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Independent School Leadership (M.Ed.)

The Department of Leadership, Policy and Organizations, in collaboration with world-class specialists from across Vanderbilt University and renown expert practitioners within the independent school community, is offering an innovative Independent School Leadership M.Ed. program that will mirror professional education at its best. The program will draw upon decades of leadership development research and practice.

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. Expert independent school practitioners will complement instruction throughout the program and an advisory board of outstanding independent school leaders will assist faculty in approving, evaluating and providing feedback on action research / fieldwork products.

Students will explore and master the multiple domains of expertise needed to effectively lead a school community in an experiential program of study and practice that is purposefully designed for the realities of independent school leadership. A 20-member cohort, comprised of current and aspiring independent school leaders, maintain their current employment while pursuing this degree and will interact with world-class faculty and expert practitioners to build knowledge and sharpen competencies that are essential to effective independent school leadership.

The 30-credit hour master’s degree program will include two intensive six-week summer sessions focused on coursework, and one academic year emphasizing school-based action research. During the fall and spring semesters, program leaders, participants and work groups will remain engaged using our online platform to participate in synchronous and archived meetings, discussion forums and work product updates.

Intensive coursework completed on the Vanderbilt campus over two consecutive summers is combined with school-based research and practice during the intervening academic year. During the school year, participants will build their proficiency by completing exercises aligned with the modules of content delivered during the summer sessions. In this way, program participants will not only receive feedback on their thinking and writing, but on their practice – work done and work projects completed on their school site.

Curricular Overview

The curriculum for the Independent School Leadership Master’s program is unique in that it will not be comprised of traditional 3 credit hour courses. Instead, 0.5, 1 and 2 credit hour modules of content will be delivered in order to address the breadth of topics essential for understanding the range of issues involved in leading an independent school. Content representative of what we will deliver throughout the program is provided below.

Representative Module Content for Summer Year 1

  • Leadership in Independent Schools
  • Governance, Boards and Organizational Dynamics
  • School Finance, Institutional Advancement and Fundraising
  • Enrollment Management, Admissions and Financial Aid
  • Marketing, Public Relations and Constituent Development
  • The Instructional Program: Curricular Design & Evaluation
  • Teachers and Teaching in Independent Schools
  • Leading with Data: Decision Analyses
  • Introduction to Action Research / Field Work

Module Content for Fall and Spring Year 1

  • Action Research / Fieldwork

Representative Module Content for Summer Year 2

  • Action Research Project Presentations
  • American Educational History and Philosophy
  • International Issues in Education
  • K-12 School Law
  • The Intersection of K-12 and Higher Education
  • Group Dynamics and Learning Organizations
  • Strategic Planning and School Accreditation
  • Communication, Negotiation and Conflict Resolution
  • The Extra-Curricular Program: Athletics, Arts and Travel
  • Cultural, Religious, Gender and Orientation Issues
  • Cognitive Science, Diverse Learners & Learning Environments
  • Technology and Innovation in Independent Schools
  • Comprehensive Human Capital Development

Important Dates and Logistics

The dates established for Summer 2018 are June 18 to August 3, allowing time off for the July 4th holiday. These exact days are TBD.

To support the development of a learning community, lodging and meal options will be available at Vanderbilt’s state-of-the-art campus facilities.

Applications for Summer 2018 are accepted on a rolling basis, but for priority consideration, applications should be submitted by January 15, 2018.

For more information or questions about this unique program, please contact admissions coordinator Rosie Moody at or (615) 322-8019 .

Background Clearance Checks are required of ISL students.

International Students: The structure of this program makes it impossible for international students to obtain a U.S. student visa. Because of this, we are unable to accept applications from international students.