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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

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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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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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

Brendan Bartanen, (Ph.D. Vanderbilt Peabody College, Leadership and Policy Studies) has been awarded the AERA Division L Outstanding Dissertation Award for 2020. The purpose of the AERA Division L Outstanding Dissertation Award is to recognize the exceptional research accomplishments of recent doctoral graduates. Dr. Bartanen's dissertation was titled, “Essays in Principal Improvement, Quality, and Turnover.” Dr. Bartanen is currently an Assistant Professor in Educational Administration and Human Resource Development at Texas A&M University. This award speaks volumes about the excellent development and training our PhD students in the Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations receive.

Good Morning America has honored Leadership and Learning in Organizations (LLO) Doctoral Student Sean Larry Stevens—Principal, KIPP Charter School NJ for #BlackHistoryMonth, who is making a difference for students in Newark, NJ.

Inside Higher Ed: Higher Ed Leaders as Online Ed.D. StudentsA conversation with Peabody Online Ed.D. student Gina Clark des Cognets. Peabody Online student Gina Clark des Cognets is a seasoned higher education leader focused on imagining and building powerful initiatives that lead to transformative educational outcomes at inspiring organizations. 

Edu-Scholar Rankings

The 2019 Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings , Education Week’s annual listing of the most influential public scholars in education was released today and the Leadership, Policy, and Organizations Department has 7 scholars 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. The list includes the following LPO faculty members:

  • Joseph Murphy #39
  • Ellen B. Goldring #125
  • Jason A. Grissom #131
  • Carolyn J. Heinrich #140
  • Dale Ballou #176

Faculty and Staff

Administrative Faculty

Mark Cannon
  • Associate Professor, Department of Human and Organizational Development
  • Associate Professor of Education Leadership 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
Brenda McKenzie
  • Associate Dept. Chair, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
  • Program Director and Practicum Coordinator, Higher Education Administration
  • Senior Lecturer in Higher Education Administration Student Affairs, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations

Administrative Staff

Karen Cunningham
  • Administrative Officer, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
Tammy Eidson
  • Administrative Assistant to the Department Chair, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
Christina L. Leath
  • Grants Manager, 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.