Andrea Malkin Brenner, PhD is a first-year transition educator and sociologist who works with high school and college students, parents, and faculty on all things related to transitioning from high school to college. 

First-year College Transitions

Andrea lectures and holds workshops about first-year transition challenges for high school and college audiences. She has a special interest in working with neurodiverse students. Andrea is co-author of How to College: What to Know Before You Go (and When You’re There) (Macmillan, St. Martin’s Griffin, 2019).


She sells her books at discounted rates to schools and organizations that focus on the transition to college. Andrea is a speaker with the Macmillan Speaker’s Bureau, a member of WISER, and a HECA Business Partner.

Dr. Brenner was the creator and former director of the nationally-recognized American University Experience (AUx) Program, the mandatory year-long first-year transition course at American University. The first semester of this course helps students build academic and psycho-social skills for college success. Previous to her work with AUx, Dr. Brenner was a faculty member in the Department of Sociology at American University for 20 years, teaching classes to undergraduate students. Andrea also served as the faculty advisor and director of undergraduate studies in the sociology department and the faculty director of AU's University College program, the school’s oldest and largest living-learning community for first-year students.

Dr. Brenner has received multiple awards for her undergraduate teaching and program design for first-year college students including The Cutting-Edge Curriculum Award, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, 2018; American University Student Government’s Professor of the Year in 2004 and 2017; and the Ann Ferren Curriculum Design Award through the Center for Teaching, Research, & Learning at American University for 2016-2017.


Dr. Brenner holds a BA in sociology and education from Brandeis University; an MA in curriculum, instruction and administration in higher education from Boston College; and a PhD in sociology from American University. She has two grown children and lives in Maryland with her husband.


Andrea and Lara at  the First Year Experience Summit, Florida Atlantic University, with John N. Gardner and Betsy O. Barefoot, initiators and scholars of the first-year experience and co-founders of the Gardner Institute

Facilitating Productive Discourse

Andrea believes that guiding students to engage in productive discourse is a crucial part of the transition to college. Dr. Brenner was a 2019-2020 fellow at the University of California National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement. Her project, entitled “Let Freedom (and Respect) Ring: Fostering Civil Discourse and Free Speech in the Classroom and Beyond,” culminated in a student guide to free speech and productive discourse. It was co-researched and written with Professor Lara Schwartz.

Andrea consults with colleges and universities about free speech, facilitating discussions over difference, de-escalation techniques, and inclusive pedagogy. Her ongoing work encourages students in understanding speech not only as a matter of rights, but of responsibilities and opportunities.

Andrea’s doctoral dissertation, Too White to Teach Race: Student Perceptions of Racial Identity-based Professor Credibility, a Case of Pedagogical Malpractice? and the majority of the classes she taught over 20 years at American University, focused on issues of cross-cultural dialogue, power, and inequality. The second semester of the full-year AUx course, which Andrea co-wrote, was “created specifically as a call to action by AU students, staff, and faculty who want to ensure that diversity, inclusion, free speech, and freedom of expression are part of the core curriculum at American University.” (AUx2 course overview).