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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 12th straight year. The Education Policy Program is now ranked 2nd, 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

Joanne Golann article “ 10 Ways to Promote Your First Academic Book ” was featured in the Inside the Higher Ed newsletter.

Will Doyle was featured in the The Key with Inside Higher Ed podcast “ How Federal and State Policies Judge Colleges' ‘Value’ ” The discussion was how state and federal policy is valued and what is driving this concept along with unintended consequences that the overdependence on economic outcomes can lead to.

  Adela Soliz was quoted in the Wall Street Journal’s article “ MasterClass’s Co-Founder Takes on the Community-College Degree ” about how’s model is distinctive because it mixes the prestige of highly ranked universities with the access of a community college.

Barbara Bell, was quoted in the Forbes article “ Corporate Succession Lessons From The Death Of Queen Elizabeth II , that CEO can learn lessons of succession King Charles, III ascension to the Throne. She stated that he has been planning and replanning his entire life for this and CEO of any company need to be constantly be participating in their own succession of their company.

Felipe Barrera-Osorio received a $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study the Public-Private Partnerships in Education: Experimental Evidence from Colombia.

Jason Grissom ’s article ‘Understanding Tennessee's teacher diversity problem was featured in Axios.

Joanne Golann was awarded the Chancellor’s Award for Research on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion which recognizes excellence in research, scholarship or creative expression that specifically advances understanding of equity, diversity and inclusion.

Professor Golann was honored for her book Scripting the Moves: Culture and Control in a ‘No-Excuses’ Charter School, published in 2021. 

Chezare Warren is Delivering a University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign College of Education Dean’s Distinguished Lecture

Brent Evans was quoted in Higher ED Dive ‘s article “ Will Biden’s debt cancellation jump-start talks to rewrite federal student aid policy? about the toxic outcome he fears Biden’s student loan decision could lead to.  

Brent Evans was interviewed by WSMV Reporter Danielle Jackson about “ Which people get student loan forgiveness? which was based on President Biden's announcement on student loan forgiveness.

Brent Evans was interviewed by WKRN Reporter Andy Mintzer about “ TN teacher fears son taking on student debt while still paying off her own about how many Tennessean’s would benefit from the policy but states the Biden Administration is taking on an inflationary risk.  

Jason Grissom and Kelly Slay have received a funding from the Institute for Education Science and the US Department of Education for their exploration research “ Pathways Into Teaching: A Mixed-Methods Investigation of High Leverage Opportunities to Increase the Representation of Teachers of Color in Tennessee Schools  

Cynthia Osborne was quoted in the CNN article “ A recipe for a lot of suffering': How abortion bans may strain the red states about the additional healthcare and struggles for preterm and low birth weight babies and their families.  

Cynthia Osborne’s Prenatal –to –3 Policy has received $3 million grant from 2020-2023 from Ballmer Group to support the work to help children and families have opportunity and better economic mobility in the US.

Carolyn Heinrich was quoted in the Government Technology article “ Study: Is Online Credit Recovery an Effective Way to Learn? about using online credit recovery programs to help students recover from learning loss due to remote learning during COVID-19.

Richard Welsh research article “ School Discipline in the Age of COVID-19: Exploring Patterns, Policy, and Practice Considerations ” was published in Peabody Journal of Education.

Hidahis Mesa was selected as one of the recipients of the 2022 Sidney P. Colowick Graduate Student Scholarship Award.

Sean Corcoran was quoted in Chalkbeat New York article "NYC’s specialized high schools continue to admit few Black, Latino students, 2022 data shows" about how high school test-taking compares to the high school applications in the New York City school system.

Will Doyle  was quoted in the Forbes article "States Contributing More For Public Colleges—But Will It Last?" about how states have increased the money spent per student in higher education during the 2021 fiscal year.

Felipe Barrera-Osorio reasearch article "Delivering Education to the Underserved through a Public-Private Partnership Program in Pakistan" was recently featured in The Review of Economics and Statistics. It highlights the pressing policy isssues in global education. 

Carolyn J. Heinrich , Chair of the Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, University Distinguished Professor of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations and University Distinguished Professor of Political Science in the College of Arts and Science nt research brief "Design Principles for Effective Online Credit Recovery" was released by The Annenberg Institute at Brown University and Results for America

Carolyn J. Heinrich , Chair of the Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, University Distinguished Professor of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations and University Distinguished Professor of Political Science in the College of Arts and Science was recently featured in the Education Week article "5 Ways to Make Online Credit Recovery Work Better for Struggling Students".

The Department of Leadership, Policy and Organizations is excited to announce six new faculty recruited to Peabody College during the 2021-22 academic year.

