Research Interests

My research considers the ways in which powerful and wealthy non-governmental actors interact with communities and public institutions they identify as "vulnerable" or "underserved", particularly where they engage with public education. 

I am particularly intrigued by corporate and philanthropic actors' exertion of control over priorities in education, and the funding of computer science and STEM initiatives, character education curriculum and equity oriented policies.

Selected Scholarship and Publications

Reikosky, N. (2023). Pipeline Philanthropy: Understanding Philanthropic Corporate Action in Education During the COVID-19 Era and Beyond. Educational Policy, 37(3). (OPEN ACCESS)

In response to the COVID-19 crisis many companies, particularly technology companies, voluntarily responded to strains in the education sector by temporarily donating or discounting their core products, generating public support and gratitude. I analyze this type of contribution as ‘pipeline philanthropy,’ which offers a novel frame through which to evaluate the burgeoning philanthropic action of corporations in education during the COVID-19 era. This paper explores how the ‘pipeline philanthropy’ model of corporate giving differs from existing models of philanthropy in education. Through a selection of contemporary and historical illustrations, I evaluate the democratic implications and develop a framework for assessing this important and expanding type of giving in education.

Reikosky, N. (2024). For (Y)our Future: Plutocracy and the Vocationalization of Education [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. University of Pennsylvania.

While powerful private actors have long played an influential role in public education in the United States, there is significant urgency in the current moment given the centrality of private actors in educational policymaking. I argue that private actors—philanthropic and corporate actors, in particular—are plutocratic where they accumulate political power and access to decision-making spaces within public education as a result of their wealth. This power culminates in the circulation of their ideas about the political purposes of schooling that may come at the expense of other educational visions. I theorize the problems posed by plutocratic actors engaged with public education, typologize and evaluate the ecosystem of private actors engaged with public education, and diagram normative ideas about the political purposes of public education. I contend the contemporary emphasis on career readiness results from a persistent public-private schooling for work institutional order and is the outcome of coalitional political projects that instrumentally position schools to serve private and state economic imperatives. Finally, I develop the case of President Obama’s Computer Science for All initiative and subsequent philanthropically supported efforts to expand computer science education across all levels of public education. This dissertation advances a conceptual understanding of power and influence in the educational policy construction process and reveals an influential political coalition that invests in and advocates for particular education reforms through private power.

Reikosky, N. (2023). Commissioned Book Review: Emma Saunders-Hastings, Private Virtues, Public Vices: Philanthropy and Democratic Equality. Political Studies Review, 21(1), NP13–NP14.

Philanthropy presents a puzzle for liberal democracies committed to equality. In Private Virtues, Public Vices: Philanthropy and Democratic Equality, Emma Saunders-Hastings greatly expands a vibrant and still emerging scholarly conversation about the perils and possibilities of philanthropy for existing democratic societies. Moving with agility between historical cases, ongoing intellectual debates, contemporary illustrations, and normative recommendations, Saunders-Hastings manages both a comprehensive survey of perspectives on philanthropy in democratic societies and develops a normative stance on the possibilities for a democratic philanthropy going forward.

Reikosky, N. (2023). Book Review: For-profit philanthropy: Elite power & the threat of limited liability companies, donor-advised funds, & strategic corporate giving. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly.

Recent developments in for-profit models of philanthropic giving establish intriguing possibilities for expanding the reach of philanthropic action. But these same developments bypass many long-standing accountability mechanisms historically hemming in philanthropic foundations, threatening to undo the trust brokered between elites and the public at large. In their book For-Profit Philanthropy: Elite Power & the Threat of Limited Liability Companies, Donor-Advised Funds, & Strategic Corporate Giving, authors Dana Brakman Reiser and Steven A. Dean offer a technical, yet accessible rendering of shifts in the philanthropy landscape by evaluating three cases: the philanthropy LLC (Limited Liability Company), commercially affiliated Donor-Advised Funds (DAFs), and strategic corporate giving. 

Public Scholarship & Media Engagements

#164 Plutocratic Philanthropists are Bad for Schools–and Democracy, winner of Graduate Student Research Contest 

(Podcast Episode), interview by Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider, Have You Heard Podcast

"The power of plutocrats to shape and limit public debate is on the increase. That’s bad for K-12 education and for democracy, argues Nora Reikosky, the winner of the 2023 Have You Heard Graduate Student Research Contest. As a young “Googler,” Nora witnessed first hand the power of corporate philanthropy and its slick sales pitch, an experience that shapes her research into what she calls 'pipeline philanthropy.'"

