Graduate School of Education

At the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, we are here for change. We’re here because we believe in the power of education to build communities, bridge barriers, improve lives, and heal society. Here, we convene an ambitious and diverse community of leaders and pioneers, connecting them to one another and to a world that will benefit from their work. We equip them with immersive, real-world-based learning and research opportunities that bring them results. And we mobilize them to fulfill the promise of education in the classrooms, boardrooms, governments, and learning settings where true innovation and real transformation become possible. We offer vibrant array of high-quality master’s and doctoral degree programs.

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Now showing 1 - 10 of 1649
  • Publication
    Challenges and opportunity: An examination of barriers to postsecondary academic success
    (2024) Sade Bonilla
    Community colleges are a critical component of the U.S. higher education system, providing access to students from traditionally underserved communities. However, enduring challenges to completion stemming from educational, economic, and social inequities persist. Building on prior work that examines barriers to student success and their relationship to student outcomes, this descriptive study examines the relationship between students’ time utilization, engagement with campus resources, financial and mental well-being, with academic persistence. Specifically, we examine the relative importance of these barriers on students’ educational attainment. We find that the incidence of adverse mental health is comparable to 4-year undergraduate populations. The rates of food and housing insecurity are comparable to previous studies, though strikingly high. While a plurality of respondents engage with multiple campus resources, this engagement is unrelated to their propensity to remain enrolled or complete additional credits. Most notably, mental health conditions were negatively related to persistence and credit accumulation, while the relationship between academic outcomes and measures of food and housing insecurity was smaller and not significant. Our findings suggest that facilitating access to mental health supports is a prominent avenue for supporting student engagement and success. Keywords: community college; higher education; community college success rates; community college success indicators; college mental health campus communities
  • Publication
    (2024) Pettit, Noah
    This qualitative case study investigates the evaluative criteria that venture capitalists (VCs) use when making investment decisions about a startup’s potential for future success and whether resource availability changes those criteria. The study examines VCs’ lived experiences and perspectives on using objective and subjective investment selection criteria during periods of economic change when resource availability fluctuates. This qualitative research study employed semi-structured interviews with 14 VCs from the San Francisco Bay Area to obtain primary data, then incorporated thematic analysis to build a cohesive, rich narrative that accurately captured VCs’ personal experiences. This study aimed to determine whether VCs continued acting in investors’ best interest when confronted with a drastically changed investment landscape. An agency theoretical framework serves as the lens to examine whether VCs act as responsible fiduciary agents for principal investors.
  • Publication
    (2024) Stiglich, Enrique
    The meaning of work is influenced by the relationship between employees and organizations. In recent years, jobs outside the traditional boundaries of firms have grown considerably. Online platforms that connect contractors and clients for “gigs” are part of this trend. This study explored the process by which finance professionals who have become freelancers in online labor marketplaces make sense of meaning in work. Using an inductive, phenomenological approach, this study sought to understand and interpret qualitative data from 10 participants. The research adds a unique perspective to a vast body of literature on the meaning of work, largely focused on employment within organizations. It offers insights into how finance freelancers experience the meaning of their work as they adapt to their roles as gig workers. Findings show that freelancers initially perceive a sense of reduced structure in work and life, and often feel misunderstood by family and colleagues, which triggers a process of identity work. Freelancers then progressively develop resources and manage demands through goals, boundaries and routines, thus developing more control over their lives. They articulate narratives of themselves as independent, productive and adaptive individuals, who find meaning in solving problems. Although further research is warranted, findings suggest that, in a radically flexible working context, individuals who control variables such as tasks, time and location, tend to adopt a mindset focused on ongoing optimization and problem-solving. They set their own goals and manage resources, demands and uncertainty to optimize their work and their life.
  • Publication
    Towards Realizing Anchor Institution Ideals Within Higher Education: An Exploration of One Urban Research University’s Efforts to Advance a Comprehensive, Democratic, Mutually Transformative Anchor Strategy
    (2024) Hodges, Rita, Axelroth
    A growing number of colleges and universities have come to recognize the role and responsibilities they have in the economic and social fabric of their surrounding communities and regions as anchor institutions. Yet, the conditions of urban communities surrounding even the most engaged universities—including under-resourced public schools, inadequate healthcare, and deep poverty—demonstrate that much more needs to be done. If a primary goal of anchor engagement is more equitable, inclusive communities, as much of the rhetoric suggests, scholars and practitioners need to better understand the policies and practices through which democratic, mutually transformative anchor-community partnerships are built and sustained. This qualitative study explores Rutgers University – Newark’s efforts to advance an anchor institution mission. The guiding research question of this study was: How is one university attempting to realize the ideals of an anchor institution strategy with its local community—including comprehensive engagement of academic and economic resources for mutual benefit, institutionalization of engagement, and a democratic process that centers community voice and co-creation—and what kind of institutional changes have facilitated these goals? Thirty-one representatives from the university and the greater Newark community were interviewed, including senior administrators, staff, faculty, and advisory board members, as well as leaders of local nonprofits, community development organizations, and corporate partners. Findings demonstrate the ways in which the internal- and external-facing change efforts—that is, changing institutional policy, practice, and culture and building trusted democratic partnerships with the community and other anchor partners—have been inextricably linked at Rutgers-Newark as part of the institutionalization and mutual transformation process. The findings also highlight key animating features of the Rutgers-Newark experience, which include a clear and compelling anchor vision for the institution that was consonant with its longstanding values, an outside-in framework that guided institutional transformation based on what the public needed from the university, and the building of diverse, inclusive, internal and external coalitions to advance and sustain the anchor agenda.
