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Erica Kohl-Arenas is an Associate Professor at the Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy and is the first recipient of The New School award in Outstanding Achievements in Diversity and Social Justice Teaching. She earned her PhD from the Social and Cultural Studies in Education program at the University of California, Berkeley (2010), an MS in Community Development from the University of California, Davis (1999), and a BA in Sociology from Reed College (1991).
Kohl-Arenas' book, The Self-Help Myth: How Philanthropy Fails to Alleviate Poverty (University of California Press, 2015), analyzes the history of philanthropic investments in addressing farmworker and immigrant poverty across California’s Central Valley. Her primary research areas include studies of philanthropy and the nonprofit sector, participatory community development, and the intersection of American and global poverty studies. Public scholarship and community collaborations include a social history memoir on the progressive school reform movement with her father Herb Kohl and student engagement projects with New York City nonprofit organizations including the Center for Court Innovation and Groundswell Murals.
Prior to her graduate studies, Kohl-Arenas worked as a popular educator and community development practitioner in a variety of settings including urban public schools, immigrant nonprofit organizations, and coal mining and ‘crofting’ towns in Appalachia, Scotland, and Wales. Kohl-Arenas’ work in communities and classrooms is inspired by an early experience working with the Highlander Research and Education Center. She has also been a fellow with the Coro Foundation, The Thomas J. Watson Foundation, and the Sustainable Communities Leadership Program.