Susan Wardak, Ph.D. is a 2022 graduate of the PHD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Dissertation Committee

  • Jon Wergin, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • Laurien Alexandre, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Edna Mitchell, Ph.D., Committee Member


leadership, change, equity, equality, reconstruction, reform, gender, social justice, development, teacher education, teacher competencies, standards for teaching, school administrator, teacher training, teacher educator

Document Type


Publication Date



This dissertation used interpretive case study methodology focused on the story of rebuilding the national education system of Afghanistan destroyed by decades of conflict. The study documents the challenges and progress in preparing adequate and qualified teachers for the nation. The dissertation is based on critical analysis of available documents tracing events, policies, and programs. The research asks: What are the critical leadership strategies and organizational frameworks that promote or impede institutional change? What are the barriers to change in teacher education in a conservative Islamic society? The dissertation is unique in that this story of educational intervention in a small war-torn, socially fragmented, and politically fractured nation is documented by a participant observer who is both of the nation and from the nation. The study records the steps and missteps of the changes and leadership processes implemented by both international donor-advisors and national leaders to restore education to Afghanistan in a critical contemporary time. The story encompasses many aspects of education in Afghanistan, past and present, including urgent efforts to fulfill the promise of the new Constitution for universal nondiscriminatory and free education for all, not only of a population in residence but of the masses returning from exile expecting schools for their children. The central core of the dissertation is a focus on the national effort to recruit and train teachers, competent in subject knowledge and teaching methods. A basic and recurring theme is the education of girls and women and their role in this society. Although gender equity is a priority theme through the dissertation, the central message of the dissertation is the evolution of teacher training. This story is framed against the larger picture of historical traditions, the disruptions of conflict, and recent overall national education reconstruction, expansion, and reform. The record of cultural differences that contributed to failed as well as to successful interventions abounds in examples of leadership for change impacted by international donors and by political priorities. This dissertation is available in open access at AURA: Antioch University Repository and Archive, ( and OhioLINK ETD Center (


Susan Wardak

ORCID Scholar ID #: #0000-0002-7571-2753