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University of Minnesota Extension

Joanna Tzenis

Assistant Extension professor 

Joanna Tzenis

Joanna's scholarly work and professional practice are concerned with issues of equity and opportunity in education, with an emphasis on pathways to higher education, the sociocultural foundations of education and advancing the use of community-engaged research processes. She focuses on designing, implementing and evaluating program models that bring together youth, families and community leaders to promote youth thriving in education by addressing barriers and expanding systems of support. Her dissertation research was a longitudinal study of the educational pathways of young people living in the Minnesota Somali diaspora. It explored the ways in which faith and family guided youth agency as youth worked to achieve their aspirations in and through education.

Academic degrees and experience


Youth Aspirations: Imagining and Navigating Futures in Higher Education (2019)

The activities and program suggestions in this guidebook help young people envision higher education in their future and help them begin to take steps toward it.  

Selected publications

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

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

Tzenis, J. (2018). Urban Youth Aspirations: Imagining and Navigating Futures in Higher Education. University of Minnesota, Extension Center for Youth Development.

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

Skuza, J.A., Tzenis, J.A., Sheldon, T. & Russo, J. (2011). The Minnesota Children, Youth, and Families at Risk Project: 2011 Impact Report. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota.

Tzenis, J. A. (2004). Facing Reality: An Evaluation of the Building Blocks Program of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Kalamazoo, MI: Kalamazoo College.


University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus

Reviewed in 2019

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