Reikosky, N. (2023). Schooling for Work: Computer Science Education and Skills for the New Economy. American Journal of Education Forum.

In 2016, President Obama released The Computer Science For All presidential initiative, inviting states and private political actors to support efforts to expand computer science pathways to all students across all levels of K-12 education. On first blush, this call for more CS opportunities and expanded commitments from private sector actors to fulfill this access seems laudable. Yet, it is important to consider the ways powerful and wealthy actors, such as the philanthropists and corporate actors Obama called upon, might pursue their own economic ends by shaping education policies and practices, continually (re)positioning K-12 schools as sites for training future workers, split across racial and class lines. As schooling for future work becomes an increasingly dominant and mainstream objective of public education, such a singular focus on human capital development can come at the expense of other educational aims 

Working papers

The Vocationalization of Public Education: Schooling for Work in the New Economy 

The orientation and increased emphasis in K-12 schooling toward preparation for future economic participation, particularly through the emphasis on STEM and Computer Science education, crystallizes the purpose of education around a primary pole of human capital development. I consider the discursive frames and undergirding logic that constitute these efforts, those that act both diagnostically and prognostically to construct the origins and solutions to the ‘digital divide’ and its attention to disparities in race and class. Grounding this investigation is my interest in the coalitional role of private actors in influencing the priorities and purposes of education—particularly where they are agents of private sector and corporate interests—and the ways in which schools function to serve the interests of these and other political actors. This paper works to understand the contemporary mainstream emphasis on workforce training and career readiness in schooling, and the embeddedness of private, often corporate partnerships in provisioning the resources and materials needed for such training. 

‘Adjunct to manufacture and commerce’: Elementary and secondary vocational and technical education in the U.S., 1917-2018 

This project investigates the federal government’s role in advancing vocational education and considers how federal legislation is reflective of priorities held by individual and institutional political actors throughout the mid 20th and early 21st centuries. This project asks: how have the definition and components of vocational education shifted in relation to certain named national priorities over time, particularly through programmatic transition to ‘career and technical education’ for 21st century skills? I examine adjustments in programmatic management and priorities that emphasize “promoting links between public school needs and private sector sources of support” and changes in language around race, disability, and gender. This project draws on theories and methods of American Political Development to identify relevant political coalitions within existing and shifting institutional orders, moments of path dependency and ‘juncture’ that constitute meaningful political development, and the increased role of the private sector against the ‘submerged state’ resulting from restructuring legislation.

A moral philanthropist: generous justification for the status quo 

In order to understand the proliferation and perseverance of charitable giving as a means of addressing undesirable social circumstances, I aim excavate select intellectual and philosophical grounds for charitable giving where it serves to motivate and justify philanthropic actors. To evaluate philanthropy in the contemporary context, I ask how certain political and economic arrangements—those in which substantial wealth inequality exists and persists—structures an appreciation for charitable giving, or philanthropy more broadly, as a normative good. In considering two strands of normative ethics, consequentialism on the one hand and Aristotelian virtue ethics on the other, I ask how charitable giving—philanthropy—is evaluated as a means of ameliorating the suffering of the most vulnerable. More specifically, how ‘effective altruism’ as a social movement adjacent to consequentialist utilitarianism is inhabited by elements of Aristotelian virtue. I demonstrate the limitations of atomistic Aristotelian virtue and consequentialist logic where it guides and justifies contemporary philanthropic action, and the ways accepting certain political and economic arrangements as a present reality undermines the ostensible goals of such projects.

Reformers in Crisis: identifying and evaluating opportunistic education reformers during moments of emergency, with Laura Ogburn

When COVID-19 emerged as a global health crisis, many states and districts issued emergency mandates or recommendations to close school buildings and facilities for the remainder of the school year, with rapidly developed accommodations for delivering educational content to students. For many districts, closures precipitated a massive temporary shift to online formats and an interruption of typical schooling operations. This interruption has been repeatedly framed by education reformers not just as a crisis or emergency, but also as an opportunity to make more lasting changes to the education system.