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 joined Penn GSE in Fall 2011 in a hybridized role as Program Manager and a core faculty member in both the Education, Culture and Society programs and the International Educational Development Program. 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. Prior to joining GSE he held adjunct appointments in the City University of New York and Metropolitan College of New York, as well as holding administrative appointments in a variety of institutions up to and including Assistant Dean of Students. His research and professional expertise in post-secondary settings provide him with a unique perspective on academic programming and higher education administration. Dr. Posecznick is also a member of the American Educational Research Association, the American Anthropological Association, and the Council on Anthropology and Education, where he has recently been named a Presidential Fellow for 2013.

Research Interests and Current Projects

Dr. Posecznick’s expertise is in cultural anthropology, qualitative methods and post-secondary educational settings. He examines institutional culture, policy, and practice ethnographically, with particular emphasis on the social construction of legitimacy, privilege, merit, gatekeeping, access, equity and opportunity. Dr. Posecznick’s interest in educational bureaucracies highlights the ways that peripheral institutions and systems both shape and are shaped by the individuals who move through them. 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. He is currently designing a course called Merit and America to be offered in Spring 2014. 

His most recent research, an ethnography of college admissions 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 describes the delicate balance that many educational institutions must walk in the current economic climate: the line between empowering marginalized students and exploiting them. He is currently adapting this project into a book.

He has published in Ethnography and Education, and is coediting a special issue of Learning and Teaching that examines the relationship between the university, academics and state. He has reviewed manuscripts for American Anthropologist, Ethos, Anthropology and Education Quarterly, and the American Anthropological Association’s annual meeting. He is co-chair of the Council on Anthropology and Education’s committee on Post-Secondary Education and has been named a 2013 Presidential Fellow. 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.

Selected Publications

Posecznick, A.:Provoking Aspiration: Risk Management through the Cultivation of Future Selves in College Recruitment. Policy Futures in Education, 2014. (Accepted for Publication)

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.