Alex Posecznick

Program Manager
Adjunct Assistant Professor

Education, Culture, and Society Division

Graduate School of Education
University of Pennsylvania

Phone: 215-573-3947


Professional Biography

Dr. Posecznick has been Program Manager and faculty member in both the Education, Culture and Society programs and the International Educational Development Program since 2011. He received a Wenner-Gren grant to fund his ethnographic, dissertation research on college admissions, which he successfully defended at Columbia University in Fall 2010. His professional expertise blends both a strong background in research and in academic policy and administration, providing him with a unique perspective on the culture of higher education and privilege.   

Dr. Posecznick has published in Ethnography and Education, Policy Futures in Education, and coedited a special issue of Learning and Teaching that examines the relationship between the university, academics and the state. He has reviewed manuscripts for American Anthropologist, Ethos, Anthropology and Education Quarterly (where he is a member of the editorial board), and the American Anthropological Association’s annual meeting. He was co-chair of the Council on Anthropology and Education’s committee on Post-Secondary Education for a number of years and was named a CAE Presidential Fellow in 2013. Dr. Posecznick has presented numerous papers at such venues as the American Anthropological Association’s annual meeting, Penn’s Ethnography in Education Research Forum, and Oxford’s Ethnography and Education Conference. He has also written for the popular anthropology blog: Savage Minds.  Recently, he has been honored to have a more active voice in the Ethnography in Education Research Forum, housed in GSE’s Center for Urban Ethnography. 

Research Interests and Current Projects

Dr. Posecznick’s expertise is in cultural anthropology, qualitative methods and higher education. He examines organizational culture, policy, and practice  through ethnography, with particular emphasis on legitimacy, privilege, merit, gatekeeping, access, equity and opportunity structures. This has also led him to explore the production of the neoliberal subject in post-secondary settings, as well as entré into professional (and other) identities through post-secondary education.  His research has focused on non-traditional student retention in college; non-traditional engineering students coming into a professional ‘engineering’ identity; and a close examination of college recruitment and admissions. 

This most recent work on college admissions/recruitment, funded by the Wenner Gren Foundation, demonstrates the challenges faced by a small urban college as it struggles to both compete in a tight educational marketplace and to change students’ lives. In short, he draws on ethnographic methods to describe the delicate balance that many educational institutions must walk in the current economic climate: the line between empowering marginalized students and exploiting them. The manuscript based on this work is currently under review.

Selected Publications

Posecznick, A.: Engineering Success: Embodying and Performing Neoliberal Achievement through Pouring a Bottle of Water. In B. Urcioli (Ed.), Title to be announced. New York: Berghahn Books.  Chapter in preparation.

Posecznick, A.: Provoking Aspiration: Risk Management through the Cultivation of Future Selves in College Recruitment. Policy Futures in Education,13(5): 639-661, 2015.

Posecznick, A. & Shumar, W. (eds): Collusion, Complicity & Resistance: Theorizing Academics, the University and the Neoliberal Marketplace (Special issue). Learning and Teaching: The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences 7(1), 2014.

Posecznick, A.: Introduction: On Theorizing and Humanizing the Politics of Complicity in Higher Education. Learning and Teaching: The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences 7(1): 1-11, 2014.

Posecznick, A.: Constructing Legitimacy in a Non-Selective, American College: Unpacking Symbolic Capital through Ethnographic Moments. Ethnography and Education 8(1), 2013.

Posecznick, A.: Book Review: Service-learning and social justice: Engaging students in social change" by Susan Benigni Cipolle. Education Review 13, 2010.

Posecznick, A.: Book Review: Fertilizers, pills, and magnetic strips: The fate of public education in America" by Gene Glass. Anthropology and Education Quarterly 40(2), 2009.