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Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations

The mission of the Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations (LPO) is to increase understanding and guide improvements in human learning and outcomes, in the political, economic, organizational, social, legal and regulatory contexts in which human development occurs. In our research, teaching and research-practice collaborations, the department embraces a range of disciplinary traditions and methodological approaches and fosters diversity in the study of education leadership, policy and practice.


The U.S. News Best Graduate Schools rankings for programs placed our Educational Administration and Supervision Program 1st in its category for the 11th straight year. The Education Policy Program ranked 4th, and the Higher Education Administration Program, 8th.



Degree Programs: Leadership that Works

Want to deepen your knowledge and strengthen your credentials? LPO's professional M.Ed., Ed.D., M.P.P., and online Ed.D. in Leadership and Learning in Organizations programs will prepare you for leadership in any number of organizations—from K–12 schools, colleges, or universities to corporations or policy-making and non-governmental organizations. Considering an academic career in a college or university? As an LPO Ph.D. candidate, you’ll work with faculty mentors recognized as among the best in their disciplines both nationally and internationally.

Vanderbilt University is committed to principles of equal opportunity and affirmative action, and encourages individuals from diverse, under-represented populations to apply to its graduate programs. The university does not discriminate against individuals on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, color, national or ethnic origin, socio-economic background, or disability.    

Here’s a look at the graduate degrees offered in the Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations:

Master's Programs

Note: The GRE is optional for admission to master's programs for the 2021 application cycle only due to ongoing restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have taken the GRE and believe your scores will improve your application, you may submit the GRE with your application.

Higher Education Administration

The Higher Education Administration degree will prepare you for professional roles in academe, state education agencies, or related nonprofits. Through coursework and real-world experience, you will learn about the contemporary higher education system and how to lead from within it.

With training available in three areas – student affairs, enrollment management, and general administration and policy – the Higher Education Administration program is for aspiring professionals in search of education careers that matter.

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Independent School Leadership

This unique 15-month program of advanced study fosters leaders who understand the complex educational, political, social, fiscal, and moral dimensions of independent schools, and who are able to propel their schools to high levels of achievement. 

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International Education Policy and Management

Be a changemaker in the fields of international education and human and economic development. The master’s degree in International Education Policy and Management (IEPM) will equip you with the skills needed to address contemporary public policy issues facing education and informal learning environments around the world.

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Education Policy

The Education Policy master’s degree (M.P.P.) is a nationally ranked program that fosters knowledge of the social, economic, political, and historical contexts for education policy and practice. As a part of the Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, the program sits at the crossroads of public policy and education policy, allowing you to dive deep into policy decision-making and the impact of those decisions on today’s educational systems.

 A dual degree (J.D./M.P.P.) is also offered.

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Leadership and Organizational Performance

Explore the contexts in which human and organizational performance intersect. The master’s degree in Leadership and Organizational Performance combines contemporary research and practice from relevant fields to prepare you to lead for-profit, non-profit, government, and educational organizations.

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Note: For the 2021 application cycle only, GRE scores are not required, although they are strongly recommended.

Leadership and Policy Studies  with concentrations in K–12 Educational Leadership and Policy, and Higher Education Leadership and Policy.

The Ph.D. course of study is theory-oriented and geared to those who will be new academic leaders.

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Note: For the 2021 application cycle only, GRE scores are not required, although they are strongly recommended.

K-12 Educational Leadership and Policy and  Higher Education Leadership and Policy

Bridge the divide between theory and practice while working closely with Peabody faculty and aspiring educational leaders from across the country through the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) program. The 36-month education doctorate is an innovative, cohort-based program for working professionals that equips graduates with the skills and knowledge to make a positive influence in education leadership, policy, and practice worldwide.

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Online Leadership and Learning in Organizations  

Bridge the divide between theory and practice while working closely with Peabody faculty and aspiring organizational leaders from across the country through the online Ed.D. program in Leadership and Learning in Organizations. Designed for experienced mid-career professionals, Peabody’s online Ed.D. program equips students with the knowledge and practical skills to implement systemic change and lead organizational improvement in a range of professional contexts.

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The Ed.D. and online Ed.D. are application-oriented and geared to those who will be senior managers.

In the News

Congratulations to Sayil Camacho , Lecturer & Program Director of the Masters in Leading Organizations program, on being named to the 2021-22 cohort of Junior Faculty Teaching Fellows in the Center for Teaching , part of the Office of Faculty Affairs in the Office of the Provost. The selected participants engage in a structured set of professional development activities—including a seminar on teaching and learning, individual consultations, teaching visits and dinner discussions—designed to help them refine their teaching skills and learn to teach more efficiently. In addition, fellows receive $2,000 each in research funds to be used to enhance their teaching.

