Amy Berkhoudt

MA in Educational Studies: Educational Policy and Leadership (LEADPOL)

Student Status: Alum, graduated 2013, pursued the program while employed full-time

Geographic Region of Origin: Maui, Hawaii

Previous Education: Point Loma Nazarene University, San Diego, CA - B.A. in Journalism, Minor Literature and Philosophy

Prior to Joining the Program

I was a high school English teacher in Detroit through Teach for America in 2010. Between my first and second year in the corps, I co-founded the Detroit Food & Entrepreneurship Academy, a non-profit collaborative of local educators, chefs, and business owners dedicated to inspiring young Detroiters (ages 13-24) through entrepreneurial experiences rooted in food -- experiences that open doors, create connections, and spark confidence. I was working full-time as the Executive Director of Programs while I pursued my M.A. in Educational Leadership and Policy.

Why the Educational Leadership and Policy (ELP) Program? 

I chose the U-M ELP program to gain a more systems-level perspective into American education. As someone who was seeking to provide more equitable education opportunities for students in Detroit, I felt the theoretical and research-based courses at U-M would help my practical work in our education non-profit. I was also interested in defining "good educational leadership" in what I saw firsthand as a broken system. There were pockets of hope that I heard and read about, where students, teachers, and communities were thriving, but what did it take to be an exceptional leader and how could we expand this hope to all public schools? I was determined to understand and re-imagine educational excellence for all students.


My internship was with the James and Grace Lee Boggs School in Detroit. The school was in its first year of opening and my role was to develop and implement an experience-based summer program for six full-time interns ages 18-23. I collaborated with six Detroit community partners focused in art, entrepreneurship, food sovereignty, social justice, and media to ensure a rich discourse about creative opportunities in Detroit for the interns and incoming elementary-aged students. The experience allowed me to see and participate in the community-building that is necessary to start a school. I made lasting friendships and professional connections that have helped lead me to the position I'm in today.

Individualized Course of Study

Courses I chose included:

I particularly valued EDUC 555 on financial and legal policies for schools, which examined the role of public policy in the organization, operation, finance, and governance of K-12 schools. What I learned in that course was coupled with EDUC 751, a course designed to introduce students to key approaches and issues in the study of schooling, with special attention to the social, cultural, political, economic, and institutional dynamics of educational processes. They framed the way I approach "innovation" in education and have charged me forward onto the path I'm on today.

Highlights of the Michigan Experience

I was a commuter student living and working in Detroit while taking classes at Michigan. I carpooled to and from class with a few other master’s-level education students. It helped to find a community, even small, to help me think through the coursework. I highly recommend getting to know the students in your classes and keeping in touch with them. It's great to see how far we've all come now.

Life after U-M

After graduating from University of Michigan, I moved back to Hawaii for a year and worked with the Board of Education there to help pass the first multilingual education policy for the state. I then moved to Los Angeles, where I worked with Teach Plus to create a teacher-led professional development series on the Common Core State Standards. Now I am a program manager for a STEM nonprofit that helps build K-12 Computer Science pathways for Title I schools.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

I chose the Education Leadership and Policy program at University of Michigan because the coursework and professors focus on educational equity and social advocacy. The decisions I've made in my career were heavily influenced by my coursework on the historical, political, and social issues in the American education system at Michigan.

Going forward, I’ve decided to pursue a doctoral degree at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. As a doctoral student, I plan to further investigate the out-of-school challenges that many communities face and how these challenges shape the learning experiences of youth, and to propose alternative interventions that make school spaces more adaptive to the changing needs of our youth.

Amy invites prospective students to contact her with any questions about her experiences in the program and if they have career interests in educational entrepreneurship.