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American University’s School of Education produces graduates with the skills and knowledge to create equitable and excellent learning environments. AU faculty members, including researchers and distinguished scholars, produce cutting-edge research, lead innovative partnerships and outreach, develop relevant and evidence-based coursework, and effect positive change in the most vulnerable communities, both nationally and globally. The Doctorate in Education Policy & Leadership (EdD) program is an online, part-time program for education practitioners who seek to disrupt and transform PK-12 education spaces towards greater equity and inclusivity.

Required Credits

Required Credits

40 credits beyond an approved masters degree

Estimated Time to Completion

Estimated Time to Completion

Less than three years

Practitioner-focused Research

Practitioner-focused Research

Resulting in a Dissertation of Practice

Three On-Campus Residencies

Three On-Campus Residencies

In Terms: 1, 4, and 6

Program Goal

Graduates of the EdD program will be equipped with the skills every education leader needs to be effective, including strategic budgeting, collaborative inquiry, talent management, partnership building, learning science, and program evaluation. We strive to hone students’ knowledge and develop their skills and beliefs in the following four domains:



Social Justice
and Anti-Racism

Policy and

These domains serve as the backbone of our program and live out in each course, module, and residency experience that our students engage in. After completing their coursework and their Problem of Practice dissertation, students will have the 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 Cohort Experience

Peer learning and a sustained learning network are essential hallmarks of the EdD program. As a result, students will progress through the program as part of a cohort, taking the same courses and accomplishing program milestones together. We intentionally build a diverse cohort of students to contribute to the dynamic learning environment in the program. Learning will occur through robust dialogue, shared learning experiences, and presenting of current professional work and doctoral research.

The Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate (CPED) Consortium Member 2019

The EdD program at American University is proudly part of the The Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate (CPED). The vision of the CPED is to inspire all schools of education to apply the CPED framework to the preparation of educational leaders to become well-equipped scholarly practitioners who provide stewardship of the profession and meet the educational challenges of the 21st century.

2020 Deadlines

Rolling Admissions for Fall 2020

Online EdD applications are reviewed on a rolling basis until cohort has been filled. Early submission by the priority deadline is encouraged to ensure consideration for the upcoming start date.

Application Deadline Group 1
March 1, 2020
Application Deadline Group 2
May 10, 2020
Application Deadline Group 3
June 14, 2020
Classes Start
August 24, 2020
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Information Webinar Sessions

Join our admissions team for a chance to learn more about our EdD in Education Policy and Leadership program. Ask any questions you might have around the application process or program requirements, meet a faculty member from the program and more.

Register For The Next Event


Course Schedule

To complete the online Doctorate in Education program, students must earn 40 credits beyond an approved masters degree, which includes three (3) required D.C. residencies, encapsulated in the EDU-798 course.


In order to be effective educators, practitioners, and administrators who are committed to fostering equitable, inclusive, and antiracist educational environments, it is important to be engaged in discussions on these topics on a regular basis. Having a clear understanding of equity, inclusion, and antiracism in the context of education as well as its limitations is only a starting point for engaging in more deeply involved issues related to achieving social justice and equity for all who participate in education. This course serves as a venue through which students act as both learners and teachers, requiring them to think deeply about their own positionality, understand the unique processes by which students develop across multiple social identity dimensions, and recognize the challenges and opportunities educational organizations face when enacting commitments to equity, inclusion, and antiracism. Usually Offered: fall, spring, and summer. Grading: A-F only. Prerequisite: EDU-702.

This course is about everyday problem solving that includes thinking through a system before making an informed decision. By identifying and being able to frame a problem and addressing a root cause, students apply strategies to reevaluate current systemic barriers and create a new and practical way to address a possible solution.

While the EdD program is designed to be completed online, students are required to attend three (3) residencies at American University. Taking place over one weekend in Terms 1, 4, and 6, the residencies allow students to broaden their connections with faculty and advising staff, familiarize themselves with the various academic and professional resources American University offers, and deepen the relationships they have forged within their cohort through face-to-face interactions with one another. Students will also participate in workshops, dialogues, and in-person class sessions that will contribute to the development of their dissertations of practice and assist in the practical application of the knowledge gained through their studies.


Leading in today’s educational context necessitates practitioners embrace and deploy the highest versions of their whole self while engaging in the practice of leadership. Exercising this type of leadership requires a deeper consciousness of self and the roles our identity, emotions, and adult development play during the leadership process. This course uses blogs, reflective papers, self-assessments, journals, and executive coaching to serve as the “mirror” for diagnosing students’ leadership defaults, strengths, and blindspots. Supplementing the mirror, this course utilizes diverse research, texts, and ways of knowing to provide students with a robust toolkit of self-reflective frameworks, practices, and inclusive tools that shifts mindsets, behaviors, and practices (internal and external) on behalf of creating a more just education system for all.

