Africa in Our Lives: Bethany Wilinski

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“Study something that you’re passionate about… Take advantage of all the resources on campus, learn a language, and then go there. You never know where it might take you.” – Bethany Wilinski (Photo courtesy of Wilinski)

Graduate student Bethany Wilinski came to Madison with an interest in Tanzanian education policy and will bring that passion to a faculty position at Michigan State University in January 2015.

Field of study: Joint PhD in Educational Policy Studies and Curriculum & Instruction with a focus in early childhood education policy in the US and Tanzania

Hometown: Plainview, NY

What brought you to Madison?

I moved to Madison for graduate school because the School of Education has such a great reputation. I also knew that UW-Madison would be a great place to continue studying education in Tanzania because I would be able to work with faculty in the African Studies Program.

What is a favorite activity around Madison?

I love strolling around the farmer’s market on Saturdays and jogging on the lakeshore path.

How did you first hear about/get involved with the African Studies Program on campus?

I got connected with the African Studies Program in my first semester on campus when I started attending Africa at Noon. I have also worked for African Studies as the Outreach Assistant and Publications Manager.

What ASP activities did you participate in during your time on campus and why?

Africa at Noon. Africa at Noon is a great opportunity to learn about issues in Africa outside my field. I have really enjoyed learning about the range of Africa-based research UW faculty are engaged in.

What inspired you to study Africa?

I first became interested in Africa when I taught elementary school in Tanzania as a volunteer with the Lutheran church. When I returned to the U.S. after two years, I pursued my interest in African education while completing my master’s in International Educational Development. This program brought me back to Tanzania to work on curriculum development and teacher training projects.

Wilinski poses with a group of former students in Bukoba, Tanzania. (Photo courtesy of Wilinski)

Wilinski poses with a group of former students in Bukoba, Tanzania. (Photo courtesy of Wilinski)

Briefly tell us about your academic work, as it relates to Africa:

I study early childhood education policy. I am most interested in understanding how policies conceived at the national or state level shape the experiences of teachers, children, and families in local schools. Though my dissertation research focused on early childhood policy in the U.S., my future work will address issues in Tanzanian early childhood policy. My next project will examine how families and children access early childhood education opportunities in rural Tanzania.

What advice would you give students who are interested in studying Africa?

My most basic advice would be to study something that you’re passionate about. If what excites you is an issue in or related to Africa, then UW-Madison is an ideal place to pursue it. Take advantage of all the resources on campus, learn a language, and then go there. You never know where it might take you.

What plans do you have plans upon completing your PhD?

After defending my dissertation this fall, I will start a faculty position at Michigan State University in January 2015. I will continue my work in Tanzania as a tenure-track assistant professor in the Teacher Education department where I will also lead the education component of MSU’s Tanzania Partnership Program

Do you see yourself integrating Africa into your future career? If so, how?

At MSU I will be leading the education component of the Tanzania Partnership Program (TPP). The TPP is an interdisciplinary project located in two Tanzanian villages that works to promote sustainable development through local partnerships. In collaboration with partners in Tanzania, I will be conducting research in these villages and providing support to the education infrastructure through program design and curriculum development.

Profile produced by Meagan Doll.

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