Bailey Smolarek

Teaching Faculty

Smolarek, Bailey

Bailey Smolarek is a Faculty Associate in Educational Policy Studies and a Researcher at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research. Her scholarship uses qualitative inquiry and participatory approaches to investigate issues of educational equity and belonging in secondary and post-secondary contexts for minoritized and/or underrepresented populations. Her current research project, “Our HMoob American College Paj Ntaub,” examines the higher education experiences of Hmong students in Wisconsin. In 2017, Smolarek was the recipient of the Outstanding Dissertation Award from AERA’s Critical Educators for Social Justice SIG for her dissertation, “‘Unintended Consequences:’ Reforms, Race, and the Schooling Experiences of Mexican Emergent Bilinguals in a New Destination High School.” Her research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, Morgridge Center for Public Service, and UW-Madison’s Institute for Research on Poverty.


  • PhD Curriculum and Instruction, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2016
  • MA English Linguistics, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2011
  • BA Spanish, TESOL, and History, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, 2007

Select Publications

  • Smolarek, B. B., Wolfgram, M., Vang, M. N., Xiong, C. P., Lee, L., Lee, P., Thao, M., Vang, K., Xiong, P. K., Xiong, O., & Xiong, P. (2021). Our HMoob American college paj ntaub: Student-engaged community-based participatory action research (CBPAR) as counter-invisibility work. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education
  • Smolarek, B. B. (In Press). What are “soft skills” and should we be teaching them?. In J. Brewer and W. Harman (Ed.), Commodification of Education
  • Smolarek, B. B., & Martinez Negrette, G. D. (In Press). "It’s better now": How Midwest niceness shapes social justice education. In A. E. Castagno (Ed.), The Price of Nice: How Good Intentions Maintain Educational Inequity
  • Smolarek, B. B., & Scrivener, L. (2019). Examining business-driven education reform by new policy actors: A discursive analysis of UpSkill Houston. Journal of Education Policy, 36(3), 349-366.
  • Hora, M. T., Smolarek, B. B., Martin, K. N., & Scrivener, L. (2019). Exploring the situated and cultural aspects of communication in the professions: Implications for teaching, student employability, and equity in higher education. American Educational Research Journal, 56(6), 2221-2261.
  • Smolarek, B. B. (2019). The hidden challenges for successful first-generation PhDs. Inside Higher Ed
  • Smolarek, B. B. (2018). Feeling the stress and strain: Race, economics, and the educational experiences of Latinx emergent bilinguals in a “new” destination school. Race, Ethnicity & Education, 23(6), 800-819.