Kohl-Arenas, Erica

Kohl-Arenas, Erica

Erica  Kohl-Arenas

PhD, Social and Cultural Studies, University of California, Berkeley
MS, Community Development, University of California, Davis

Assistant Professor of Nonprofit Management, Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy

Media Contact Information:
This expert is available for interviews. To contact this expert or other experts, please call The New School's Media Relations office at 212.229.5151.
Areas of Expertise:

Philanthropy & Social Movements, Critical Development Studies, American Poverty, Popular Education and Participatory Research


Erica Kohl-Arenas is an assistant 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.

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.
Courses Taught:
  • Theory and Practice of Nonprofit Management 
  • Participatory Engagement
  • Qualitative Research Methods
  • Qualitative Research PhD Seminar
Recent Publications:

Kohl-Arenas, Erica, The Self-Help Myth: How Philanthropy Fails to Alleviate Poverty (University of California Press, November 2015). 

Kohl-Arenas, Erica, “Funding the Other California: An Anatomy of Consensus and Consent,” in Territories of Poverty: Rethinking North and South (Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation), edited by Ananya Roy and Emma Shaw Crane (University of Georgia Press, November 2015).

Kohl-Arenas, Erica and Harry Boyte and Carleton Turner. “Working the Frontlines of Imagination and Civic Education: A Conversation with Carlton Turner and Harry Boyte, Facilitated by Erica Kohl-Arenas.” Public: A Journal of Imagining America Volume 3, Issue 1, Spring 2015. 

Kohl-Arenas, Erica, Myrna Martinez Nateras & Johanna Taylor, “Cultural Organizing as Critical Praxis: Tamejavi Builds Immigrant Voice, Belonging, and Power,” Journal of Poverty, Volume 18 Issue 1, 5-24. (2014).

Kohl-Arenas, Erica, “Will the Revolution Be Funded? Resource Mobilization and the California Farm Worker Movement,” Social Movement Studies: Journal of Social, Cultural, and Political Protest Volume 13, Issue 4, 482-498. (2014).

Kohl-Arenas, Erica, “Governing Poverty Amidst Plenty: Participatory Development and Private Philanthropy,” Geography Compass Volume 5, Issue 11, 811-824 (2011).

< back

Connect with the New School