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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

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. 

Dr. Dominique Baker, '16 Ph.D. in Leadership and Policy Studies has a new article “Name and Shame”: An Effective Strategy for College Tuition Accountability? published in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, which is also being featured by AERA. Dr. Baker is an Assistant Professor of Education Policy at Southern Methodist University in the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development.

Christopher Bennett, Ph.D. candidate in the Dept. of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations is a recipient of the 2020 National Academy of Education (NAEd)/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship. The title of the main paper that Christopher described in his dissertation award application is Master’s for Hire: Experimental Evidence on Employers’ Perceptions of Master’s Degrees from For-Profit Institutions. This is one of three papers that make up his dissertation. His research examines the ways that higher education policies can influence the trajectories of individuals and institutions, with a particular emphasis on students who have been historically underrepresented in higher education. Through his work on several surveys of current and former graduate students, he developed a strong interest in graduate/professional education, which is the focus of his dissertation. Selected from a pool of 429 applicants, each of the 35 Fellows will receive $27,500 for a period of up to two years to complete their dissertations and also attend professional development retreats. Read more about the award here.

Matthew Shaw, Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Education in the Dept. of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, and Assistant Professor of Law, Vanderbilt Law School, has been awarded the annual Spotlight Award by the Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Life . The Spotlight Award recognizes community members who are unsung heroes in the Vanderbilt community, honoring the contributions of individuals who are often overlooked. Professor Shaw’s nominator shared that “Dr. Shaw is someone who lives intersectional advocacy, and that is evidenced by his passion for his students, his classes and his work.” Dr. Shaw’s nominator continued, saying that his “dedication to his students and his work is tangible in nearly every interaction that I have ever had with him.”

Jacob Goedde, 2020 M.Ed. graduate in Higher Education Administration, in the Dept. of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations has also received the annual Spotlight Award by the Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Life . Jacob's nominator highlighted that “as a co-chair of Peabody Q.ED, Jacob has done amazing work over the past year and a half of listening to student concerns, advocating for those concerns with the administration, and generally just making Peabody a more welcoming place for queer students.“ Jacob also recently received the Dave Jones Award for Excellence in Institutional Advancement. This award is presented annually to a Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations graduate who has excelled in academics and service.

Chance Meyer is one of our accomplished Ed.D. students in the Leadership and Learning in Organizations online program, and is also a death penalty lawyer in Florida. Chance wrote an article for the American Bar Association based mostly on his work in the Leadership and Learning in Organizations course, but applied to the ABA context. Read the article here.

The Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations virtually celebrated the class of 2020 on Friday, May 8. To view the LPO celebration video and faculty congratulations click here.

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 2020 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 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:


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.