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Innovative EdD in Education Policy and Leadership Program Launches at the School of Education

September 18, 2019

The School of Education has officially launched the only practice-oriented doctoral program on AU’s campus. Dr. Samantha Cohen, Executive Director of Doctoral Programs along with SOE faculty and Noodle Partners – the nation’s fastest-growing online program manager – created the innovative, online EdD in Education Policy and Leadership, uniquely designed for working professionals. Along with the core values of AU’s School of Education, the EdD coursework will focus on leadership, systemic change, social justice, anti-racism, research, policy, and personal leadership. The inaugural cohort began classes in August.

Dr. Cohen brings extensive expertise to the program. She has taught at the elementary through university levels and spear-headed strategic initiatives with states, districts, and philanthropic endeavors. These experiences provide her with a deep understanding of educational policies and education system improvement.

As a member of the first cohort in the Education Leadership Doctorate ED.L.D program at Harvard, it is especially rewarding for Dr. Cohen to be part of creating the new program from the faculty side. The program couldn’t come at a better time for the field. “The current industrial-period education system isn’t properly preparing all students,” she said. “It is time to transform education and support educational leaders in making these transitions.”

With its DC-based network, AU is well-positioned to help students learn how senior leaders can use federal and state policies, educational research, and organizational leadership to make an impact in the field. 

In this short interview, Dr. Cohen shares more about program.

What makes the EdD in Education Policy and Leadership degree unique?

Along with the core values of AU’s School of Education, the EdD in Education Policy and Leadership coursework will focus on leadership, systemic change, social justice, anti-racism, research, policy, and personal leadership. One of the things that makes the EdD program unique (besides being online-only) is the students. They are already leaders in their fields and are positioned to lead students through systemic change by creating educational journeys focused on individual needs.

While typical PhD programs focus on academic research, our new EdD focuses on the practitioner. The students can use current challenges and opportunities in their actual leadership roles to shape their study and create prototypes with real-life impacts. Along with relevant coursework, students will conduct a Problem of Practice (PoP) dissertation which is focused on the opportunities or challenges in their field that they can solve.

The PoP is especially impactful as it will bring together the AU network with our students to create solutions that can be implemented. The students’ research will contribute to the broader practitioner community that is shaping the future of education systems.

Who is the ideal candidate for an EdD in Education Policy and Leadership?

Professionals who have had significant leadership experience and want to take on the strong policy, leadership, and research skills necessary to serve in senior positions in school district central offices, independent schools, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, advocacy organizations, and more.

The EdD program is best suited to individuals who feel the core values and pillars of the program really speak to them and want to be to be part of a new, innovative program where they are helping to shape the future of education. All students and graduates should be committed to transforming, disrupting, and building education systems that serve all learners.

Tell me about the first cohort.

The first cohort of 15 students is an amazing mix of talent from the Mid-Atlantic, New England, and Alaska. Each is a leader in their locale and they cover a wide variety of roles in education – senior district roles, charter management organizations, working with incarcerated youth and adults, early childhood, system consulting, education nonprofit, principal, and university instruction.

I am thrilled to see this first cohort in action. The deep enthusiasm and energy they are bringing to their class discussions will push each other and the instructors. The relationships they are forming with one another and AU to carry into their own organizations and communities is a key benefit to this type of program. Waking up every day to go to a job full of inspiration and building a program that will have connections with other programs across the university is a gift.

This is a three-year program, so the inaugural cohort will be graduating in the spring of 2022. We are currently accepting applications for our second cohort that will begin in the spring of 2020.

Interested in learning more about our online EdD program? Check out