Alex Posecznick

Program Manager and Associated Faculty
Education, Culture, and Society / International Educational Development

Literacy, Culture, and International Education Division

Graduate School of Education
University of Pennsylvania

Phone: 215-573-3947


Professional Biography

Dr. Posecznick has been Program Manager and a member of the associated faculty in Education, Culture and Society and International Educational Development since 2011. 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 EducationPolicy Futures in Education, and coedited a special issue of Learning and Teaching, which examines the relationship between the university, academics, and the state. He has reviewed manuscripts for American AnthropologistEthosAnthropology 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, Dr. Posecznick has been honored to have some hand in the Ethnography in Education Research Forum, housed in GSE’s Center for Urban Ethnography.

Research Interests and Current Projects

Dr. Posecznick’s expertise lies 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 entrée into professional identities through post-secondary education. Dr. Posecznick’s 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 and 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 change students’ lives. Dr. Posecznick 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. Selling Hope and College, the book based upon this work, will be released from Cornell University Press in Spring 2017.

Selected Publications

Posecznick, A. (April 2017). Selling Hope and College: Merit, Markets and Recruitment in an Unranked School. New York: Cornell University Press.

Posecznick, A. (In Preparation). 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. (2015). Provoking aspiration: Risk management through the cultivation of future selves in college recruitment. Policy Futures in Education, 13(5), 639–661. (Including corrigendum; a revised version of this article is available from the author.)

Posecznick, A., & Shumar, W. (Eds.). (2014). 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).

Posecznick, A. (2014). Introduction: On theorizing and humanizing the politics of complicity in higher education. Learning and Teaching: The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences7(1), 1­­–11.

Posecznick, A. (2013). Constructing legitimacy in a non-selective, American college: Unpacking symbolic capital through ethnographic moments. Ethnography and Education8(1).

Posecznick, A. (2010). [Review of the book Service-learning and social justice: Engaging students in social change, by S.B. Cipolle]. Education Review13.

Posecznick, A. (2009). [Review of the book Fertilizers, pills, and magnetic strips: The fate of public education in America, by G. Glass]. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 40(2).