Carrie Oelberger


Carrie Oelberger is an assistant professor of nonprofit management. Her research examines how private considerations shape nonprofit organizations and fields, drawing upon and contributing to organizational theory, the sociology of work, economic sociology, and the study of social movements. Attending to interactions between levels of analysis and over time, she combines quantitative data from network analysis and surveys with interviews, field study, and ethnographic methods. Her research agenda is advanced through two main lines of inquiry.

The first line of inquiry focuses on the macro-level dynamics of public-private tensions and examines the creation, translation, and maintenance of organizations and fields. This stream of research primarily analyzes the context and impact of private foundations, where the interplay between public and private interests is particularly salient. Dr. Oelberger has studied these questions across multiple contexts, analyzing the rise of nonprofit performance metrics, the growth and diffusion of charter management organizations (CMOs), network patterns of transnational grantmaking, and the dynamics of family foundations.

The second line of inquiry emerged from her ethnographic data collection, pushing her to explore the micro-level processes that contribute to institutional creation, translation, and maintenance, with attention to the public-private dimensions of career paths in, out, and around the nonprofit sector. This stream of research primarily analyzes the context of international development and humanitarian relief work, where interactions between private and public spheres are especially salient due to a high degree of temporary work assignments and frequent travel that requires people to live their personal and professional lives within the same physical spaces. Her research is the first to empirically examine questions of work-life interface within the nonprofit sector, which she does with an original, longitudinal dataset of aid workers that contains in-depth interviews, ethnographic field study, and longitudinal survey data.

Dr. Oelberger’s research agenda, teaching interests, and service commitments are motivated by her experience in professional practice. She founded and led an international non-governmental organization for seven years that supports community-based, rural education in East Africa, and she continues to provide consulting support for philanthropic foundations to inform their organizational design and programmatic practice.