Who are we?


We are a group of teacher educators from three universities: in the US (University of Tennessee, Knoxville), New Zealand (University of Auckland) and in Australia (University of Melbourne). COLAB emerged over a number of years from our work and shared concerns with how preservice teacher education programs respond to our increasingly multicultural communities, locally and globally. Fuelled by these concerns COLAB builds on our own cross-cultural scholarship, understandings and experiences in our respective contexts. Some of these concerns included a common lack of preservice teacher attention to nuanced and critical understandings of others' (for instance refugees and migrants', or Indigenous) and their own cultural identity.


 Meet the Team







Dr. Samara Madrid Akpovo

Samara Madrid Akpovo is an Associate Professor in the Department of Child and Family Studies at the University of Tennessee Knoxville. Her research has focused on the emotional lives of adults and children in early childhood classrooms using collaborative ethnographic methods along with feminist and poststructural frameworks. Her research also examines early childhood pre-service teachers' development of cross-cultural and intercultural understandings. A central theme in her research has been to challenge and deconstruct normative ways of being, feeling, and knowing with young children and teachers in diverse social and cultural contexts.


Dr. Marek Tesar

Dr. Marek Tesar is the Associate Dean International and an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Education and Social Work, University of Auckland. His current scholarship is in global childhood studies and early childhood education in cross-country contexts. His work focuses on educational policy, philosophy, pedagogy, methodology and curriculum, and draws on his background as a qualified teacher as well as his extensive knowledge of international education systems.


Dr. Sonja Arndt

Sonja Arndt is a lecturer in early childhood education at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, at the University of Melbourne, Australia. She is the Vice President of the Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia (PESA) and is particularly interested in the use of philosophical inquiry in educational research, pedagogies and concerns. Her research and teaching focus on cross cultural studies, cultural identity formation and interculturality in early childhood education settings.


Macy Halladay

Macy is a fifth year Ph.D. student in the Child and Family Studies Program at the University of Tennessee. In her dissertation, she focuses on the beliefs, values and interactions between homeschooling mothers and their early learning children. She uses qualitative hermeneutic inquiry, through in-depth interviews, field observations and participant led photography. She is also interested in intercultural development and how technology serves as a tool in family, community and learning environments. Macy graduated from the Rossier School of Urban Education at the University of Southern California in Marriage and Family Therapy in 2014.


Cassie Sorrells

Cassie is a 2nd year doctoral student in the department of Child and Family Studies at the University of Tennessee Knoxville. Her research focuses on teacher emotion and identity, with particular attention given to how societal and political forces shape teachers' lived experiences in the early childhood classroom. Cassie received her B.A. in Multidisciplinary Studies (Anthropology, Biology, and Linguistics) from West Virginia University and her M.A. in Education and Human Development from the University of Colorado, Denver. Before beginning her doctoral work at UTK, Cassie spent 6 years working in the classroom, including 3 years as an early childhood educator.


Alex Tucker

Alex received her B.S. in Child and Family Studies, her B.A. in Africana Studies and her MS in Child and Family Studies all from the University of Tennessee Knoxville. She is currently a Doctoral student at the University of Tennessee Knoxville and works for Dr. Samara Akpovo as a Graduate Research Assistant. Alex's research focuses on prenatal physical activity and breastfeeding and infant feeding choices with an emphasis on maternal experiences and social-emotional needs.




"By using technology to communicate it seemed a little easier to converse about a variety of things that could have been awkward to say in person. Each group member was willing to share and communicate effectively throughout the process so that we were able to gain understanding and knowledge from one another about our varying cultures."

-COLAB Student