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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


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

Ellen Goldring , Patricia and Rodes Hart Chair and professor of educational leadership and policy, gave a keynote address at the International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement , held between January 10 and 13 in Viña del Mar, Chile. Her presentation, “Performance Feedback: A Missing Link in School Improvement,” addressed the need for school principals to receive feedback from teachers and supervisors to become more effective leaders and improve schools. Feedback alone is not enough to improve principals’ leadership, Goldring advised; it should be coupled with a system of professional learning support, such as coaching, for principals to make sense of the feedback they receive. The support system should include clear and consistent communication, discussions of feedback and action plans, and mechanisms to recognize and reward feedback use.   

Peabody College faculty members Xiu Cravens and Marisa Cannata , professor and associate professor of the practice of leadership, policy, and organizations, respectively, also attended the ICSEI. Cravens presented “Sustaining Collaborative Inquiry Cycles for Instructional Improvement in U.S. Public Schools,” and Cannata presented “The Role of Improvement Research in Supporting Systems Learning in Challenging Contexts.”  

Liliane Nienstedt was named to the APPAM Policy Council ‘s Student Activities Committee.   

Rich Milner book Start Where You Are, But Don’t Stay There was cited in the EdSurge article “To Serve All of Our Students, 'We Have to Do Something Different’.

Cythina Osborne was quoted in the Desert News article “ What family experts hope Congress will consider in ‘23 " about the hope that state and federal lawmakers prioritize making paid family and medical leave available to all families.

Carolyn Heinrich co-authored The Conversation’s article “ College students who work more hours are less likely to graduate ”.

Mark Chin was quoted in the Chalkbeat article “ Bill would curb ‘implicit bias’ training in Tennessee schools, universities ” about how based on this research paper “ Bias in the Air: A Nationwide Exploration of Teachers’ Implicit Racial Attitudes, Aggregate Bias, and Student Outcomes ” suggests that there is a need to address bias in the classroom.   

Chris Candelaria ’s working paper “ Teacher Shortages: A Unifying Framework for Understanding and Predicting Vacancies was featured in the Education Weeks’s article “ All Teaching Shortages Are Not Equal: 4 Takeaways From New Research " .  

Clarie Smrekar was featured in the Nashville Business Journal’s article, “ Stakeholders weigh in on Tennessee Education Savings Account program ” about the pros and cons along with Tennessee's rollout of the school voucher program.   

Shaun Dougherty was quote in the Scary Mommy’s article, “ I Realize I Need to Back Off the College Talk with my Kids ” about how parents need to alter their perspectives on their childern being college educated verse working towards a skilled trade.   

Cynthia Osborne was featured in the Vox article “ 5 experts share how to make day care less germy ” about well-being of child care providers makes the children they care for stay healthier.   

Will Doyle was quoted in The Hechinger Report article “ A s enrollment falls and public skepticism grows, some colleges are cutting their price about colleges and universities have the demand to raise tuition knowing that people will pay but now know with people are forgoing college because cost and demanded to make it more affordable. 

Richard Welsh was quoted in the Education Week article “ Here’s How the Pandemic Changed School Discipline how school systems had a decline in discipline incidents over the 2021-22 school year but those number would rebound if schools turning to restorative justice or other non-punitive practice.  

Rich Milner was quoted in the Education Week article “ Schools Trying to Prioritize Equity Have Their Work Cut Out for Them, Survey Shows” , about how the equity efforts have shifted. Prior to 2020 the conversations were about mental health and psychological wellness for students and educators. Then in 2020, equity efforts shifted to social injustice and   school districts, superintendents, policymakers, organizations, even families were open to thinking about the ways in which structural inequity manifest it way into policies and practices.  

Cynthia Osborne was quote in the Desert News article “ What do babies need before age 3 to thrive — and how can state family policy help? ” about how the families with young children may struggle with social, financial and health need during the fragile economic state and the impact of COVID –19.

Cynthia Osborne was quote in the The Hechinger Report article “ With little federal support for families, states are stepping up ” about how the first three years of life are a sensitive and rapid period of development that lays the foundation for all health and well-being and poor experiences can also impact health later on, educational outcomes. Policies aimed at supporting infants, toddler and families are critical this stage.

Marisa Cannata was featured in the Fortune article “ How much do people with an Ed.D. degree make? about how an Ed.D. degree and Ph.D. degree are different and the differences between an Ed.D. and Ph.D. career paths. 

Hidahis Mesa was one of Five Vanderbilt graduate students recently participated in the SEC Networking and Career Fair hosted by the University of Missouri, part of the SEC Emerging Scholars Program for doctoral and postdoctoral scholars.

Jason Grissom and Chris Candelaria were both quoted in The Tennessean article “ Average teacher pay in Tennessee: How does your district stack up? About how Tennessee is only allocating money rather than making an investment or spending plan on teachers' pay.

Roslyn Clark Artis, a graduate of Vanderbilt University’s EdD program and President of Benedict College, was quoted in the New York Times article “ The Pandemic Generation Goes to College. It Has Not Been Easy about how enrollment, which was typically about 700 students was down by half in 2020 before rebounding but last fall significantly decreased to 378 students. She stated that ACT scores were also lower and that there was an increase in remediation in math.  

Chris Loss was quote in The Chronicle of Higher Education’s article “ A Playbook for Knocking Down Higher Ed ” about how Americans have lost faith in government, media, organized religion but trusted the importance on higher education. 

Hannah Mason’s article “ The Nation Needs More Bilingual, Dual Language Teachers ” was published on The Century Foundations’ features policy recommendations to better support bilingual, dual language teachers and instruction.  

Andy Zhang (1 st -year PhD and IEPM 2022) has been awarded a prestigious and highly competitive membership by the Peking University Education Finance and Policy Outstanding Young Scholars & Practitioners Support Program.  Here is the English version of the award description. 

Three students from LPO were selected as recipients of the APPAM equity and inclusion student fellowship.  Hannah Mason, Dillon McGill, and Shirley Xu will receive the fellowship, which provides funding for attending and presenting at the APPAM annual conference.   

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.


Faculty and Staff

Administrative Faculty

William Doyle
  • Chair, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
Marisa Cannata
  • Associate Dept. Chair, Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations
  • 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.