This course offers students the opportunity to analyze historical and present-day education policies from intent to implementation. Students learn how policy at the federal, state, and local levels influences and impacts American PK-12 education and the issues and challenges that educators face as a result of these policies. Several policy authors will offer insight into their own experiences through guest speaker sessions. Agenda setting, problem definition and policy design, and policy implementation are central themes of this course. To this end, assignments in the course serve to help students build analytic and communication skills as public policy professionals.


This course continues to develop common themes throughout all coursework to help students identify their Problem of Practice (PoP) and potential causes and solutions. Grounded in research, students will compose a Problem of Practice paper that forms the foundation of the work that they will conduct in the following courses. Students will identify potential sources of data that will inform the PoP.

This course explores the fundamentals of building a team culture and learning culture within an organization. Students explore the alignment and synergy between learning and efficacy; diagnose and assess the culture within organizations; create plans for deepening a culture of learning and growth within an organization, and explore the connections between growth culture and equity.


This course falls as the mid-point course in a three semester continuum, where doctoral learners build their skills as scholarly practitioners with an anti-racist lens. Learners enter the course having identified a problem of practice for their scholarly research. Within EDU 710, learners will build their toolkit of practitioner research methods and approaches to support their general knowledge and to consider how to apply their knowledge toward their problem of practice. Within the course, learners will explore improvement science, participatory action research, ethnography, developmental, qualitative, and quantitative methods. During the course, students will learn about the methodological approaches and apply them in small scale ways toward their problems of practice.

This course surveys what education leaders need to know about learning sciences and provides an overview of approaches to administration, analysis, and interpretation of student-level, classroom-level, school-level, and system-level learning outcomes, attending specifically to issues of equity and educational opportunity. Students develop skills in implementation science as applied to problems of practice. Grading: A-F only. Note: For Education Policy and Leadership (EdD) students who have completed candidacy requirements.

In this course students explore speechwriting, public speaking in victory and crisis, communicating from values, and working with social media and the news media. Students learn how to make every communication a dialogue, how to advance their goals and those of listeners, how speaking from the best of yourself gives confidence, and how to distill a message into one memorable sentence that captures listeners’ attention, moves your ideas forward, focuses the problem, and helps achieve your goals. Usually Offered: fall, spring, and summer. Grading: A-F only.

School of Education system leaders present their problem of practice to students to demonstrate the variety of disciplinary and methodological approaches to educational inquiry. The course also reviews research and statistical methodologies.


This course is the third in a series following EDU 703 and EDU 710. This course will begin with a bit more tool sharpening with participatory action research, qualitative methods, and developmental methods with an anti-racist lens. Learners will explore a potential matrix of methods that they may employ for their own scholarly research. Learners will work with their doctoral committees and their peer support networks to solidify a scholarly practitioner approach to apply to their problem of practice. Students will gain practice in developing and piloting survey instruments as well as interview and observation protocols focused on the practices and experiences of education stakeholders. Students will also become familiar with strategies for drawing response samples. Finally, students will learn systematic approaches to, and tools for, qualitative data coding and analysis.

This course provides a structured environment for students to explore partnerships between educational institutions and community organizations, families, government agencies, businesses, and non-profit organizations. Existing structural and institutional barriers make collaborative partnerships between schools/education settings and community groups difficult to attain, particularly when leaders lack the skills and competencies to bridge the gap. The course incorporates literature, case studies, and problem-based learning exercises and encourages students to consider assumptions of community stakeholders, to clarify and challenge their own assumptions, and to explore the opportunities and risks associated with cross-sector collaboration and partnerships.


Electives (3 credits)

The budget for any organization offers a glimpse into what efforts will be prioritized over a given period of time. The pursuit of excellence through equity in school systems may meet barriers in the budgeting process, as leaders allocate resources to best achieve district or system goals. Therefore, it is crucial that system leaders be able to strategically budget a district’s resources (time, money, and people). This course focuses on the tools, research, and best practices to help leaders be good stewards over an organization’s resources and deploy those resources to protect and maintain focus on district/system goals.

School of Education system leaders present their problem of practice to students to demonstrate the variety of disciplinary and methodological approaches to educational inquiry. The course also reviews research and statistical methodologies.


This course facilitates preparation of the doctoral dissertation proposal and achievement of candidacy and includes strategies for preparation of a project brief to present the Dissertation in Practice to the dissertation committee and other stakeholders. Students workshop components of their dissertation with other students and meet individually with their dissertation chair.

