For Students, Faculty, and Staff: MyU One Stop

CEHD and U of M Word Marks


206 Burton Hall
178 Pillsbury Drive SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Fax: 612-624-3377

Undergraduate Studies:

Graduate Studies:


Frances Vavrus


178 Pillsbury Dr SE
255 Burton Hall


Download Curriculum Vitae [PDF]

Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1998
M.A., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1991
B.A., Purdue University, 1987


Areas of Interest

Comparative and international education
Education and population change
Gender and development
International development policy and practice
Secondary and teacher education in Sub-Saharan Africa


I joined the faculty in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development (OLPD) in August 2008, where I serve in the Comparative and International Development Education (CIDE) program. Prior to my appointment at the University of Minnesota, I was a faculty member at Teachers College, Columbia University for eight years and an Andrew Mellon/Takemi Postdoctoral Fellow in Anthropological Demography at the Harvard School of Public Health.

My research and teaching are in the fields of comparative and international education and international development, and my principal interest lies in exploring how schooling is situated in these fields as a solution to a host of complex development problems. By looking historically at the cultural, economic, and political bases of arguments to bolster schooling for certain segments of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa—my primary geographical area of interest—I seek to advance understanding of the transformative potential of education as well as its limitations. My research is informed primarily by the disciplines of anthropology, history, and political science (especially international relations), and my principal work uses an ethnographic approach to explore how people make sense of educational development narratives that emerge from local, national, and international interactions. I also conduct research that utilizes critical discourse analysis and survey methods to address, respectively, questions regarding poverty reduction policies and the long-term impact of secondary schooling on the lives of African youth. My longitudinal ethnographic and survey research focuses on the Kilimanjaro Region of northern Tanzania, where I have intermittently lived, taught, and studied since 1992. I have been a teacher at the secondary and tertiary levels in the region, and, at present, I am involved in a teacher education program for Tanzanian secondary school teachers and teacher educators at Mwenge University College of Education in Moshi, Tanzania. In addition to working with this higher education institution in Tanzania, I am also the co-principal investigator on a USAID-funded project in Zambia working with faculty at colleges and universities to conduct policy-relevant research.

My professional activities also support these research and teaching interests. For example, I am an active member of the Comparative and International Education Society, and I serve as an advisory board member for three leading CIDE journals: Annual Review of Comparative and International Education, Compare, and Comparative Education Review. At the University of Minnesota, I am involved in international development studies as the Co-Director of the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change. At the international level, I have recently been named to a three-year term on the Joint ILO/UNESCO Committee of Experts on the Application of the Recommendations concerning Teaching Personnel (CEART). This Committee reviews reports of serious problems facing teachers and the teaching profession around the world and makes recommendations to resolve them.

Selected Honors

  • Appointment to the Joint ILO/UNESCO Committee of Experts on the Application of the Recommendations Concerning Teaching Personnel (CEART) (2013-2016)
  • Co-Principal Investigator for Strengthening Educational Performance Up  Zambia: USAID project with Professor David Chapman (2012-2016)
  • Residential Fellow, Institute for Advanced Study, University of Minnesota (2012)
  • McKnight Presidential Fellow, University of Minnesota (2009-2012)
  • Robert Beck Faculty Teaching Award, College of Education and Human Development (2011)
  • Comparative and International Education Society, Elected Board Member (2007–2010)
  • Fulbright Scholars Fellowship (Tanzania) (2006–2007)
  • Joyce Cain Award for Outstanding Research, Comparative and International Education Society (2006)
  • Excellence in Teaching Award, Teachers College (2001, 2004)
  • Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in Anthropological Demography, Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard University (1999–2001)

Professional Affiliations

Selected Publications

  1. Bartlett, L., & Vavrus, F. (2014). Transversing the vertical case study: Methodological approaches to studies of educational policy-as-practice.  Anthropology and Education Quarterly 45(2), 131-147.

  2. Vavrus, F. (November 2013 online; January 2015 in print). More clever than the devil: Ujanja as schooling strategy in Tanzania. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education.

  3. Vavrus, F., & Kwauk, C. (2013). The new abolitionists? The World Bank and the ‘boldness’ of global school fee elimination reforms. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 34(3), 351-365.

  4. Vavrus, F., & Bartlett, L. (Eds.). (2013). Teaching in tension: International pedagogies, national policies, and teachers’ practices in Tanzania. Pittsburgh Studies in Comparative and International Education Series. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

  5. Vavrus, F., & Bartlett, L. (2012). Comparative pedagogies and epistemological diversity: Social and materials contexts of teaching in Tanzania.  Comparative Education Review, 56(4), 634-658.

  6. Vavrus, F., Thomas, M., & Bartlett, L. (2011). Ensuring quality by attending to inquiry: Learner-centered pedagogy in Sub-Saharan Africa. Addis Ababa: UNESCO-International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa.

  7. DeJaeghere, J., & Vavrus, F. (2011, Fall). Educational formations: Gendered experiences of schooling in local contexts. Guest editors for special issue of Feminist Formations, 23(3).

  8. 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.

  9. Vavrus, F., & Bartlett, L. (Eds.) (2009). Critical approaches to comparative education: Vertical case studies from Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas. Palgrave Macmillan.

  10. 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.

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

  12. Vavrus, F. (2003). Desire and decline: Schooling amid crisis in Tanzania. Peter Lang Publishing.

  13. Updated March 22, 2016