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The PhD in Education Program is individualized, interdisciplinary, and experiential. Students may opt to specialize in education policy (EDPO) or incorporate coursework within a self-defined interdisciplinary program of study.

Have questions? Attend an information session or contact the specialization representative, David Houston.

About the Specialization

The Education Policy Specialization involves the study of education policy and how it helps individuals understand how decisions are made at various levels of government, how decision-makers use educational research and evidence, and how to influence the decision-making process. The program encourages students to hone skills that are needed for sound policy research and analysis.

This specialization allows for flexible academic planning and research according to participants' interests, career goals, and learning format. With the advisor's approval, students may add courses in education law or education finance, as well as policy courses in other academic units, to round out their program of study.

What Will You Learn?

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

  • How to be a sophisticated and discerning consumer of education policy research
  • How to conduct rigorous empirical research on education policies and practices
  • How to communicate research findings to a broad array of audiences

What Our Students Are Saying

"I have had so many opportunities to work with faculty members both on their research, from data collection to writing manuscripts, and on my own research, receiving one-on-one support to build tailored research skills unique to my own interests and needs. The support and mentorship that I have received from faculty has been unbelievable and I think it is unique to Mason. I know that when I leave Mason, I will have the research skills and tools to be competitive for top positions in the field."
~ Beth Davis, current student
"During my time at Mason, I have been able to customize my plan of study and work with faculty on select research projects in order to build the knowledge and skillset needed to meet my career goals. I have conducted rigorous data analyses, worked closely with practitioners, and presented my own research at national conferences. The experiences I have been a part of and the network I have been able to build are incredible. Because of Mason, I know I will be a competitive job market candidate."
~ Katherine Bowser, current student

Our Graduates

Jeremy Redford, PhD 2022

  • Dissertation Title: A “Process that Never Ends”: Parents’ Experiences Navigating a Public Preschool Lottery
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Colleen Vesely

Megan Sims-fujita, PhD 2021

  • Dissertation Title: Factors Influencing College Decision-Making among Students with Disabilities: A Mixed-Methods Study
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Grace Francis & Dr. Jodi Duke
  • Employment on Graduation: social work org. ; Adjunct Professor, George Washington University

Robert Graham, PhD 2020

  • Dissertation Title: Mic’d Up: A Critical Narrative Inquiry Into African American Males, School Counselors & the First-Year Experience at a PWI
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Jenice View

Andrea Guiden, PhD 2020

  • Dissertation Title: In Search of 'the Right Type': An Historical Examination of Black Teachers and Quality in the District of Columbia Public Schools, 1952-1964
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Jenice View & Dr. Diana D’Amico

Kathleen Kraus-Zadrozny, PhD 2020

  • Dissertation Title: The Choice and Implication of Student Achievement Goals in Virginia Assistant Principal Performance Evaluation Policy
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Nancy Holincheck

William Rodick, PhD 2020

  • Dissertation Title: Parallel Societies: A Community School in the Context of Gentrification
  • Dissertation Chair: Colleen Vesely

Brenda Calderon, PhD 2019

  • Dissertation Title: English Learner Accountability in ESSA State Plans: A Multicase Policy Study of Implementation in Four States
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Mark Ginsberg

Kristofer Pachla, PhD 2019

  • Dissertation Title: Early Career Professional Development: A Multiple Case-study Examining Differences in Outcomes and Experiences in a Secondary Science Methods Course
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Roberto Pamas

Amy Boehl, PhD 2018

  • Dissertation Title: What Decisions Do Teachers Make in the Absence of Policy? A Qualitative Study of Test Retakes at the Classroom Level
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Penelope Earley

Levi Brown, PhD 2018

  • Dissertation Title: Observations of Selected Virginia Teachers on the Impact of a Value-Added Evaluation System
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Penelope Earley

Lindsey Burke, PhD 2018

  • Dissertation Title: Principal Perspectives on School Participation and Non-Participation in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program: An Institutional Theory Analysis
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Meagan Call-Cummings & Dr. Rodney Hopson

Cathleen Cogdill, PhD 2018

  • Dissertation Title: Funding Virginia Community Colleges During a Recessionary Period: Impact of Utilizing an Outcomes-based Funding Model
  • Dissertation Chair: Nance Lucas

Heather Keenan, PhD 2018

  • Dissertation Title: Teachers Making Sense of English Learner Education Policy: A Qualitative Case Study
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Penelope Earley

Jamila Jones Kennedy, PhD 2018

  • Dissertation Title: Social Capital and Parent Engagement in Black and White Middle-Class Families
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Penelope Earley

Ave Luke-Simpson, PhD 2018

  • Dissertation Title: Realidades Rurales: A Study of the Implementation of Title III of NCLB in a Rural Elementary School
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Penelope Earley

Jennifer Mursaloglu, PhD 2018

  • Dissertation Title: Parental Engagement beyond School Walls: A Qualitative Case Study of African American Parental Engagement during High School
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Penelope Earley

Beth Aronstamm Young, PhD 2018

  • Dissertation Title: District Data Personnel Perspectives on the Federal Data Collection and Reporting Process and How They Inform Their Work
  • Dissertation Chair: Dr. Penelope Earley


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 George Mason 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.