Technology Fee


May be taken by doctoral students who are advanced to candidacy with the approval of the faculty supervising the dissertation (or designee). It is a 9 credit course, but tuition is assessed at the 1 credit rate. The course is graded SP/UP and students will be deemed full-time. The Office of the Registrar must be notified when a student has advanced to candidacy.

Technology Fee

Student Stories

Brian Reilly
“I was drawn to the program at AU because of the location, the emphasis on policy and leadership, and the entire application process from the first information sessions to the individual and group interviews. I like how we meet as a cohort for virtual face-to-face sessions in addition to the asynchronous content we work on.”

Brian Reilly

Special education administrator from Massachusetts
Desmond Rudd
“After two school years as a partner teacher and student teacher at Mann, I was hired last spring (2014) to be the school’s full-time science teacher. I have my own classroom and teach grades K-4 across the week.”

Desmond Rudd

Music Teacher from Washington, DC
Marisa Mendonsa
“I began to feel that my current skill-set and experiences had leveled out and that I wanted to do more and dream bigger but I did not have the resources/tools to do this. There is a significant access gap in rural communities and we are often left out of the national conversation. Pursuing this degree allows me the opportunity to gain a new skill set, new ideas, and new connections that I can bring back to my school. This degree will benefit not only me, but the 9 rural towns over 250 square miles who send their students to my school. Additionally, as I plan for my future, I envision pursuing a Superintendency and/or working for a national education organization, and the policy work I will do through this program will support my pursuit of these goals.”

Marisa Mendonsa

Principal of grades 7-12 school from Massachusetts
Shayna Cook
“I chose American University’s doctorate in education policy and leadership program because I want to apply my understanding of how to influence and change systems to produce research that highlights the steps for enacting policy changes that produce equitable outcomes for young children and the educators within this system. I want to continue to foster my skills in policy and research to be able to evaluate progress toward systems change.”

Shayna Cook

Senior manager at education policy firm from Washington, DC


Cecily Darden Adams

Cecily Darden Adams

Cecily currently leads evaluation, learning and knowledge management with Flamboyan Foundation, where the evidence she gathers and produces will support the identification and dissemination of effective family engagement strategies and innovations in DC and beyond. She is drawn to this work because she grew up in a family of educators, has worked toward the improvement of equitable educational opportunities her entire professional career, and embraces the potential for effective education to impact and inspire each generation of children and youth.

Prior to Flamboyan, Cecily served the students of Prince George’s County Public Schools, MD (PGCPS) as the Executive Data Strategy Coordinator in the Division of Human Resources, where she led the human capital strategic initiatives for the school district and focused on the measurement of district initiatives with the PGCPS Department of Research and Evaluation. Cecily’s prior work experience includes research with the University of Maryland, College Park, U.S. Census Bureau, and the American Institute for Research. Cecily’s community service work is focused on the children of Montgomery County, MD, where she is raising two awesome sons who are growing into young men that will change the world.

Samantha Cohen

Samantha Cohen

Samantha leads the School of Education’s doctoral studies, and she is responsible for launching the inaugural, practitioner based program in education leadership and policy. Samantha teaches courses in the doctoral program and in the masters in education policy and leadership. She started her career as a first grade teacher in Atlanta, working with students and families to build partnerships and future pathways. Samantha believes education ought to unlock potential, rather than serve as a gatekeeper. In addition to teaching, Samantha has held various leadership positions. She’s worked as an instructional coach, district administrator, charter staff member, foundation leader, and served in adjunct roles in higher education at Georgetown University and Johns Hopkins University School of Education. The unifying elements across her career are teaching, building generational leadership, learning, and deepening her awareness of equity. Samantha is the proud mom of her son, Julian. The challenge of being the mom of a toddler and being a new mom in general, is teaching Samantha to continually remain in learning mode.

Annice Fisher

Annice Fisher

Dr. Annice E. Fisher does not tie herself to a particular sector. She sees herself as a Mindset & DEI coach for folks ready to learn tools to use their choice and power to “walk in the highest version of self” (trust and love). As the CEO & Founder of The BEE FREE Woman and Developing Capacity Coaching, LLC, she coaches individuals and teams to use conscious leadership as a tool for inner healing and advancing equity. Prior to entrepreneurship, Annice began her career in higher education administration, working across the US in a variety of areas including academic and student affairs, leadership development, retention, and developing system-level K-12 educators. As an adjunct professor at American University, she coordinates the executive coaching program for the Education Policy and Leadership doctoral program and teaches Exercising Conscious Leadership. With more than 15 years of experience leading individuals, teams, and organizations through the change process, Annice often serves as a writer, speaker, and panelist on topics related to leadership, social justice, mindset, and entrepreneurship. She is wrapping up her first book, The Power Within Me.

