Maria McKenna, Ph.D.


Maria McKenna, Ph.D. is a joint faculty member of the Education, Schooling, and Society program and the Department of Africana Studies and an Institute for Educational Initiatives fellow. A professor of the practice, her research and teaching focus on the social contexts of American education, educational equity, youth empowerment, and peace education.

McKenna's research can be found in a variety of peer-reviewed journals. Her most recent collaborative work, The Handbook of Montessori Education (2023), is the first-ever compendium of Montessori education. In her current role at the university, she oversees all of Notre Dame’s scholarly programming for first-generation and historically underserved students from a variety of backgrounds. 

McKenna has been honored with the university’s Reinhold Niebuhr Award for social justice, the Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, C.S.C. Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, the Ganey Collaborative Community-Based Research Grant, and the NAACP Faculty Award. In her spare time, McKenna supports Good Shepherd Montessori School and the Robinson Community Learning Center. She and her husband, Mark, have four children.

McKenna received her B.A. from Notre Dame, an MS Ed. degree from Northwestern University, and a Ph.D. from Saint Louis University.

You can find Maria McKenna's TEDx talk on "Caring Education, Joyful Learning, and Human Integrity" here.

Listen to Maria's Episode of Think. Pair. Share.

217 Main Building & 100 "O" Carole Sandner Hall
  • Reinhold Niebuhr Award (2017)
  • Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, C.S.C. Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching (2015)
  • Ganey Collaborative Community-Based Research Grant Winner (2014)
  • University of Notre Dame, NAACP, "NAACP Peters Image Award" Faculty Winner (2011)
ESS Faculty
IEI Fellows
  • Ph.D., Saint Louis University
  • M.S.Ed., Northwestern University
  • B.A., University of Notre Dame

Maria McKenna