Maria McKenna

Contact Information

mckennadirectory Maria McKenna
Senior Associate Director, Education, Schooling, and Society program
327 O'Shaughnessy Hall


Associate Professor of the Practice, ESS program; Department of Africana Studies


B.A., University of Notre Dame

M.S. Ed., Northwestern University

Ph.D., Saint Louis University

Research interests

Qualitative research methodologies with children

Philosophy of educational care

Minority experience in K-12 education

Social, philosophical, cultural, and historical contexts of education



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)


Maria McKenna is Senior Associate Director of the Education, Schooling, and Society academic minor, and Associate Professor of the Practice for Education, Schooling, and Society and the Department of Africana Studies. She is also a Faculty Fellow with the Institute for Educational Initiatives at the University of Notre Dame.

Her research and teaching focus on the social contexts of American education, educational care, and minority experience in American public education, with a focus on the child and parent perspective/voice related to educational environments and opportunities. She has a particular interest in understanding urban, public school environments and the constituent groups that use those schools. 

McKenna’s writing has been published by Palgrave-McMillan and Peter Lang. Her journal articles can be found in the Urban Review, Urban Education, School Community Journal, the Association of Teacher Educators, and in the Journal of Philosophy and History of Education. Her current writing focuses on using Photovoice methodologies to engender civic identity in youth, a student generated model of educational care, and understanding youth and young adult engagement with privilege, power, and race.

During the academic year, McKenna teaches and advises for both the Department of Africana Studies and the minor in Education, Schooling, and Society. In her spare time, she supports the Robinson Community Learning Center and Good Shepherd Montessori School by serving on their Boards of Directors. She and her husband, Mark, have four children and reside in South Bend, Indiana.

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