Brian McGowan

Brian McGowan

Dr. Brian L. McGowan is an Associate Professor of Education and Associate Director of the Center for Teaching, Research, and Learning at American University. Dr. McGowan earned his Ph.D. in higher education administration from Indiana University with a minor in Sociology. His research seeks to illuminate how minoritized populations experience higher education. More specifically, his research explores Black men’s achievement, identity development, interpersonal relationships, and inclusive teaching and learning practices in postsecondary educational settings. Dr. McGowan’s scholarship and professional practice have been praised through awards and honors including the Tracy L. Davis Outstanding Emerging Research Award from ACPA’s Coalition on Men and Masculinities, UNCG’s School of Education Distinguished Research Scholar Award, the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators Melvene D. Hardee Dissertation Award, and the Emerging Professional Award from The Ohio State University Higher Education and Student Affairs Program. He co-edited Men and masculinities: Theoretical foundations and promising practices for supporting college men’s development (Stylus, 2019) and Black men in the academy: Narratives of resiliency, achievement, and success (Palgrave MacMillan, 2016).

In 2017, Dr. McGowan co-edited a special issue of the Journal of College and University Student Housing dedicated to social justice. Dr. McGowan has delivered over 50 presentations and invited talks at professional conferences and postsecondary institutions across the country on issues related to equity, inclusion, diversity and social justice. Dr. McGowan is active in several professional associations, including the Association for the Study of Higher Education, the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, and the ACPA-College Student Educators International. He most recently served on the editorial board of the Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice. Prior to joining American University, he was a tenure track professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Indiana State University. He also served as a project associate for the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research primarily working with the National Survey of Student Engagement. Dr. McGowan has also held several positions within student affairs administration including housing and residence life, new student orientation, and career services.

Given his expertise in retention and persistence of college men of color, Dr. McGowan was invited to be part of three conversations with 150 educational researchers, evaluators, and community advocates through Research, Integration, Strategies, and Evaluation (RISE) for Boys and Men of Color, a $10 million-dollar national field advancement initiative in 2016 and 2017.

David Rease

David Rease

David Rease, Jr. began his career in education as a high school social studies teacher in Durham, North Carolina. From there, he began working for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction as an instructional facilitator Turnaround High Schools throughout the state. Rease the began a role as a systemic improvement consultant at McREL International based in Denver. As a member of the Systems Improvement Team, Rease managed on-going relationships with state, district, and school teams, supporting them using McREL’s improvement methods. After encountering tough political environments in public school systems, Rease had the opportunity to learn about the Adaptive Leadership Framework at the Harvard Kennedy School during fall 2013. Next, Rease became the Executive Director for the Prince George’s County, Md. Office of Continuous Systemic Improvement in July 2014. Here, he as been a part of the team that has brought a specific type of coherence to how PGCPS understands and approaches improvement, leveraging the Data Wise Improvement Process at the system’s improvement process for schools and central office departments. Rease holds a BA from Columbia University, MAT from Duke University, and EdLD from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Kelvin Roldan

Kelvin Roldan

Dr. Kelvin Roldán is Deputy Commissioner for System Transformation, Rhode Island Department of Education. In that role, he oversees the Division of System Transformation, which includes the Office of School Improvement and the newly established Office of School System Planning and Improvement. An innovative leader with extensive experience managing change in education and government, Dr. Roldán is a former State Representative for Connecticut’s 4th Assembly District and Deputy Majority Leader of the House of Representatives. During his professional career, he has served as an advisor to two mayors and three superintendents in his home state of Connecticut. He holds a B.A. (Chinese and Political Science) from Middlebury College, an M.A. (Public Policy) from Trinity College, a Sixth-Year Diploma (Educational Leadership - Urban Concentration) from the University of Connecticut, and an Ed.L.D. (Doctor of Education Leadership) from Harvard University.
He studied advanced Chinese at the Middlebury Chinese School and the Harbin Institute of Technology in China. He was born in Puerto Rico and raised in Hartford, CT.

Jason Snyder

Jason Snyder

Jason Snyder’s teaching and research focuses on education law and education policy. He developed and served as Director of AU’s Education Policy and Leadership (EPL) program from 2014-2018. Prior to joining American University’s faculty, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. He initially joined the Department of Education through the White House Fellows program, a nonpartisan program for public service and leadership.

Snyder previously served as an education-law attorney and social studies teacher. He practiced education and appellate law at Hogan & Hartson LLP, where he advised school districts and drafted briefs in appellate courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court. Before joining the firm, Snyder served as a law clerk to the Honorable Richard Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. He also taught government, history, and economics for six years in public secondary schools and for one year at the China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing.

Snyder served as an Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center, where he taught Education Law and Policy. He also served as student body co-president at Stanford University and Editor-in-Chief of the California Law Review at U.C. Berkeley School of Law.