Erica Kohl-Arenas currently serves as the Faculty Director of Imagining America at the University of California, Davis, where she is also an associate professor in the Department of American Studies. Her primary research areas include studies of philanthropy and the nonprofit sector, participatory development, and the intersection of American and global poverty studies.
Imagining America fosters community partnerships, public scholarship and social equity in higher education through the arts, humanities and design. A consortium of more than 100 colleges, universities, and cultural organizations, Imagining America was founded in 1999 following a White House conference on the democratic role of arts and humanities.
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The Self-Help Myth
Kohl-Arenas' book, The Self-Help Myth: How Philanthropy Fails to Alleviate Poverty (University of California Press, 2016), analyzes the history of philanthropic investments in addressing farmworker and immigrant poverty across California’s Central Valley. As the first book in the Poverty Interrupted series of the University of California Press, Kohl-Arenas' book, The Self-Help Myth tackles timely social issues of concern to social justice professionals and public audiences, scholars and students concerned with nonprofit and philanthropic leadership, global development, social movements and poverty alleviation.
For her work on this book, Kohl-Arenas was named philanthropy critic of the year by Inside Philanthropy in 2016.