Faculty Spotlight: Karishma Desai

Karishma Desai recently joined Rutgers GSE as an Assistant Professor of Educational Foundations in the Department of Educational Theory, Policy, and Administration. Since her arrival at the GSE, Desai has been dedicated to her students, her research, and beginning to build connections within the GSE and the university. “I was compelled by the GSE’s commitment to interdisciplinarity education, its explicit focus on social justice in and through education, and the robust intellectual eco-system across the university,” said Desai.

Before her time at the GSE, Desai was a Gerardo Marin Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of International and Multicultural Education at the University of San Francisco. Prior to this, she was an elementary school teacher in New York and Chicago and worked with indigenous rights organizations in India before returning to graduate school to pursue her Ph.D. in international development and education.

During her undergraduate studies in anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, Desai completed an independent research study in a region in Kenya bordering Tanzania called the Loita Forest. Desai spent a month engaged with an indigenous community seeking to understand their methods of holding onto and passing along knowledge. Desai was particularly interested in understanding how schools functioned as subtractive sites for first-generation students, as they often felt a loss of connection to their cultural practices as a result of their enrollment in school. In one of the classes she took upon her arrival back in the United States, she was prompted to draw parallels between her experience with education and knowledge in Kenya with education in the U.S. It was this class and her experiences abroad that made her realize how many different groups of people are marginalized or disadvantaged in the educational system. With this realization came a desire to create spaces for children in school that would offer equal opportunities to receive quality education that ultimately led her to pursue a career in the educational field.

As a junior faculty member at the GSE, Desai is responsible primarily for pursuing her individual and collaborative research and writing projects that address the intersections of gender, globalization, and education. Desai’s work is multifaceted and cross functional in that she uses her research surrounding different fields of knowledge and her research surrounding gender and globalization in conjunction to capture a big-picture look at the ways knowledge and ways of being affect people in today’s society. Besides her research, Desai is also teaching courses at the GSE on qualitative research methods and gender.

Desai is a great addition to the GSE community. Her commitment to Advancing Excellence and Equity in Education is reflected in her dedication to her research and teaching. Desai “strives to foreground ways of knowing and being that have been historically pushed to the margins.”