UMass Boston

Urban Education, Leadership & Policy Studies EdD / PhD

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Become a critical and reflective leader seeking to improve urban education through research and practice.

Our program has been grounded in social justice and equity since its founding in the early 1990s. This foundation is represented in our curriculum, admissions decisions, our faculty's research and scholarly expertise, and the dissertation research students conduct.

The mission of the Urban Education, Leadership, and Policy Studies Program is to develop dedicated, critical, and reflective leaders seeking to improve urban education through research and practice. While focusing on urban school issues, this program recognizes the interconnectedness of such issues on state, national, regional, and global scales. We prepare educational leaders who represent a variety of backgrounds, and support equity and diversity in all its forms, striving to contribute to the public good and a more socially just world. Through the course of their doctoral trajectory and culminating in a dissertation, students investigate issues of their choice that are relevant to their professional lives as leaders committed to educational change.

Why Apply for UMass Boston's Urban Education, Leadership, and Policy Studies Program?

Our curriculum focuses on preparing pre-K to 12 urban school leaders and scholars who are committed to fostering, facilitating, and managing change in diverse settings. Through the course of study toward the EdD or PhD, the Urban Education program at the University of Massachusetts Boston offers a range of knowledge, skills, and experiences to students, enabling them to:

  • Engage with multiple sources of information (e.g., policy, research, history, and empirical data) and learn multiple research methods and theories within an area of concentration;
  • Conduct original research on critical problems in K-12 education that relates to their professional practice and contributes to the ongoing academic conversation in their concentration area and in the fields of urban education and leadership;
  • Create new knowledge from research that addresses real world problems, culminating in a dissertation;
  • Apply social justice-oriented frameworks and research-based knowledge to real world academic and practical issues facing K-12 education institutions in order to be change agents in education;
  • Advance their careers as leaders and successfully compete for employment in a wide variety of national and international school-based, agency, and community roles including higher education faculty, state department of education personnel, community agency/organization educational leaders, policy analysts, and researchers.

Cohort Model

Each year, the program admits a cohort of between 8 to 12 students who take courses together throughout their program of study. The cohort model fosters collaborative approaches to learning, exploration, development and problem solving. Through cohort development, students build strong peer-to-peer relationships that cultivate a vibrant learning environment founded in meaningful connection, active engagement, and a commitment to individual and group development. In the classroom, the cohort model fosters a learning environment in which students can establish meaningful connections to theory, research, and practice.

What We Offer Our Scholar-Practitioners:

  • A diverse program that cares about doing our work in, with, & for our communities,
  • A cohort model focused on relationship-building,
  • Committed faculty who have experience as practitioners and scholars,
  • A 65-credit curriculum focused on equity, racial justice, and organizational change,
  • Pedagogy that engages students in broader educational research issues while inviting students to draw from professional knowledge and expertise,
  • Dissertation seminars that support the qualifying exam and writing of the dissertation,
  • An evening course schedule that supports full-time working professionals, and an
  • Annual scholarship-to-practice event.

Start Your Application

Plan Your Education

How to Apply

EdD or PhD?

An EdD or PhD in Urban Education, Leadership, and Policy Studies from the University of Massachusetts Boston is both research oriented and directed towards educational practice.

The PhD student would typically be a person who is:

  • anticipating a faculty career or a profession which demands research expertise
  • excited by theory and conceptual analysis
  • tending toward research and has potential for primarily advancing the theory in the field rather than implementing its practice

An EdD student would typically be a person who is:

  • planning on working in the field primarily as a practitioner
  • especially interested in developing and improving practice
  • interested in research which tends to emphasize development, evaluation, or field-based projects

Application Requirements

Applicants must meet general graduate admission requirements in addition to the following program-specific requirements:

  • A bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution of recognized standing or an international equivalent at the time of enrollment
  • A minimum, cumulative GPA of 2.75 on a 4.0 scale (or international equivalent) in all undergraduate work
  • A master's degree or the equivalent from a college or university of recognized standing
  • Official transcripts for all institutions where you have earned more than 6 credits; if your transcript is in a language other than English, please include an English translation, validated by an official public translator
  • Résumé or curriculum vitae
  • Essay (Personal Statement)
    A personal statement of no more than two pages (double spaced) should be sufficient to explain the applicant’s academic background, motivation, and research interests.
  • Two (2) letters of recommendation
    Recommenders should have worked closely with the applicant in an academic, professional, or community service setting. Letters should not be written by friends or family members of the applicant and should focus on the applicant’s abilities and past academic performance. The letters should also assess the applicant’s level of motivation for and commitment to a leadership role in urban education. Former professors familiar with the applicant’s academic abilities could address the applicant’s capacity to perform graduate-level work. Supervisors or colleagues at the current place of employment could describe and give evidence of the applicant’s potential as a social-change agent in urban educational contexts.
  • Employer Agreement Form
    The Employer Agreement Form shows year-by-year how the applicant and their employer will arrange the applicant’s work schedule to permit the applicant to meet the program’s requirements. These include three June sessions and a full weekday (Friday) on campus each week during the semesters leading up to the dissertation seminars. Please upload the Employer Agreement Form to the Documents section in the GradCAS application.
  • If applicable, request official TOEFL, IELTS, PTE and Duolingo scores to be sent to the University of Massachusetts Boston

All application materials should be sent directly to Graduate Admissions via the GradCAS application. Do not send the materials to the Leadership in Education department office. Materials must be sent directly to admissions in order to be processed.

The admissions committee will interview all finalists before making its recommendations for acceptance into the program.

Deadlines & Cost

Deadline: March 15 for summer (extended to March 29 for Summer 2024)

Application Fee: The nonrefundable application fee is $75. UMass Boston alumni and current students that plan to complete degree requirements prior to graduate enrollment can submit the application without paying the application fee.

Program Cost Information: The degree options in the Urban Education, Leadership, and Policy Studies Program include a 65-credit EdD or PhD. The total for tuition and fees can be calculated by using the graduate tuition rates listed on the Bursar's website.


This is one program with two degree options. Students take the below required courses in both degree options. In addition to these courses, students will take one advanced research methods course and five electives, totaling 65 credits.

Required Core Courses (26 credits)

  • EDLDRS 701 – Leadership Workshop I
  • EDLDRS 703 – Critical Issues I
  • EDLDRS 705 – Introduction to Inquiry for Educational Leaders
  • EDLDRS 714 – Integrative Seminar I
  • EDLDRS 715 – Integrative Seminar II
  • EDLDRS 720 – Teaching, Learning, and Curriculum in Urban Contexts
  • EDLDRS 730 – Historical Roots of Contemporary Urban Schooling
  • EDLDRS 732 – Organization and Leadership in Educational Institutions
  • EDLDRS 750 – Education Policy
  • EDLDRS 760 – Qualifying Paper Seminar

Required Research Courses (21 credits)

  • EDLDRS 740 – Research Methods I (Quantitative)
  • EDLDRS 741 – Research Methods II (Qualitative)
  • EDLDRS 891 – Dissertation Seminar I
  • EDLDRS 892 – Dissertation Seminar II
  • EDLDRS 893 – Dissertation Seminar III
  • EDLDRS 899 – Dissertation Research (8 credits)

In addition to coursework, students in the Urban Education, Leadership, and Policy Studies Doctoral Program must successfully complete four major benchmarks:

  1. comprehensive assessment
  2. qualifying paper
  3. dissertation proposal and hearing
  4. dissertation and defense

The dissertation is designed to demonstrate students’ ability to analyze a problem in urban education extensively and to assess its implications for practice or policy. The problem involves a specific issue or policy, which is of critical concern in urban education. The problem can be drawn from organizational or administrative practice, theories and practices regarding learning and teaching, historical or cultural issues, or public policy at the state, regional, national, or international level.

Graduation Criteria

Complete 65 credits from 21 courses including twelve core courses, two concentration courses, two electives, and five dissertation courses.

The student may transfer up to 6 credits of coursework taken beyond the master’s level that has not contributed toward the award of any other degree.

Doctoral candidacy: Pass a comprehensive assessment and qualifying paper.
Dissertation: Propose, compose, and defend a dissertation based on original empirical research.

Statute of limitations: Seven years.

Contact & Faculty

Graduate Program Director Abiola Farinde-Wu
Abiola.Farinde [@]


  • Abiola Farinde-Wu,Graduate Program Director, Associate Professor of Urban Education, Leadership, and Policy Studies
  • Patricia Krueger-Henney,Associate Professor, Urban Education, Leadership and Policy Studies
  • Wenfan Yan,Professor, Urban Education, Leadership, and Policy Studies Program
  • Bodunrin Banwo, Assistant Professor of Urban Education, Leadership, and Policy Studies
  • Melissa Colon, Assistant Professor of Urban Education, Leadership, and Policy Studies

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