Bio for Kathryn Moeller



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Dr. Kathryn Moeller

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Dr. Kathryn Moeller

Educational Policy Studies (EPS)

217 Education Building  binoculars icon

Personal Biography

Kathryn Moeller is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Policy Studies in the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She is also affiliated with the Department of Gender and Women's Studies and the Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies Program. Her interdisciplinary, ethnographic scholarship examines the gendered, sexualized, and racialized nature of corporate power. She specifically considers how it influences the fields of education, feminism, and international development. She received her Ph.D. (2012) from the Social and Cultural Studies Program at the University of California, Berkeley with a Designated Emphasis in Gender, Women, and Sexuality from the Department of Gender & Women’s Studies. She also holds an M.A. in Curriculum & Teaching from Michigan State University, and a B.S. in Sociology and Human and Organizational Development with a minor in African American Studies from Vanderbilt University. Prior to graduate school, she was a high school teacher in the U.S. and Honduras.



Teaching Interests

Her courses critically examine the global political economy from a critical theoretical, historical, and comparative perspective. Her interdisciplinary courses draw on scholarship from the fields of education, feminist studies, development studies, cultural anthropology, and geography, among other fields. She has recently taught the following courses: political economy and education, theories of wealth, poverty & inequity, and globalization & education. During the spring 2017, she will be teaching globalization & education, and during the 2017-2018 academic year, she will be teaching an introduction to social theory, gender and education, and a course on critical feminist theories.

Scheduled Teaching

  • Spring 2014 - Globalization & Education
    Course Number: 335, Course Level: Undergraduate
    Course Timetable
  • Spring 2014 - Political Economy & Education
    Course Number: 780, Course Level: Graduate
    Course Timetable
  • Fall 2013 - Poverty & Education: Transnational Perspectives on Policy & Practice
    Course Number: 600

Research Interests

Dr. Moeller's interdisciplinary, ethnographic scholarship examines the gendered, sexualized, and racialized nature of corporate power. She specifically considers how it influences the fields of education, feminism, and international development using transnational feminist theory, anthropological theories of corporations and education, critical development studies, and political economy. Her forthcoming book, The Girl Effect: The Corporate Politics of Ending Poverty and Promoting Development (August 2017), is based on over two years of multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork in the US and Brazil at Nike, Inc. and the Nike Foundation, two international NGOs in Brazil, the Clinton Global Initiative, and the World Bank, and ten years of archival research and documentary analysis, this global ethnography examines how and why US transnational corporations, including Goldman Sachs, ExxonMobil, Walmart, and Nike, Inc. are “investing” their philanthropic and corporate social responsibility resources in the education, employment, health, and financial futures of poor girls and women of color in the Global South as a solution to ending poverty in pursuit of economic growth and corporate profit. The book focuses on The Girl Effect, the corporate philanthropic brand of Nike, Inc. to understand how diverse, unequal subjects negotiate corporatized development practices in distinct, yet interconnected geographies. The Girl Effect argues that corporatized development focused on poor girls and women of color in the global South is constituted through the reactionary and expansionary tendencies of corporate capitalism as they are articulated with gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, class, and nation on different spatial scales. It demonstrates how these corporate practices simultaneously position poor girls and women of color as instruments of poverty alleviation and new frontiers for capitalist accumulation. The Girl Effect concludes that these practices enable corporations to expand their legitimacy, authority, and reach without having to deal with the contradictions in their business practices, and de-politicize girls and women’s demands for a fair global economy. While making a methodological contribution to conducting multi-scalar, transnational ethnographic research in corporations and powerful development institutions, the book also theorizes how corporate capitalism searches for value in new population frontiers by empirically tracing the reach and effects of corporate influence over girls and women’s bodies, lives, and futures from corporate headquarters in the global North to NGO classrooms in the global South. The National Science Foundation, Fulbright-Hays, and the National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation supported this project. Scholarly publications from this project also include articles in Feminist Studies and International Journal of Education and Development. Her second project, "The Education Business," seeks to understand Brazilian corporations and private foundations are promoting a “common core” curriculum through the discourses of racial and gender equity n a moment of heightened political polarization. Fulbright and the Wenner Gren Foundation have supported this research.


  • Moeller, K. (2013). Proving the Girl Effect: Corporate Knowledge Production and Educational Intervention. International Journal of Educational Development. 33(6).
    Online Publication/Abstract
    Abstract: The Nike Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Nike, Inc., seeks to prove the “The Girl Effect,” its theory of change, through investments in adolescent girls in the Global South. The foundation defines it as the “unique potential of 250 million adolescent girls to end poverty for themselves and the world.” This article examines the elaborate, yet continually contested processes of attempting to prove “The Girl Effect.” It draws on ethnographic research in the U.S. and Brazil (2009–2010) to analyze how the Nike Foundation funds, produces, and distributes knowledge on the purported potential of particular adolescent girls to end poverty. It focuses on how the monitoring and evaluation practices of one grantee in Brazil were informed by and contributed to the foundation's broader project of proving “The Girl Effect.” The analysis explains how this occurred through processes of knowledge production and educational intervention that were predicated on an epistemological understanding of the trope of “Third World girl.” It provides insights into how the foundation extends it power and authority over new bodies, institutions, and geographies by asserting itself as an expert on adolescent girls and by influencing the development agendas of more powerful global institutions.
  • Moeller, K. (in press). Searching for Adolescent Girls in Brazil: Corporate Development and the Transnational Politics of Poverty in the Girl Effect. Feminist Studies.
  • Moeller, K. (in press). The Girl Effect: Transnational Corporate Investment in Girls' Education. Globalization and Education.

Awards and Honors

  • Postdoctoral Scholar
    Organization: U.S. Fulbright
    Purpose: Scholarship/Research
    Scope: International
    Date(s): August 2015 - May 2016
  • Post-Ph.D. Research Fellow
    Organization: Wenner-Gren Foundation
    Purpose: Scholarship/Research
    Scope: International
    Date(s): August 2015 - January 2016
  • Dissertation Writing Fellowship
    Organization: National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation
    Date(s): 2011 - 2012
  • Dissertation Fieldwork Fellowship
    Organization: Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Grant (Brazil)
    Date(s): 2009 - 2010
  • Dissertation Fieldwork Fellowship
    Organization: National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant, Geography & Regional Sciences
    Date(s): 2009 - 2010
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