CAE Staff

CAE Staff


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 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.

Graduate Research Assistants

Graduate Assistant

Kemigisha Richardson is a doctoral student in the International and Comparative Education program at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her research interests examine the intersection of ethnolinguistic identity, disability status, and psychosocial well-being and the ways in which they impact refugee learners’ access to and quality of educational opportunities in schools in Uganda. She is currently working as Graduate Research Assistant for  the Ubumwe: Exploring Arts for Education and Psychosocial Support with Refugee Children and Youth project, which aims to bolster psychosocial and educational outcomes among refugee children and youth through the integration of arts in education and community spaces in Uganda and recently concluded her time as a Research Assistant for the AfriChild Centre at Makerere University in Uganda. Prior to beginning her doctoral studies, Kemigisha worked as a STEM educator in Hawai’i. As an educator, her vision was to provide students with a platform to feel confident in their voices and stories through interdisciplinary activities that promote collaboration, questioning, and creativity. Kemigisha holds a B.A. in Science and Management, Biotechnology from Claremont McKenna College and an M.Sc. in Educational Studies from Johns Hopkins University.  


Graduate Assistant

Mala’ka Gillette is a master's candidate enrolled in the International and Comparative Education program at Teachers College, Columbia University, specializing in Economics. Graduating with a B.A. in Arabic from Montclair State University in 2022, she possesses a comprehensive research background integrating quantitative and qualitative methodologies. Post-graduation, Mala’ka committed a year of service with City Year to a socioeconomically underprivileged middle school in East Harlem, igniting her impassioned commitment to uplift marginalized educational communities. Currently serving as a research intern at Qatar Foundation International, her focus centers on Arabic language and teaching, multilingualism, and related subjects. Mala’ka remains resolute in her dedication to employing evidence-informed approaches, rigorously addressing pivotal educational issues and published insights.

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