PhD in International Education

Alumni Profile: Naomi Moland, PhD

Picture of Naomi Moland

My research focuses on themes of education and diversity. I explore how multicultural education efforts are shaped by the socio-historical contexts of different nations. I also study sociocultural perspectives on early literacy, and examine how discourses about early childhood education circulate globally and are “taken up” in diverse contexts. In addition to studying multicultural education and early literacy in comparative perspective, I also research postcolonial nation-building, educational media, immigrants and national incorporation, and LGBT rights.

My dissertation (based on nine months of fieldwork in Nigeria, funded by the Boren Fellowship) focused on multicultural education on the Nigerian version of Sesame Street, called Sesame Square. My findings show that Nigerian educators faced the same dilemmas that multicultural educators in the United States face. They struggled with how to represent diversity without replicating stereotypes, how to “respect” cultures and simultaneously change attitudes, how to characterize a target audience without replicating hierarchical “othering” discourses, and how to teach tolerance amidst escalating ethno-religious violence. I argue that these dilemmas are inherent to multicultural education, but that aspects of the Nigerian context—including colonial legacies, state fragility, and ethno-religious conflict—further compromise multicultural education’s potential.

I situate my research in a theoretical framework that combines critiques of world polity theory with literature on how nations use education to “manage” diversity. This literature explores the myriad ways that education (broadly conceived) reproduces and challenges relationships between diverse groups through school structures, pedagogical techniques, curricular reforms, and so on. Certain strategies for managing diversity are increasingly being recommended to nations around the world, despite the fact that they are often rooted in Western liberal democracies. Critics of world polity theory emphasize that local actors do not accept such recommendations wholesale; instead, they adapt, resist, and appropriate imported educational ideologies, creating “hybrid” global-local approaches to education. This scholarship has inspired me to study how ideals of political modernity—including multiculturalism, human rights, and democracy—are circulating globally, and how they are understood differently in different contexts.

In summer 2014, I began a postdoctoral research fellowship with Professor Susan Neuman at NYU. We are working on a large federal grant to evaluate public libraries’ initiatives to teach low-income parents early literacy strategies. Such initiatives, designed to close the “vocabulary gap,” have been criticized for promoting white, middle-class parenting styles. Nevertheless, such initiatives are becoming increasingly widespread in the U.S. and abroad. Through this research, I am continuing my work on the tensions and paradoxes inherent in cross-cultural educational initiatives.

I am also a passionate educator, and currently teaching at Teachers College- Columbia University. Before beginning my Ph.D., I spent six years teaching immigrants in bilingual public elementary schools in Phoenix, Arizona and Madrid, Spain. For the past four years, I have been teaching undergraduate and graduate courses about immigration, cross-cultural socialization, education and globalization, human rights, and sub-Saharan Africa. In 2013, I was nominated for the Distinguished Teaching Award at Eugene Lang College- The New School. I am dedicated to helping students discover the complex intersections between education, social justice, global issues, and cultural change.

I am very grateful to have worked closely with several Steinhardt faculty members. My dissertation chair, Jonathan Zimmerman, is a phenomenal teacher and mentor, and committed to asking tough questions about the roles of education in society. I have also benefitted greatly from collaborating with Dana Burde, Cynthia Miller-Idriss, Ann Morning (Sociology), and Tejaswini Ganti (Anthropology). I found a remarkable group of friends and colleagues at NYU who will be a central part of my intellectual community throughout my career.

Naomi Moland CV



 Forthcoming           Moland, Naomi. “Diverse Responses to Diversity: Local and Global Approaches to                                      Educating Heterogeneous Populations.” In Wiseman, Alexander W., ed., 2016                                              Annual Review of Comparative and International Education. Bingley, England:                                              Emerald Group Publishing.  In Press.

 Forthcoming           Neuman, Susan B. and Naomi Moland. “Book Deserts: The Consequences of                                              Income Segregation on Children’s Access to Print.” Urban Education.

 2016                        Moland, Naomi. “The Paradoxes of Peace Education During Escalating Conflict:                                           Nigeria’s Sesame Square,” in Izarali, M. Raymond, Oliver Masakure, and Edward                                         Shizha, eds., Security, Education, and Development in Contemporary Africa. L                                             London: Ashgate. In Press.

 2015                        Moland, Naomi. “Can Multiculturalism Be Exported? Dilemmas of Diversity on                                               Nigeria’s Sesame Square.” Comparative Education Review, 59 (1), 1-23. Featured                                     article. Received “Honorable Mention” for the George Z. Bereday Award for best                                             Comparative Education Review article in 2015.

