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University of Minnesota Extension

Joanna Tzenis

Associate Extension professor 

Joanna Tzenis

Dr. Joanna A. Tzenis (she/her) is an Associate Extension professor at the University of Minnesota Center for Youth Development. Joanna's scholarly work and practice are concerned with issues of equity and opportunity in education, with an emphasis on youths’ pathways to higher education, the sociocultural foundations of education and advancing the use of community-engaged research and program design processes. Her dissertation research was a longitudinal study of how Somali youth are agentic in acting toward their educational aspirations. Her current projects use youth participatory action research (YPAR) methodology to support youth in becoming change agents in their local communities and expanding their future possibilities in and through education.

Academic degrees and experience

Selected publications

Tzenis, J.A. (2022). Reconceptualizing youth sparks: A sociocultural approach to co-designing programs for Somali youth. Journal of Human Sciences and Extension, 10(2), 116-139.

Tzenis, J. (2021). Youth Aspirations: Imagining and Navigating Futures in Higher Education. St. Paul, MN: University of Minnesota, Extension Center for Youth Development.

Tzenis, J.A. (2019) Understanding youths' educational aspirations in the Somali diaspora. Journal of Youth Development, 14(2), 10-24.

Tzenis, J. A. (2018) Campus immersion: Supporting youth agency and aspirations for higher education. Journal of Youth Development, 13(4), 134-148.

Tzenis, J. A. (2018). Contradictions of belonging: The educational aspirations and agency of youth in the Somali diaspora.


Portraits of Home (P.I.): A photovoice youth program and study that supports young people in exploring their sense of belonging, connection to others, imaginations for a thriving future in their rapidly-diversifying and growing community. This is done in collaboration with the College of Education and Human Development’s department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development.

Minnesota Children, Youth, and Families At Risk (CYFAR) project (Co-P.I.): A NIFA-funded project that supports Somali youth and their families (living in the Twin Cities and in Moorhead) in working together to prepare for futures in higher education.

Jumpstart Project: Youth participating in this leadership series are trained as researchers and conduct structured interviews with their peers to understand their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic and to reimagine ways schools, families, and communities can work in partnership together. It is a collaboration between the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development's Department of Family Social Science, University of Minnesota Extension's Center for Youth Development and Center for Family Development and Ramsey County 4-H.


University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus

Reviewed in 2022

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