  • Publication
    (2024) Rivera II, Pedro, Alexander
    According to current research, 58% of incoming 2-year college students will drop out before earning a credential. This action research aimed to explore the factors that contribute to or hinder the retention of Black and Latino students in a 2-year technical college. Drawing on multiple data sources, the goal of this study was to analyze students’ experiences and the challenges and opportunities they face in completing their certificates and degrees. Student retention in higher education is a complex issue influenced by numerous institutional factors. The researcher investigated the experiences of Black and Latino students at a 2-year college, focusing on the factors that have impacted their academic and social success. By analyzing administrative data, student survey responses, and conducting focus group interviews with students, the researcher was able to provide insights into the challenges faced by these underrepresented groups and identify potential strategies for improving student retention. The findings of this study contribute to understanding the unique experiences of Black and Latino students in 2-year colleges and inform institutional policies and practices that can support their success. An analysis of enrollment data revealed disproportionately high withdrawal rates for these students over 5 years. While recent overall retention rates show improvement, gaps persist for marginalized groups. A campus climate survey and focus groups highlighted ongoing challenges around issues such as parking, communications, grasping complex concepts, and work-life balance. The study’s findings have significant implications for leaders seeking to implement strategic reforms to foster equitable outcomes through data-driven, student-centered policies that dismantle systemic barriers. Ultimately, this research underscores the importance of addressing disparities to realize the full potential of all students.
  • Publication
    (2024) Chapman, Dennis
    ABSTRACT SERVANT LEADERSHIP AND TEACHER RETENTION AT INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS: EXAMINING THE ROLE OF THE HEAD OF SCHOOL Dennis G. Chapman Abigail Gray My study asks whether teachers in independent schools’ intent to stay or leave at their school is related to the servant leadership characteristics of their head of school (HOS). There are few studies on Servant Leadership, particularly its influence on teacher retention in Independent Schools. The Servant Leadership model has much appeal on face validity; however, the research is thin. Therefore, I studied Servant Leadership's attributes found in research on Transformational Leadership (Bass & Avolio, 1993) and Emotionally Intelligent Leadership (Goleman & McKee et al., 2000). This study examines how these leadership constructs may apply and contribute to the literature on Servant Leadership. I used a mixed-methods approach to this study. I first shared a survey with all faculty members affiliated with the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). Then, I requested 60-minute interviews with a subset of survey respondents to explore this concept more. Through this mixed-methods approach, I first analyzed quantitative data to understand if there is a relationship between the leadership characteristics associated with servant leadership and teachers' intent to stay at their independent schools. I used qualitative analysis to explore, in a deeper way, if the leadership characteristics of the head of school influence teachers’ intent to stay at their independent school. I found that the servant leadership attributes of the head of school influence teachers' desire to remain at their schools. For those looking to leave their school, compensation is important; however, for those looking to stay at their school, it is less important than the servant leadership attributes of their head of school. Further, if these attributes lead them to experience a sense of purpose in their work.
  • Publication
    (2024) Booker, Nikole
    This research study documents public school principals’ perceptions of their roles as leaders in reducing racialized educational inequities within their school communities, then examines the alignment between those perceptions and empirical evidence on racialized educational inequities in public schools. Additionally, this study analyzes the possible challenges for public school principals in implementing practices that address educational inequities in their schools. The theoretical frameworks of critical race theory (CRT), applied critical leadership, and developmental psychology—through the specific lenses of Racial Encounter Coping Appraisal and Socialization Theory (RECAST) and Phenomenological Variant of Ecological Systems Theory (PVEST)—are used to analyze how public school principals perceive racial equity leadership. Qualitative data draw from individual in-person interviews, while quantitative data utilize customized survey instruments that quantify participant demographic information, years of experience within the role, type of in-service support received, and school leader perceptions of racialized educational inequities in public schools. The goals of this research study are to (1) discuss principal perceptions of racialized educational inequities in public schools, (2) highlight the opportunities and resources needed to further support principals’ leadership development to address those inequities, and 3) inform the field of education of the possible challenges associated with racial equity leadership among public school principals.