Dr. Christine Quinn Trank served on a panel at the United Nations Principles of Responsible Management Education (UN-PRME) Global Forum, which was part of the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit.  Dr. Quinn Trank's panel focused on the professionalization of responsible management as part of the education mission of business schools and universities. The Global Compact seeks to “elevate ambition for strategic collective action, with focused objectives and clear paths to recovery from the continued climate crisis, global pandemic, economic disparities and social inequalities.”  Specifically, UN-PRME’s mission is to affect business and management education so that these issues are elevated in importance in business schools and universities as fundamental to the educational project.

Dr. Adela Soliz  has been selected as a 2021 National Academy of Education (NAEd)/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow. This year, 25 fellows were selected from a competitive pool of 249 applications from scholars of education. The fellowships are administered by the National Academy of Education, an honorary educational society, and they are funded by a grant to the Academy from the Spencer Foundation. The fellowship program has over eight hundred alumni who include many of the strongest education researchers in the field today. The Academy believes the fellowships enhance the future of education research by developing new talent in the many disciplines represented by the scholars selected. I hope you will join us in congratulating Dr. Soliz as a recipient of this important fellowship award.

Two LPO faculty members have become associate editors of Education Finance and Policy (EFP), and Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis (EEPA). Sean P. Corcoran's role as associate editor with Education Finance and Policy (EFP) begins April 1, 2021 and will continue at least through July 1, 2022. Dr. Corcoran will primarily oversee submissions on K-12 education policy, especially those having to do with school finance and school choice. Dr. Corcoran will be joining LPO faculty members Dr. Jason Grissom, who is President Elect of the Board of Directors for AEFP, and also an associate editor of the journal, along with Dr. Felipe Barrera-Osorio, who serves on the editorial board. Education Finance and Policy is the flagship journal of the Association for Education Finance and Policy and published by MIT Press. The journal was founded in 2005 to provide an outlet for researchers across disciplines (including in economics, sociology, public policy, and education) to contribute to debates on education finance, policy, and practice. The journal’s most recent impact factor is 2.395 and it is ranked in the top quartile of both economics and education journals. The journal is housed jointly at George Washington University’s Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration and the Department of Economics at Barnard College.

Dr. Brent Evans role as associate editor for Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis (EEPA) commenced in January and runs through 2022. Dr. Evans primarily oversees manuscript submissions on higher education policy. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis (EEPA) is the premier journal for rigorous, policy-relevant research on issues central to education. The articles that appear inform a wide range of readers—from scholars and policy analysts to journalists and education associations—working at local, state, and national levels. EEPA is a multidisciplinary journal, and editors consider original research from multiple disciplines, orientations, and methodologies. Dr. Evans joins several LPO faculty, Sean Corcoran, Shaun Dougherty, and Carolyn Heinrich, along with recent alumni Dominque Baker, Adam Kho, Lam Pham, and Luis Rodriguez, who are on the editorial board, so LPO is extremely well represented!

LPO Ph.D. alumna Dominique Baker '16, received the 2021 Early Career Award from the Association for Education Finance and Policy (AEFP). Each year, AEFP, a non-profit academic and professional organization, gives its Early Career Award to a junior scholar who shows an exemplary early career trajectory and whose research substantially contributes to the field of education finance and policy.

Dr. Baker is an assistant professor of education policy in Southern Methodist University's Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development. Her research focuses on how education policy affects and shapes the access and success of minoritized students in higher education. She primarily investigates student financial aid, affirmative action and admissions policies, as well as policies that influence the ability to create an inclusive and equitable campus climate.

Baker’s research has been published in a variety of journals, including the American Educational Research Journal, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Journal of Higher Education, Journal of College Student Development, and Teachers College Record. Her work and expertise have also been highlighted by The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Public Radio, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and Inside Higher Ed, amongst others.

Congratulations to LPO doctoral students, Karin Gegenheimer and Shelby McNeill, who were selected to participate in the David Clark Seminar at AERA this year. The David L. Clark National Graduate Student Research Seminar in Educational Administration & Policy is sponsored by the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA), Divisions A and L of the AERA, and SAGE Publications, and brings emerging educational administration and policy scholars and noted researchers together for two days of presentations, generative discussion, and professional growth.

