistant, Department of English

1991 - 1992: Curriculum Development Specialist, Robbinsdale Public Schools, Minnesota

1988 - 1991: Graduate Teaching Assistant, Department of English as an International Language, University of Illinois

Affiliations (associations, organizations, institutions)

African Studies Association

American Anthropological Association

American Association of University Professors

American Educational Research Association

Comparative Education Review, Advisory Board Member

Comparative and International Education Society: Elected Board Member (2007-2010); Annual Meeting Program Co-Chair (2007-2008); and Member

Selected Publications

Vavrus, F. (2000). Governmentality in an era of 'empowerment': The case of Tanzania. In T. S. Popkewitz (Ed.), Educational Knowledge: Changing Relations between the State, Civil Society, and the Educational Community (pp. 221-242). New York: SUNY Press.

Vavrus, F. (2002). Uncoupling the articulation between girls' education and tradition in Tanzania. Gender and Education 14(4): 367-389.

Vavrus, F. (2002). Postcoloniality and English: Exploring language policy and the politics of development in Tanzania. TESOL Quarterly 36(3): 373-397.

Vavrus, F. (2003). Desire and Decline: Schooling amid Crisis in Tanzania. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

Vavrus, F. (2003). "A shadow of the real thing": Furrow societies, water user associations, and democratic practices in the Kilimanjaro Region of Tanzania. Journal of African American History 88(4): 393-412.

Vavrus, F. & Larsen, U. (2003). Girls' education and fertility transitions: An analysis of recent trends in Tanzania and Uganda. Economic Development and Cultural Change 51(4): 945-976.

Vavrus, F., & Richey, L. A. (2003, Fall/Winter). Women and Development: Rethinking Policy and Reconceptualizing Practice. Guest editors for special issue of Women's Studies Quarterly.

Vavrus, F. (2004). The referential web: Externalization beyond education in Tanzania. In G. Steiner-Khamsi (Ed.), The Global Politics of Educational Borrowing and Lending (pp. 141-153). New York: Teachers College Press.

Vavrus, F. (2005). Adjusting inequality: Education and structural adjustment programs in Tanzania. Harvard Educational Review 75(2): 174-201.

Bryan, A. & Vavrus, F. (2005). The promise and peril of education: The teaching of in/tolerance in an era of globalization. Globalisation, Societies, and Education 3(2): 183-202.

Vavrus, F. (2006). Girls' schooling in Tanzania: The key to HIV/AIDS prevention? AIDS Care 18(8): 863-871.

Vavrus, F., and Bartlett, L. (Eds.) (2009). Critical Approaches to Comparative Education: Vertical Case Studies from Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Vavrus, F. (2009). The cultural politics of constructivist pedagogies: Teacher education reform in the United Republic of Tanzania. International Journal of Educational Development 29(3): 303-311.

Shuyler, A., & Vavrus, F. (2010). Global competition and higher education in the United Republic of Tanzania. In V. D. Rust, L. M. Portnoi, and S. S. Bagley (Eds.), Higher Education, Policy and the Global Competition Phenomenon. Palgrave Macmillan.

Vavrus, F., & Seghers, M. (2010). Critical discourse analysis in comparative education: A discursive study of 'partnership' in Tanzania's poverty reduction policies. Comparative Education Review 54(1): 77-103.


Created: 12/2/2011

Updated: 12/2/2011

Contributed By: Matthew A.M. Thomas, University of Minnesota