Face behind the course: Meet Vera G. Centeno

July 9, 2024

Vera is the face behind the new UniPID course “Global Policies and Local Challenges: Perspectives from the South”. In this blog post, Vera delves into her diverse background and professional journey, while offering a sneak peek into the exciting content of her upcoming course. Discover more about Vera and the engaging topics she'll explore during the course.

Hello, UniPID community.

I’m Vera Gorodski Centeno, a senior researcher and teacher at the Faculty of Education and Culture at Tampere University. I am also the responsible teacher for the UniPID course "Global Policies and Local Challenges: Perspectives from the South." In this blog post, I will share my professional background and provide a glimpse into the course I will be offering for the first time on the UniPID platform. I hope you will join me on this enriching and fruitful learning journey!

Vera Gorodski Centeno

Since my early university studies, I have been interested in the global-local nexus, particularly how policies and practices travel, how knowledge is produced and disseminated, and how actors shape and navigate these complex journeys, where seemingly abstract international ideas and processes intersect with local historical developments, social-cultural realities, and political contexts.

My professional interests as both a researcher and a teacher reflect my academic journey. At the University of Lisbon, I graduated in Educational Sciences and became passionate about international and comparative education. The role of international organizations in shaping our horizons of interpretation particularly caught my attention. At the University of Paris X, I completed my Master in Humanities and Social Sciences, where I researched the European Union’s lifelong learning policies and their impact on the framing of new concepts and learning modalities. If you are curious, you can find more information about this work here.

Even more intrigued by the pivotal role of major intergovernmental organizations in knowledge production and dissemination, I pursued my doctoral studies at the Centre for Comparative and International Education at the Humboldt University Berlin. There, I delved into studying agenda-setting and knowledge production within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). My research revealed the complexity of these processes, highlighting how international organizations agendas are shaped by organizational, institutional, local and global developments (see, for example, this book and this article). These findings led me to both deepen and broaden the conceptual horizon of comparative and international research (for example, see this chapter). My post-doctoral research at Tampere University focused on the dynamics generated by the mutual contingency and interrelation of global-local policies and practices from the perspective of what takes place in a southern context, specifically Brazil (see, for example, this critical analysis).

Among other international projects, I have been recently working within the context of the Global Innovation Network for Teaching and Learning (GINTL), particularly within the Africa Network. This collaboration allowed me to create a transdisciplinary network and partnerships with colleagues addressing challenging issues in Angola and Mozambique. Currently, focusing on the Sustainable Development Goals, we are studying the intersectionality of water crisis with school attendance and socio-economic local realities using a transdisciplinary approach. This approach combines both qualitative social and education methods and remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS). By examining sustainable development global policies from the perspective of the local realities they target, I aim to further enhance our understanding of the global-local nexus and contribute to achieving a meaningful development.

The course “Global Policies and Local Challenges: Perspectives from the South” steams from this longstanding work on international and comparative research, coupled with my experience in international development collaboration. The course reflects my understanding of the relationship between research and university teaching. As a teacher, I prioritize research-based teaching, aiming to impart students with the same explorative and critical perspective that guides my own research.

Students will engage with relevant and contemporary topics, academic discussions, and fieldwork experiences shared directly by researchers and practitioners. By inviting guest lectures and speakers from both the Global North and South, I aim to foster students’ own questioning and interpretations, while broadening and deepening their knowledge of various cross-cutting issues. While diverse, all these issues are interconnected within the overarching goal of sustainable development.

In applying the same vision to teaching that I have towards research, I allow my research to be enriched by my teaching. Students’ questions, essays, and feedback have previously led me to explore new aspects and understandings. I believe this will also happen in this course, as it aims to create a safe learning environment where students from any background can participate, ask questions, and reflect from their own vantage point. Furthermore, with students’ consent, their feedback and work can be used not only to improve future courses, but also serve as the basis for, what I call, ‘teaching-enriched’ research: what can we learn from students’ understandings and reflections on the course themes?

Thank you, Vera, for sharing your outstanding journey with us. If you are fascinated by global policy challenges with local significance, be sure to check out the course description and enroll. The course will be offered for the first time in Autumn 2024. You can activate the notification button now, and we will remind you once the registration period opens!


Photo credits: Thales Botelho de Sousa, 2021 on UnSplash.