Dan Cohen

An economic geographer trying to understand how school markets are created by state power, Killam and Vanier scholar Dan Cohen explains that "we have to stop thinking about how people behave in markets as entirely driven by the actions of the individuals who exist within them."

 
Faculty of Arts
Jamie Peck
Toronto
Canada
 

Research Topic

The spread of education reform models

Research Description

My research focuses on the spread of market-based education reforms in the United States. These reforms have spread as the field of K-12 education is placed under the dual pressures of reduced expenditures in an austerity environment and an increased focus on education as a method of improving a region's economic competitiveness. As policymakers struggle to balance these competing pressures, market-based education reforms have emerged as a supposed panacea to the problems facing K-12 education. Through visiting multiple sites that have adopted these models of reform, my research project will help us understand how and why these models of reform have become popular as well as what happens when the rubber-meets-the-road and these hyper-mobile policies become implemented in new sites.

What do you hope to accomplish with your research?

As someone who has worked in policy, I have experienced the pressure to produce quick fixes with few resources. Because of this I want to better understand why certain ideas become dominant and the impacts of their travel to different sites. In fields like education, policy changes can have dramatic impacts on people's lives; therefore I think it is extremely important to understand why these changes happen.

What has winning a major award meant to you?

It means that I can now undertake the research project that I envisioned, traveling with the policies I am studying in order to understand how and why they move.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

You always hear people say it, but Vancouver really is a beautiful city.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

The Department of Geography at UBC is a fantastic place with faculty who I respect greatly. In particular, I was excited about the opportunity to study with my supervisor, Dr. Jamie Peck.

 

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

Before pursuing my PhD I spent several years working as a municipal bureaucrat. While I found the job fulfilling, there were also questions I was unable to ask within the boundaries of my job. Returning to school at UBC has allowed me to pursue the questions I have wanted to ask for a long time.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

From my Master's degree I learned the importance of being flexible. Don't allow yourself to get tied up in how you envisioned your project. Be open to shifting directions.

 
 

In fields like education, policy changes can have dramatic impacts on people's lives; therefore, I think it is extremely important to understand why these changes happen.