Natalia Petrzela is a scholar, writer, teacher, and activist. As Associate Professor of History at The New School, she studies the politics and culture of the modern United States and is especially fascinated by issues of gender, race, identity, and class.

Her first book, Classroom Wars: Language, Sex, and the Making of Modern Political Culture (Oxford, 2015), explores the roots of the culture wars in American public schools, specifically amid heated battles over sexuality and bilingual education. The latest research traces the rise of “wellness culture” since the 1950s, asking how and why Americans have increasingly linked food and fitness regimes to the pursuit of self-fulfillment. These scholarly pursuits are closely linked to her activist work as co-founder of HealthClass2.0, an experiential health education program that bridges a wellness gap in public school education and connects university mentors with K-12 students. She is also a Premiere Leader of intenSati(an innovative mind-body practice).

Her writing has appeared in publications such as The New York TimesSlate, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and The Huffington Post. She has been featured as an expert historian in diverse media venues such as Brian Lehrer TV, The History Channel, and The Atlantic. Her work in wellness has been covered by many publications including The Guardian, Well+Good, Univision and Fox 5 NY. She also writes a “fitness history” column for Well+Good, the national online magazine. She is currently the co-host of the wildly successful Past Present Podcast, which brings historical insights to political and cultural debates, and is currently averaging 10,000 downloads per week. Natalia received a BA from Columbia College and a MA and Ph.D. from Stanford University, all in History.

 

 

CLASSROOM WARS OR COMMON GROUND?: HOW THE PAST HELPS CHART THE FUTURE FOR 21ST CENTURY EDUCATION

Why is it that in 2017, our educational system is still defined by social, economic, and cultural divides? How far have we actually come since legalized segregation, sink-or-swim language policies, and the stigmatization of poor and disabled children? These real and current struggles have important roots in our past, and understanding how American educators and policymakers have reshaped our schools to serve a rapidly growing and diversifying student body over the past century illuminates how we interpret our present and shape our future in powerful, new ways.

While our country is still working to find common and equal ground for all of its citizens, it's important to look back. In this talk, Natalia examines our country's history and how schools have often been the primary institutions tasked with addressing America's most profound political, cultural, and demographic transformations. In a volatile political moment in which questions of educational equity, justice, and fairness are paramount, we must reckon with our past and its legacies as we forge a way forward for our nation's youngest citizens.

WELLNESS IN AMERICA: HOW IT ALL BEGAN, AND WHY IT CHANGES LIVES

From gym classes to latest cleanse or exercise craze, the idea of "wellness" is something that is now woven into our culture, despite the term barely existing a few years ago. How and WHY is it that a monumental shift can sweep a culture with such speed and voracity? In this talk, Natalia guides audiences through the history and growth of the wellness movement in America, and explores how it has become such a crucial element of our lives. Once a marginalized subculture defined by yoga and meditation, wellness is now a pillar for millions of Americans seeking physical and mental health, individualism, and personal empowerment. 

TEACHING THE WHOLE CHILD, MIND, BODY AND SOUL: THE OPPORTUNITIES OF EXPERIENTIAL WELLNESS EDUCATION

While wealthier school districts encourage (and often require) student participation in extracurricular activities including the arts and physical activity, education for children in disadvantaged communities is, for the most part, strictly focused on academics and standardized testing, as a result of "NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND". This approach neglects the importance of personal well-being, and has driven out the "Whole Child" imperative, creating not only an achievement gap, but a wellness gap as well. Natalia highlights the importance of combining academics with exercise, vocal affirmations, healthy eating, and individual decision-making, and she uses her own experiential learning program, HealthClass2.0, as a basis for discussion.

 

 

Dr. Petrzela energized and engaged students in my Consuming Happiness lecture with an interactive, multimedia presentation that brought the social history on wellbeing to life. Her approachable style coupled with the meticulous research makes her the best kind of guest lecturer: The one students reference for the rest of the course.
— The University of Wisconsin-Madison