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From Teacher to Principal

The Powell Foundation Creates Opportunities Through UHD’s Newest Graduate Program


By Marie Jacinto


“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” 
— Henry Adams


Most of us can cite that impactful teacher we will remember forever. More than just a “favorite,” that teacher changed our world view, maybe the trajectory of our lives. But even great teachers need thoughtful leadership at the helm of their schools. That’s where the University of Houston-Downtown steps in.

For more than three decades, UHD’s College of Public Service (CPS) has been training teachers with stunning results, resulting in the placement of over 2,000 teachers in area school districts. For example, UHD’s undergraduate teacher-preparation program was among just 23% of programs nationwide awarded an “A” by the National Council on Teacher Quality for teaching the “science of reading.” Now CPS’s Urban Education Department is offering a Master of Educational Leadership degree program to prepare teachers to lead as principals.Dr. Lizette Burks

“Courses in the program support direct application of educational leadership skills and theory by using case studies, service-learning opportunities, and other methods that purposefully engage students with experience to increase their capacity to contribute to their communities,” said Dr. Lizette Burks, one of the founding Assistant Professors for the program. Drs. Diane Miller and Abdelnasser Hussein are also principal investigators for the grant.

The Powell Foundation’s Support

The College recently announced that it has found a partner in its endeavors to bolster the new degree program through the Powell Foundation, a private family foundation dedicated to catalyzing progress in public education through collaborative grantmaking and initiatives. Powell FoundationBen H. Powell Jr. and Kitty King Powell, who began their foundation in 1967, emphasized the importance of education in their own lives and in the lives of their children and grandchildren. In honoring their legacy, the foundation made an important decision to prioritize grantmaking in support of public schools across Houston, Austin, Huntsville, specifically, as well as the state of Texas generally.

Mentorships and Research

The Powell Foundation grant of $150,000 will provide developmental opportunities for students earning their Master of Educational Leadership, including a student research initiative for designated fellows and a professional mentorship program in partnership with school districts and other stakeholders.

Effective mentoring developed by UHD in partnership with school districts will provide real-world leadership experiences for aspiring school leaders. “The program culminates with a yearlong, field-based practicum experience where students focus on the actual experiences within the State Board for Educator Certification principal standards,” said Burks. “These students will work with principal-certified mentors in PK-12 public schools to continue developing their skills to be effective educational leaders.”

Designated fellows will have the opportunity to conduct research with an emphasis on educational equity in K-12 schools and present their findings at professional learning events such as conferences and workshops.

Faculty Development

The grant will also support continued professional development of UHD’s educational leadership faculty in building their knowledge of innovations in K-12 Texas public school leadership through trainings and academic conferences. Importantly, faculty will be encouraged to present collaborative research with students at academic conferences.

By supporting both the students and the faculty of the new Master of Educational Leadership program—especially in generating research and outcomes—the Powell Foundation is truly affecting the future of education. As UHD amasses more and more data points on effective educational leadership and shares its findings, that research can only have a ripple effect in creating better schools in our city, our state, and our nation. 


Feature photo credit: eyecrave productions/iStock