Cynthia Osborne joined January 2022

Tom Smith  joining the faculty in July 2022

Richard Welsh  joining the faculty in August 2022

Jennifer Russell joining the faculty in August 2022

Mark Chin joining the faculty in August 2022

Daphne Penn joining the faculty in August 2023

Cynthia Osborne , Executive Director of the Prenatal to 3 Policy Impact Center, received a $3 million renewal grant from the Pritzker Children’s Initiative to continue the work of the Impact Center, a $400,000 grant from the Kellogg Foundation, and $180,000 from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to pursue the center’s equity initiative. These new center resources add to $4.42 million from 9 other funders that have supported the center’s transition to Vanderbilt University.

Joanne Golann ’s book, Scripting the Moves: Culture and Control in a “No-Excuses” Charter School (Princeton University Press, 2021) has received three prominent awards:

The 2022 Independent Publisher Book Award (Gold) in Education - Commentary/Theory

The Society of Professors of Education 2022 Outstanding Book Award 

2022 Pierre Bourdieu Award for Best Book, Sociology of Education section, American Sociological Association - Co Winner

Chris Candelaria recently did a Q&A: How Nashville's growth and the pandemic are impacting schools with Carol Smith, Research Director at Nashville Businees Journal. 

Chris Candelaria recently received the 2022 Seeding Success Award for his research on school finance reforms.

Chris Candelaria's research analyzing the relationship between school finance reforms and student outcomes is cited in a New York Times article to help understand why the U.S. saw dramatic progress in educational achievement and equity in the 1990s and early 2000s. Chris has new research forthcoming with recent doctoral graduate Shelby McNeill which examines the diverse ways in which states are reforming their education finance policies. 

Carrie Grimes was recently asked by the Center for Teaching (CFT) to participate in their storytelling series about Peabody partnerships. She went to the CFT on the first day of her appointment as ISL program director back in November 2021. You can check out the interview with her CFT partner, Dr. Julaine Fowlin here.

Chezare Warren has been appointed Faculty Head of Household of the Sutherland House for the 2022-23 academic year.

Chezare A. Warren has been awarded a William T. Grant Scholar award for his work with the Institute in Critical Quantitative, Computational & Mixed-Methodologies. He was also a recent Alumni Honoree for “28 Days of Black Excellence” at the University of Illinois-Chicago. 

Kelly Slay and Chezare Warren were honored by The Organization of Black Graduate and Professional Students at Vanderbilt with Distinguished Faculty Awards.

Brenda McKenzie received Kent State University’s Higher Education Administration and Student Affairs program alumni award for 2021-22.

Carolyn Heinrich , Chair of the Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, has been appointed University Distinguished Professor of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations. She also has been appointed University Distinguished Professor of Political Science in the College of Arts and Science.

The title of University Distinguished Professor is a rare honor at Vanderbilt, accorded to a very few. Holders are required to have primary appointments in two of Vanderbilt’s schools or colleges. As stated in the Vanderbilt Faculty Manual: University Distinguished Professors will be selected for their record of extraordinary accomplishment in research and teaching and their promise for continued contributions. They will be persons of demonstrated intellectual leadership whose broad vision and scholarly interests are likely to bring together diverse segments of the University in both research and teaching. University Distinguished Professors are therefore expected to work with and tangibly influence the faculty and students of the broader University community rather than primarily those of one school. Congratulations to Dr. Heinrich on this well deserved honor.

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 Shelby McNeill . Some selected comments submitted about Shelby’s contributions to our department include:

  • Shelby has been continually supportive and generous with her time and resources throughout my entire time in the program. She is always the first to check in on other cohorts, offer a helping hand, or listen to our challenges and offer advice…She is a kind, open-minded, and supportive colleague and I'm grateful to have met her.
  • Shelby is someone who climbs a hill and turns around to offer a hand to the person behind her. She is proactive about sharing resources (study materials, advice, historic knowledge of the department, etc.) and has organized many opportunities for LPO doctoral students to convene, both academically and socially. 

Congratulations to Shelby from the Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations.

The 2022 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:


Faculty and Staff

Administrative Faculty

William Doyle
  • Chair, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
Marisa Cannata
  • Associate Professor of the Practice, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
  • Program Director of the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) program.
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

Administrative Staff

Angela Stokley
  • Administrative Officer, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
Rosie Moody
  • Educational Coordinator, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
Amber Green
  • Administrative Specialist to the Department Chair, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
Stacy Williams
  • Administrative Assistant II, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations

See All LPO Faculty and Staff

Research and Outreach

Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center

The first three years of life have a powerful impact on the future of every person.  The Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center, an academic center housed at Vanderbilt University, helps state leaders take the actions needed for babies and their families to thrive. Our work is grounded in the most rigorous research and is entirely non-partisan. Our mission is to conduct the scientific evaluation needed to better understand which state investments work, for whom, and under what conditions.  

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 21 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.