Adai A. Tefera, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Foundations of Education

Adai A. Tefera, Ph.D.


  • Ph.D. in education, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Master of Public Policy, University of California, Los Angeles
  • B.S. in political science, Santa Clara University

Research interests

Urban schooling, educational policy and politics, race and disability/intersectionality, knowledge mobilization/bridging research, policy and practice

Career highlights

  • Served as a Congressional Fellow in the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation for Congressman Chaka Fattah
  • Worked as a postdoctoral scholar on the “Special Education Leadership for Schoolwide Equity and Access” project at Arizona State University
  • Served as a postdoctoral scholar at the University of New Mexico’s Center for Education Policy Research

Recent publications/projects

  • Tefera, A. A., & Voulgarides, C. K. (2016). Is education policy alleviating or perpetuating the racialization of disabilities?: An analysis of “Big P” and “little p” policies. Teachers College Record (Yearbook), 118(14). ID Number 21541
  • Voulgarides, C. K., & Tefera, A.A. (expected 2017). Reframing the racialization of disabilities in policy and practice. Theory Into Practice.
  • Principal investigator (with co-principal investigators Alfredo J. Artiles & Catherine Kramarczuk Voulgarides) on William T. Grant Foundation funded study entitled, “Paradoxes and Inequities in Special Education and the Law.”
  • Co-principal investigator (with principal investigator Gustavo E. Fischman and co-principal investigators Steven Zuiker and Kate Anderson) on Spencer-funded study entitled, “For whom and to what end is educational research ultimately directed? An analysis of knowledge mobilization strategies developed by schools of education.”


Dr. Adai Tefera is an assistant professor in the School of Education at Virginia Commonwealth University. She received her Ph.D. in education with an emphasis in urban schooling and public policy from UCLA. Her scholarship focuses on how educational policies aimed at improving equity among students at the intersections of race, disability, language and other sociocultural differences are enacted and experienced by educators, leaders and students. She is particularly interested in strengthening research-policy-practice partnerships through knowledge mobilization to improve opportunities of historically marginalized learners. Her work has been included in journals such as Teachers College Record, Urban Education, and Theory Into Practice. She has worked in schools, both in after school and summer programs, and served as a fellow with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. Her commitment to educational equity and justice is rooted in her experiences as the daughter of Ethiopian immigrants, her upbringing in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and her experiences learning from and with students with disabilities, especially her sister, who remains one of her greatest teachers.

Curriculum Vitae

(804) 828-1332