LPO doctoral students Christine Dickason and Cara DeLoach, wrote a fantastic op-ed that was published in the prestigious Hechinger Report, focused on their research on food insecurity on college campuses. Read more here.

Congratulations go out to Dr. Cliff Lippard, one of our outstanding adjunct professors who was recently awarded the Donald C. Stone Practitioner Award by the American Society for Public Administration’s (ASPA) Section on Intergovernmental Administration & Management (SIAM)!  SIAM recognizes outstanding practitioners for their contributions to intergovernmental relations and management with this award, which will be presented to Cliff at the ASPA annual conference on Monday, April 12th. Cliff has served the department as an adjunct professor since 2006. He is beloved by his students and deeply appreciated by the LPO department!

Professor Lippard served in the Army from 1983 to 2004, as a soldier, cadet, and commissioned officer, and in the reserves. He served as a reservist in Kuwait during both the Iraqi conflicts. Dr. Lippard has worked at the Tennessee Advisory Commission of Intergovernmental Affairs since 1996, starting as a Research Associate. In 2016, he became the Executive Director. He earned his Ph.D. in Public Administration in 2012 from TSU.

The Josh Bleiberg Award for Service to the Department is given by the department’s Ph.D. students to recognize an individual who has made outstanding contributions to the PhD community in LPO. The department is pleased to announce the winner of this year’s award is Walter G. Ecton . Walt is a fifth-year PhD candidate whose research focuses on the intersections between high school, higher education, and the workforce, and the pathways students take as they navigate those sectors. During the nominating process, students noted Walt’s advocacy on behalf of PhD students and the genuine interest he takes in his fellow students. He is always willing to take time to help other students navigate issues in the department, get critical feedback on a project, or just have a candid conversation over coffee. Each year, Walt has taken a lead role in welcoming new students into the department, whether that’s organizing social events welcoming first-year students or reaching out to grab lunch. Congratulations to Walt from the Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations.

Betsega Bekele, LOP M.Ed.'14 was recruited to PBS in DC last spring to serve as the Director of a 50 person team to develop and launch a series on the American Dream: PBS American Portrait: A national storytelling project. Despite COVID-19 and it's challenges, they succeeded. PBS American Portrait, is a national storytelling project aligned with PBS’s 50th anniversary celebration, and is the organization’s most ambitious multi-platform project in its history. PBS American Portrait began as a platform for user-generated content participation, and is envisioned to encompass publishing, short form content, classroom engagement, a web miniseries, public art installations, and live events. On January 5, 2021 the first episode of the nationally televised documentary series aired on PBS stations. Read more about the project and view the first episode here .

The 2021 RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings were released, recognizing the top 200 university-based scholars who had the biggest influence on educational practice and policy last year. The Leadership, Policy, and Organizations Department has 4 scholars on the listing, along with the Dean of Peabody College, Camilla P. Benbow and Professor Lynn Fuchs from the Dept. of Special Education also on the esteemed listing. The Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings are compiled each year by Frederick M. Hess, director of education policy for the American Enterprise Institute, and published by Education Week. The annual ranking draws on nine metrics that tabulate activities that contribute to the shaping of educational practice and policy, including social media presence, book and journal publication and citations, education press mentions, and number of times cited by members of Congress. Given that more than 20,000 university-based faculty in the U.S. are researching education, simply making it onto the Edu-Scholar list is an accomplishment in its own right. The list is comprised of university-based scholars who focus primarily on educational questions ("university-based" meaning a formal university affiliation).

The list includes the following LPO faculty members:

Matthew Shaw, Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Education, and Assistant Professor of Law in the Vanderbilt Law School, has been elected to the Board of Trustees of the Law and Society Association. LSA is the primary law and social sciences community within the legal academy.

The Fall 2020 LPO edition of the Ideas in Action newsletter is available online.

A new online Master’s in Leading Organizations program (MLO) will be housed in the Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations beginning in January 2021. Classes are tailored to apply each student’s work experience and prepare them for leadership in for-profit, nonprofit, government, educational and startup organizations.  Click here to learn more about the program.

LPO new faculty member Dr. Kelly Slay is featured in MyVu . Dr. Slay's scholarship is focused on issues related to race, access, diversity and equity in higher education. Read more here.

Dr. Xiu Cravens , Associate Professor of the Practice of Educational Policy, and Associate Dean for International Affairs, has been named a committee member on the 2020-21 University Diversity Council. Formed last year, the University Diversity Council advocates for equity, diversity and inclusion across all areas of Vanderbilt and provides strategic recommendations to Chancellor Daniel Diermeier and Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Susan R. Wente.


