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The PhD in Education Program is individualized, interdisciplinary, and experiential. Students may opt to specialize in literacy(ies), culture, and reading (LCR) or incorporate coursework within a self-defined interdisciplinary program of study.

Have questions? Attend an information session or contact the specialization representative, Seth Parsons.

About the Specialization

Faculty in the Literacy(ies), Culture, and Reading Specialization have research interests spanning teachers’ beliefs, literacy coaching, teacher education, professional development, adolescent literacy best practices, social equity through science education, adaptive teaching, digitally supported reading and writing, urban teacher education, social justice education, elementary students and fiction reading, and coding literacy. They have served as president of the Association of Literacy Educators and Researchers, led international literacy education boards, published dozens of articles and books, served as educational consultants at school systems at home and overseas, garnered numerous awards for literacy learning research, and been awarded millions in research grants from the National Department of Education.

The Literacy(ies), Culture, and Reading specialization prepares scholars for careers in research and teaching at colleges and universities as well as roles in public policy and school leadership. 

What Will You Learn? 

The specialization features coursework and applied internships that enable you to learn:  

  • Theory and research in reading and literacy across the developmental spectrum 
  • Foundational knowledge about literacy teaching and learning at all levels 
  • Research methodologies to address a variety of literacy topics 
  • Specialized knowledge in literacy related to your area of interest 

Our Graduates

Jayne Sherman, PhD 2022 

  • Dissertation Title: Examining the Writing Conference in Supporting the Written Personal Narratives of First-Grade Students 
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Julie Kidd 
  • Employment on Graduation: First-grade Teacher, Prince Williams County Public Schools 

Michelle Lague, PhD 2022 

  • Dissertation Title: Hybrid Identities Under Construction: Outcomes of a Collaborative University-Based Course Revision Project 
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Kristien Zenkov 
  • Employment on Graduation: Instructional Designer, George Washington University 

Amanda Ayers, PhD 2022 

  • Dissertation Title: Virginia Elementary Teachers and Writing Instruction: A Descriptive Study 
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Seth Parsons 
  • Employment on Graduation: Reading Specialist, Spotsylvania County Public Schools 

Matthew Korona, PhD 2022 

  • Dissertation Title: Disciplinary Media Literacy: A Multiple Case Study Examining a Media Literacy Online Professional Development for High School Teachers  
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Amy Hutchison 
  • Employment on Graduation: Technology Instructional Facilitator, Loudoun County Public Schools 

Madelyn Stephens, PhD 2022 

  • Dissertation Title: Literacy Instruction of English Language Arts Teachers Whose Teacher Education Program Focused Heavily on New Literacies Perspectives and Pedagogies 
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Kristien Zenkov 
  • Employment on Graduation: English Techer, Robinson Secondary School 

Patricia Salerno, PhD 2021 

  • Dissertation Title: When Educators Design their own Professional Development: A Yearlong Case Study of High School Teachers' Peer Observations 
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Seth Parsons 
  • Employment on Graduation: Instructional Coach, Paul VI High School 

Vilma LePelch, PhD 2021 

  • Dissertation Title: Sharing Cultural Knowledge Through Intercultural Competence: A Collective Case Study of Exemplary Content Area Teachers Working with Latina Immigrant Youth in Grades 9-12  
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Seth Parsons  
  • Award: 2022 Outstanding Dissertation Award: Research in Reading Special Interest Group of AERA 
  • Employment on Graduation: English as a Second Language Teacher, Manassas Public Schools  

Zahra Alhuwairini, PhD 2020  

  • Dissertation Title: Mainstream Teachers’ Perceptions of the Effectiveness of Professional Development Programs in Meeting the Academic and Literacy Needs of Adolescent English Language Learners 
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. William Brozo 

Ellen Clark, PhD 2020 

  • Dissertation Title: The Interactions between Anti-Refugee Rhetoric, Monolingual Language Ideologies, and Refugee Literacy in the United States and Australia: A Comparative Case Study 
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Kristien Zenkov 
  • Employment on Graduation: Teacher, Alexandria City Public Schools 

Jennifer Lindenauer, PhD 2020 

  • Dissertation Title: An Exploration of How First Grade Children from Diverse Linguistic and Cultural Backgrounds Use Play to Construct Literacy Learning in One Elementary School  
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. William Brozo  
  • Employment on Graduation: Divisional Vice President, Local + Inclusion Marketing, Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI) 

