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The Role of Leadership in Education

Dr. Lizette Burks Offers Insight Into UHD’s New Master’s Program


By Sheryl E. Taylor

UHD News recently spoke with Dr. Lizette Burks to learn about the College of Public Service’s new Master of Educational Leadership (MEDL) degree in the Department of Urban Education. The program will admit its first cohort in fall 2023. Burks is one of the founding Assistant Professors for the program.

UHD: What is educational leadership?

Burks: “PK-12 leadership works to address current problems of practice to promote positive educational outcomes for the communities they serve through collaboration, fostering equity and inclusion, perseverance, compassion, analytical thinking, and innovation.”

The program is designed for students who currently hold a teacher certificate and are working toward principal certification. Courses for the MEDL program are taught in an online delivery format with interactive sessions.

UHD: Ideal candidate for the program?

Burks: “Education needs effective leaders. Maybe you’ve had someone say to you that you should be a leader or maybe you’ve felt that inner call to lead and make a difference yourself. This program is one way to take that leadership to the next level. Wherever you are in your education career, expanding your reach can give you an opportunity to have a greater impact. Research tells us the positive impact of a school leader on student-learning outcomes is second only to classroom instruction as the most important school-related factor in our PK-12 educational systems” (Wallace Foundation, 2022).

UHD: Any experiential learning opportunities through this program?Dr. Lizette Burks

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. 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. These students will work with principal-certified mentors in PK-12 public schools to continue developing their skills to be effective educational leaders.”

UHD: What is the greatest takeaway from the program?

Burks: “A common thread throughout the program is a focus on diversity, inclusion, and equity for the people school leaders will ultimately serve, knowing that taking up this work is largely relational. Professional educational leaders take on roles that work for, with, and in the actual communities they are a part of. Practicing educational leadership in today’s world necessitates grappling with issues of social justice and ethics to advance educational equity for all communities. One of the primary goals of any educational leader should be to pursue greater equity for the diverse groups that make up the community in order to serve all students.”

UHD: Why did you choose to pursue educational leadership during your career?

Burks: “As a Latina, I wanted to continue my story and chose educational leadership in my career because I wanted to make an impact for students from historically marginalized communities in PK-12 education. As a classroom teacher for many years in Title I schools, choosing to be an educational leader has helped me expand my reach, making an impact for students like me and the communities I belong to, which are underrepresented in our educational policies locally, state-wide, and nationally. 

She added, “Leaving the classroom as a middle-school science teacher was one of the hardest things I had to do as I stepped into leadership roles, but now I see how doing so allowed me to advocate and positively impact even more students. Being an educational leader at the school, district, and state levels during my career has been fulfilling in more ways than I could have imagined.”

Check out the video about Master of Educational Leadership program at UHD.

About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.