  • Publication
    (2024) Dowd, Monique
    The college mental health crisis continues to worsen across American campuses. According to the Healthy Minds Network (2020) Fall 2020 survey, 50% of undergraduate college students screened positive for two mental disorders; anxiety and/or depression. Due to this increased prevalence, many institutions of higher education (IHE) have not been able to keep up with the demands of counseling and psychological services (CAPS). The dramatic increase in college student enrollment over the last several decades has also contributed to the short supply of mental health services. Several other statistics support the notion of this nationwide epidemic, as there has been an increase in the prevalence of both attempted suicides and suicides across U.S. college campuses. Despite this evidence, there is limited research on how universities are responding to this growing crisis. This study used person-centered qualitative research at two 4-year universities that provide specific proactive and innovative wellness strategies to combat the college mental health crisis. These strategies highlight the need for prevention and/or early intervention, cultural competency, and the thoughtful integration of technology to enhance student wellness. Resiliency training is also vital in equipping students with the necessary tools to navigate the stresses of campus life. Additionally, the recommendation to revisit the concept of in loco parentis and to involve parents in the wellness journey reflects a modern understanding of family dynamics and the role of external support systems in student well-being. Effective leadership and governance, particularly the strategic appointment of a chief wellness officer, coupled with stable leadership in the Office of Student Affairs, are critical to the centralization and successful implementation of wellness initiatives. Financial and resource allocations and institutional culture shifts can ensure these measures are sustainable and ingrained in the university fabric. Strategic alliances and the alignment of institutional missions underscore the importance of collaborative efforts and a shared vision in creating a culture of wellness. Data-informed decision-making and communication strategies are essential for assessing the effectiveness of initiatives and for keeping the campus community informed and engaged. Faculty accountability and involvement, along with the development of theoretical wellness frameworks, support a campus-wide culture shift that integrates wellness into all aspects of university life. Finally, student involvement in the decision-making and feedback processes ensures the measures taken truly reflect and are responsive to the needs of all students.
  • Publication
    (2024) Good, Christopher
    Higher education institutions are facing a challenging operating environment as enrollment declines pressure revenue, inflation pressures budgets, endowment earnings remain volatile, and concerns that fewer Americans see the value of post-secondary education threaten institutions’ financial viability. Policymakers and Boards rely on financial ratios to measure institutions financial viability, though there are drawbacks to financial ratio analysis, including that financial ratios are current or historical looking, rather than forward looking. Institutions employ a range of strategies in response to operational challenges, including focusing on market position and the competitive landscape, as well as pursuing revenue diversity, alternative revenue growth and expense management. Institutions have pursued management strategies to counteract conditions of decline including joint ventures, programs, partnerships, mergers, and privatization as well as communication strategies to build a comprehensive campus response to challenges. These strategies are assessed, albeit infrequently, in the context of long-range planning models to guide management decision making – drawing some parallels to scenario planning best practices in corporations. A limited body of research correlates strategy with financial and operating performance. This dissertation addresses measures of financial sustainability in private non-profit academic institutions. An explanatory sequential mixed methods design was used from a pragmatic research view, in which quantitative data was collected, and quantitative results were explained with in-depth qualitative data. Financial data (including IRS 990, IPEDS and Ratings Agency data as well as underlying financial statements) was collected from private non-profit institutions to measure financial sustainability and assess Return on Net Assets of institutions. Interviews with the administrative leadership of institutions which have demonstrated the highest Return on Net Assets from 2004 – 2022 were conducted, to explore illustrative case studies of actionable strategies of progress towards financial sustainability. The results of the study provide a clearer sense of the quantitative and qualitative methods utilized by leadership of academic institutions in making decisions related to long term financial sustainability and viability. Given the financial pressures facing academic institutions, a clearer understanding of decision-making methods may facilitate strategies for financial sustainability and education policy.
  • Publication
    (2024) Castillo, Mark, Andrew
    Between 1768 and 1834 Harvard College’s “Rebellion Tree” stood as a totem of liberty for students, whose acts of rebellion against Harvard mirrored the nation’s cultural and ideological schisms in foreshadowing the Civil War. Contrary to historiographical arguments that these boys stood aloof to slavery, this dissertation argues that the institution was singularly important in shaping their worldviews. Indeed, the generation that saw combat in the Civil War played a minimal role in its onset. By positioning Harvard students within the broader contexts of societal and political developments, this dissertation sheds light on higher education’s role in laying the intellectual and cultural foundations of the Civil War. It explores the connections between student ideologies, familial legacies, and intellectual and emotional paradigms in explaining the origins of the nation’s bloody rupture. In doing so, it delves into the politics of race, class, and gender in shaping the worldviews of the nation’s patriarchal elites, from both Northern and Southern sections. Furthermore, it critically assesses the efficacy of Harvard’s republican education amidst escalating campus divisions, revealing how republicanism’s principles waned against the rising tide of civil religion as the College transitioned from a place of unity to a microcosm of national discord. This research contributes to the “long history” school of Civil War causation and the historiography of higher education by assessing Harvard’s role in shaping youth worldviews. It also adds to scholarship about the history of emotions in exploring the interconnectedness of politics, knowledge, and feeling in American democracy. The ultimate purpose of this study is to elucidate societal expectations of masculinity and higher education amid ideological polarization. Particularly, the ways colleges and universities can be instrumental in mitigating—or exacerbating—civil conflict. This study serves as a cautionary tale about enduring battles within American society for cultural dominance and how these battles prefigure the culture wars that extend into posterity.