Michael Richardson, PhD 2020 

  • Dissertation Title: The Crescent and the Dynamo: The Cultural and Linguistic Attitudes of Muslims in the Washington Metropolitan Area  
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Kristien Zenkov  
  • Employment on Graduation: Researcher, Peace & Education Foundation 

Fahima Choudhry, PhD 2019 

  • Dissertation Title: Choosing a Road Less Travelled: Portrayals of Social Studies Teachers Integrating Inquiry-Based Instruction 
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Rebecca Fox 

Jan Ainger, PhD 2018 

  • Dissertation Title: Exemplary Teachers of Reading: Their Inclusion of Students with Disabilities and Their Collaboration 
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Seth Parsons 
  • Employment on Graduation: IES-Funded Post-Doctoral Research Assistant at the University of Kentucky 

Joanna Newton, PhD 2018 

  • Dissertation Title: Teachers’ Experiences with Professional Development and a Morphological Approach to Vocabulary Instruction 
  • Dissertation Chairs: Dr. Elizabeth Sturtevant & Dr. Seth Parsons 
  • Employment on Graduation: Assistant Professor, Notre Dame of Maryland University 


Each student in the PhD in Education Program is mentored by faculty in the development of their own personalized program of study that fosters their ability to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of significant theories, developments, and practices in one's chosen area of study
  • Understand, utilize, and interpret basic principles, ethical practice, and methodologies of educational research design and data analysis
  • Effectively communicate both orally and in writing to a variety of professional audiences

Supported professional experiences and internships beyond required coursework support mastery of these competencies, including:

  • Attending and/or presenting your scholarly work at professional conferences to researchers, policymakers, and practitioners
  • University teaching and/or co-teaching experiences in professional areas of expertise
  • Supervising pre-service teachers
  • Writing, editing, and reviewing for scholarly journals
  • Research apprenticeships and assistantships
  • Supported independent research in an area of professional interest
  • Internships unique to the individual’s area of study
  • Building a professional portfolio

The PhD in Education is awarded after the successful completion of:

  • Coursework
  • A comprehensive portfolio assessment
  • A written dissertation
  • An oral dissertation defense

Why This Program?

Are you ready to expand your impact in the field of education?

A PhD in Education from GMU can help you reach that goal! Our accomplished faculty can help you leverage your existing expertise in the field of education and deepen your toolkit of professional knowledge and skills that will take your career to the next level of influence. 
Our graduates have attained consequential professional positions such as:

  • Academic faculty at post-secondary institutions
  • Leadership and research positions in federal and state government, post-secondary institutions, research organizations, and non-government agencies
  • Analysts and consultants with private companies, political advocacy groups, education or research think tanks, and professional associations
  • School, district, and statewide leadership positions in major preK-12 school districts, technical assistance centers, and other informal educational agencies
  • Curriculum and instructional materials developers

Our flexible student-centered program structure allows each student to design a personalized, interdisciplinary program of study that helps them to become outstanding educational researchers, practitioners, and leaders in their respective fields. Our faculty have strengths in:

Theoretical & Applied Research

  • Choose from a wide range of advanced quantitative and qualitative research methods coursework options
  • Have the opportunity to gain research experience on projects funded by federal agencies, including the Institute for Education Sciences and the National Science Foundation 

Advanced Teacher Preparation

  • Choose from a wide range of teaching and teacher preparation coursework and internship options, including opportunities to co-teach university courses with faculty and supervise teacher internships
  • Receive advanced training in online teaching and learning

Education Leadership & Policy

  • Choose from a wide range of coursework and internship opportunities in leadership and policy fields, both national and international
  • Have unique opportunities for experiential learning due to proximity to Washington DC and several of the largest school systems in the country

Movement & Sport Sciences

  • Choose an intensive Kinesiology program with opportunities for experiential learning in state-of-the-art movement labs.
  • Or, create a custom program of study in fields related to movement and sport sciences, including teaching in physical education and sport management

How Can I Learn More?

Visit our Frequently Asked Questions and Answer Page

Frequently Asked Questions

Attend an Information Session

The PhD in Education Program periodically conducts information sessions to acquaint applicants with our program and the admissions process. Information sessions include an overview of the PhD in Education Program followed by breakout sessions with faculty who can answer questions about professional specialization areas. Scheduled sessions are listed at the top of this page.