Mowana Lab Group

Mowana is the Setswana word for baobab tree. The massive trunk of this tree gives way to what appear as a burst of roots, reaching toward the sky. Growing slowly but steadily, this wondrously bizarre tree survives, and thrives, in the harshest of conditions. I have stood in cracked deserts in Botswana where waves of scorching heat seem to be the only possible movement, and marveled at these mowana trees. They draw in whatever water and nutrients are available and turn them – against all odds – into something solid on which surrounding life depends.  

The mowana tree provides for me a metaphor for the arc of my work, as I seek to understand the ways in which education can provide pathways to strong communities even in the midst of conflict. The Mowana Lab Group is a team of my doctoral students and postdocs, whose work also reflects this resilient, creative, and community-building tree. 

Elizabeth Adelman
Doctoral Student, 2011-

Elizabeth has over ten years of experience working in international education and development throughout Africa, Asia, Latin American and the Middle East. She has considerable expertise in the areas of early grade literacy, education in crisis and conflict settings, and research design and implementation. Elizabeth’s current research is focused on documenting the experience of teachers working in conflict-affected settings and exploring how these key actors understand their educational, emotional and social obligations towards their students.

Alexandra Chen
Doctoral Student, 2014-

Alexandra is a child protection and mental health specialist from Hong Kong serving refugees in conflict and post-conflict zones, particularly in the Middle East and Africa. She has expertise in the areas of early childhood brain development, psychosocial wellbeing of children in armed conflict, sexual violence and trafficking, and intervention design, implementation and impact evaluation. Alexandra's doctoral research focuses on the impact of trauma and toxic stress on the cognitive functioning and socioemotional development of refugee children, and exploring their caregivers' coping strategies in armed conflict and displacement. Alexandra speaks 10 languages, including Arabic, French and Chinese.

Amy Cheung
Doctoral Student, 2010-

Amy's research interests focus broadly on issues of identity across the lifespan and in relation to diverse contexts. Her dissertation explores experiences of illness and their consequences on the identities of doctoral students. Other research has examined the role of civic engagement and educational messaging in the identity development of Asian American youth. Prior to HGSE, Amy directed various community programs in Boston's Chinatown and was a youth worker who launched A-VOYCE, a youth program focused on identity building and community leadership for Asian American teens. 

Vidur Chopra
Doctoral Student, 2010-

Vidur focuses on the pathways education renders for adolescents and youth impacted by conflict and its subsequent roles in enabling active and participatory citizenship and in building resilient communities and nation-states. Vidur's doctoral research examines the academic and life experiences of displaced, Syrian youth in Lebanon as they navigate higher education and come of age. He is particularly interested in the ways refugee youth find and lend academic and social support, challenging institutional and state-centered conceptualizations of aid. He has a wide range of policy and practice based experiences within humanitarian and development contexts with the UN and with other NGOs in East Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.

Pierre de Galbert
Doctoral Student, 2013-

Pierre is interested in language of instruction policies in multilingual contexts. His focus is on psycholinguistic and sociolinguistic factors that influence the choice of language in formal education system, specifically how parents and teachers influence policy implementation. Prior to joining the research doctorate program, Pierre worked for more than ten years in education, including teaching, local language materials development, training, data collection & analysis and project management. 

Zuhra Faizi
Doctoral Student, 2013-

Zuhra’s research centers on nonformal education in developing and conflict-affected contexts and the extent to which it increases educational access and quality for marginalized populations. She is particularly interested in community-based schools in rural Afghanistan. Beginning as local initiatives in the 1940s, these schools have shown to be effective in addressing community needs and concerns, which in turn have attracted international supporters. Her research is currently considering whether community-based schools are sustainable with the involvement of external actors or if there are other more sustainable options.

Celia Reddick
Doctoral Student, 2015-

Celia is a second year doctoral student interested in language of instruction policies in settings affected by conflict, with a particular focus on sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to joining HGSE, Celia worked as the Curriculum and Training Specialist for Partners In Health in Rwanda. She also spent a year in western Uganda as a teacher trainer with Voluntary Services Overseas, and before that worked with new arrivals to the U.S. as a 9th and 10th grade English as a Second Language teacher in New York City


Deepa Vasudevan
Doctoral Student, 2012-

Deepa is broadly interested in school-community relationships and out-of-school learning. She is currently studying how youth workers understand their occupational identities and practices in community-based nonprofits as well as the extracurricular experiences of undocumented youth. As an advocate for vibrant community programs, Deepa currently serves on the board of Seybert Foundation, which supports Philadelphia organizations serving children and youth. She is the former chair of the Philadelphia Wooden Boat Factory, a program that introduces teens to boat building, sailing, and the ecology of local waterways.

Timothy P. Williams, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow, 2015-

Tim is a childhood scholar who draws upon the disciplinary perspective of anthropology and the methods of ethnography to undertake political-economic and socio-cultural analyses into the ways development shapes children's lives. In 2015, Tim completed his Ph.D. in international development from the University of Bath.
His dissertation focused on children's education in Rwanda

Bethany Mulimbi
Doctoral Student, 2010-2017

Bethany is interested in the interplay between how formal education systems, individual schools, and teachers address the needs of students of diverse cultural backgrounds, particularly in Southern Africa. Her doctoral thesis focused on how Botswana’s formal education system has approached unifying its ethnically-diverse population into a national citizenry, attending to policy and curriculum, school-level practices, and experiences of individual students. She is now engaged in continuing research and program development in Botswana’s education sector, to improve learning outcomes for diverse students.