 2015                        Moland, Naomi. “Education in Nigeria: An Overview,” in Amoako, Emefa,                                                         ed., Education in West Africa. London: Bloomsbury.

 2013                        Moland, Naomi. Book Review of Kagendo Mutua and Cynthia Sunal                                                                 Szymanski, Advances in Research and Praxis in Special Education in Africa,                                                Caribbean, and the Middle East(Charlotte: Information Age Publishing, 2012),                                              Teachers College Record.


MANUSCRIPTS UNDER REVIEW___________________________________________

Moland, Naomi. Can Big Bird Fight Terrorism? Children’s Television as Soft Power in Nigeria. Book prospectus under consideration at Oxford University Press. Oxford has committed to review completed manuscript.

Neuman, Susan B. and Naomi Moland. “Reaching Families Where They Are: Examining an Innovative Book Distribution Project.” Submitted to Early Education and Development.


MANUSCRIPTS IN PROGRESS___________________________________________

Moland, Naomi and Susan B. Neuman. “More Than Just Books: Public Libraries and the Expanding Definitions of Early Literacy.” To be submitted to Reading Research Quarterly.

Moland, Naomi.  “The Dilemmas of Globalizing and Localizing Educational Television.” To be submitted to Journal of Children and Media.


ADDITIONAL PUBLICATIONS  AND PRESS REVIEWS______________________________________

2015                        Breslauer, Tamar. “The Limitations of Multiculturalism: Child’s Play.” Review of Naomi Moland’s research, The NAFSA (Association of International Educators) blog. September 15, 2015. Available at:

2014                Moland, Naomi. “The Muppets Tutor the World in Tolerance.” Op-Ed, The Philadelphia Inquirer. June 8,


HONORS, AWARDS, AND GRANTS_______________________________________

2016                        Honorable Mention, George Z. Bereday Award for best Comparative Education Review article in 2015

2016                        Nominee, Outstanding Dissertation Award, Council on Anthropology and Education, American Anthropological Association (announced Dec. 2016)

2015                        Article “Can Multiculturalism Be Exported? Dilemmas of Diversity on Nigeria’s Sesame Square” (Comparative Education Review) to be highlighted in 2016 volume of Annual Review of Comparative and International Education (Alexander W. Wiseman, editor)

2015        The Outstanding Dissertation Award, Steinhardt School, NYU ($1,000; one dissertation chosen out of 67)

2014                Nominee, Gail P. Kelly Award for Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation, Comparative International Education Society

2013                New Scholars Award, Comparative and International Ed. Society ($200)
2013                Nominee, The New School University Distinguished Teaching Award
2013                Invited New Scholar, Council for Anthropology and Education
2013                Scholar, DIVERSITAS PhD Summer Program, “Critical Diversity Studies in Globalized                                Contexts.” Oldenburg, Germany
2013                Semi-finalist, The Point Foundation Scholarship (honoring LGBTQ students)
2012                Mitchell Leaska Dissertation Award, New York University ($5,000)
2012                Shearwater Grant, International Education, NYU ($350)
2011                Alternate, Fulbright Scholarship, Nigeria
2011                Boren Fellowship for Language and Research, Nigeria ($27,500)
2011                Doctoral Student Professional Development Grant, NYU ($1,000)
2009               Council for Media and Culture Grant, NYU ($1,500)
2009               Steinhardt Dean’s Grant for Graduate Research, NYU ($1,000)
2007               Steinhardt Founder’s Fellowship, NYU (3 years graduate funding, stipend)
2006               Fulbright English Teaching and Research Assistantship, Spain ($30,000)


COURSES TAUGHT_____________________________________________________


2014, 2015                Human Rights in Africa: Politics, Policies, and Pedagogies, Teachers College, Columbia University


2014                Literacy Around the Globe, Lang College, The New School
2011, 2013     Immigration, Education, and the American Dream, Lang College, The New School
2013                Education and Development in Africa, Lang College, The New School
2009- 2012    Education, Globalization, and Social Change, Lang College, The New School
2010                International Comparative Education, Lang College, The New School

Teaching Assistant

2008, 2011      Cross-Cultural Studies of Socialization, New York University (master’s level; Cynthia Miller-Idriss, professor)
2009, 2013      Education and Diversity, A Comparative Approach, New York University in Ghana (master’s level; Jonathan Zimmerman, professor)