LPO new faculty member Dr. Felipe Barrera-Osorio, was recently featured in MyVu. Learn more about Professor Barrera-Osorio, and his recent research on education policies in lower and middle-income countries to determine their impact in furthering the development of the labor force. Read more here.

 Dr. Maya Bugg, LPO Ed.D. Graduate '18, now CEO of Tennessee Charter School Center, is featured in the Tennessean on how she battles the disparities in education she has seen firsthand since she grew up in a working-class Black neighborhood in Philadelphia.  Read more here.

  Joseph Murphy has studied the growth of homeschooling, publishing one of the first books on the subject. With the pandemic driving global interest in Homeschooling Professor Murphy has been called upon by many different news outlets for his thoughts. Read his most recent interview with The Nashville Ledger here .

Congratulations to LPO Department Chair, Carolyn J. Heinrich and LPO Doctoral Candidate Jennifer Darling-Aduana, along with colleagues Annalee Good (University of Wisconsin-Madison), and Huiping (Emily) Cheng (University of Wisconsin-Madison), on receiving one of the 2020 AERA awards for excellence in education research. The 2020 AERA Palmer O. Johnson Memorial Award is given for an outstanding article appearing in AERA Open, the American Educational Research Journal, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Educational Researcher, or the Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics. Their paper, “A Look Inside Online Educational Settings in High School: Promise and Pitfalls for Improving Educational Opportunities and Outcomes” was featured in the American Educational Research Journal, Volume 56, Issue 6, December 2019. 





Faculty and Staff

Administrative Faculty

Mark Cannon
  • Professor of the Practice, Department of Human and Organizational Development
  • Professor of the Practice and Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
Sean P. Corcoran
  • Associate Professor of Public Policy & Education, and Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
Carolyn J. Heinrich
  • LPO Dept. Chair; Patricia and Rodes Hart Professor of Public Policy and Education, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
  • Professor of Health Policy (secondary appointment), Department of Health Policy, Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Brenda McKenzie
  • Associate Dept. Chair, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
  • Associate Professor of the Practice, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
  • Program Director and Practicum Coordinator, Higher Education Administration

Administrative Staff

Karen Cunningham
  • Administrative Officer, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
Tammy Eidson
  • Administrative Specialist to the Department Chair, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
Christina L. Leath
  • Grants Manager, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
Rachel Manlove
  • Administrative Assistant, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
Rosie Moody
  • Educational Coordinator, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
See All LPO Faculty and Staff

Research and Outreach

Tennessee Education Research Alliance (TERA)

The Tennessee Education Research Alliance is a research-policy-practice partnership committed to creating an expanding body of knowledge on a set of interrelated areas of focus that directly impact Tennessee’s school improvement strategies.

Strategic Talent Management Decisions for Principals

There is growing recognition that schools need to be more strategic in how they manage their primary resource, teachers. Investment in measuring effective teaching—including value-added estimates, teacher observations, and student surveys—has increased the availability of data to make teacher talent management decisions. These decisions include decisions about teacher recruitment, hiring, induction, assignment to classrooms and subjects, evaluation, feedback and support, professional development, leadership responsibilities, and retention. Principals need targeted training and support to facilitate the use of teacher effectiveness data for such decisions.

New Jersey Families Study

Families are children’s first teachers, and the home is their first school. From birth to age 5, children develop skills that set the foundations for their later success. In this project, we ask: How do families build skills in their young children and get them ready for school? Surprisingly, we know little about the day-to-day ways that families teach their young children. To fill this gap, this project aims to film and document the everyday lives of 15-20 families from diverse backgrounds for two weeks to provide a look into how families support their children’s learning in the earliest, and most critical, years.  

The National Center on Scaling Up Effective Schools - Personalization for Academic and Social Emotional Learning (PASL)

A new online PASL Toolkit (personalization for academic and social emotional learning) comes from a multi-year partnership between Broward County Public Schools, Florida State University, and Vanderbilt University that has as its goal to make high schools places where adults, through routines and school culture, cultivate caring and trust for students. In 2010, we joined in a partnership to understand why some urban high schools performed better than other high schools in the same county. Funded through grants from the U.S. Department of Education, we call our organization the National Center on Scaling Up Effective Schools (NCSU) and sought to identify and learn from effective high schools and adapt and scale their practices to other high schools in the same district.Through intensive study of higher and lower-performing high schools in the district, we identified a construct we named Personalization for Academic and Social Emotional Learning (PASL) as the core differentiating feature between these schools.