Associate Professor of International and Comparative Education
Mary Mendenhall has been a full-time faculty member of the International and Comparative Education Program at Teachers College, Columbia University for the past 10 years. Her research is situated at the intersection of the fields of education in emergencies, refugee and forced migration studies, and teacher development. Her studies examine refugee education policies and practices across camp, urban, and resettlement contexts, with a particular focus on teacher development. Dr. Mary Mendenhall has conducted numerous research studies and international projects in Africa over the past 16+ years, dating back to her own dissertation research in Angola.
She led the joint International Rescue Committee-University of Nairobi effort to establish an Education in Emergencies master’s program in Kenya from 2009-2014. She co-led a multi-country (including Kenya), mixed-methods study on urban refugee education, in collaboration with Dr. S. Garnett Russell, funded by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration in 2015-2016. Later, she developed and implemented (in collaboration with local and national partners based in Kenya) the Teachers for Teachers initiative from 2015-2018 in Kakuma refugee camp and Kalobeyei settlement, funded by IDEO.org and the European Union (via UNICEF). During four years from 2018-2022, she served as the lead researcher of an Oxfam-led consortium on teacher and student well-being in South Sudan and Uganda, funded by the European Commission’s Building Resilience in Crises through Education. Two years ago, she co-led a study on teacher professional development for learning through play in Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Uganda to inform the LEGO Foundation’s internal refugee education funding strategy.
She is currently working on a study in collaboration with UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency) on teachers in refugee and displacement settings in order to inform and strengthen teacher management, professional development, and well-being practices and policies in 14 countries around the globe including several on the continent (Cameroon, Chad, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, South Sudan, and Sudan).
Most recently (2022-23), Dr. Mendenhall, in close collaboration with faculty colleagues at the Mailman School of Public Health, was awarded a Columbia World Project for a new initiative – Ubumwe: Arts for Education and Public Health with Refugee Children and Youth – which aims to bolster psychosocial and educational outcomes among refugee children and youth through the integration of arts in education and community spaces.