Cathy Hearn

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

Student Status: Current student, full time

Geographic Region of Origin: London, UK

Previous Education: University of Cambridge, BA English

Prior to Joining the Program

Prior to joining the program, I worked for two years with an education and social mobility non-profit in the UK. I was part of a small team running an education center in a low-income neighborhood in London. My role was extremely broad and included coordinating mentorship programs, heading up our community partnerships, creating and delivering workshops, and organizing work experience placements for students across London.

Why the Educational Leadership and Policy Program? 

I am driven by the conviction that education has the potential to be a key driver for a more equal and fair society, and want to strive to equalize both opportunity and outcomes for young people. I was drawn to the University of Michigan and the School of Education because I recognize how deeply they share my commitment to working for a more just society. The Educational Leadership and Policy thread appealed to me because it provided the opportunity to focus on the practical side of driving improvement and innovation within education, as well as providing the flexibility to fashion much of my studies around issues of educational and societal equity.


I have just started my internship with the Washtenaw Alliance for Children and Youth (WACY) at the Washtenaw Intermediate School District. WACY functions to bring together agencies—including schools, non-profits and colleges—from across the county to share best practices and work together on issues facing young people in Washtenaw County.

I expect to be working on creating a new data report card for Washtenaw County, helping agencies to identify needs and set goals. In addition, I am hoping to help run the upcoming Youth Speak event, where young people have the opportunity to voice issues directly to Michigan policy makers.

Individualized Course of Study

When choosing my courses, I thought hard about my overall learning goals. I decided that I had two main aims: learning best practices around running schools and other educational organizations, and deepening my understanding of educational and societal inequalities and injustices. I think this is reflected in the courses that I have elected to study.

Like all Educational Studies students, I took Foundational Perspectives on Educational Reform (EDUC 649) and Research and Educational Practice (EDUC 695). These courses have been essential in helping me grasp the landscape and history of educational reform, and to read and become a critical reader of educational research.

I’m also taking School Organization and the Policy Environment (EDUC 551) and Financial and Legal Policies for Schools (EDUC 555). I have only just started these two courses but can already see the benefits.

Within the School of Education, I have had the opportunity to choose three electives: Cultural Studies and Education (EDUC 645), Topics in Professional Education: Homelessness in School and Society (EDUC 490), and Administrative Leadership in Schools (EDUC 553). The first two have given me the opportunity to broaden my understanding and apply new frames to issues of equity and diversity. The third has helped develop my understanding of best practices surrounding the running of a school.

I’ve also chosen two cognate courses outside the School of Education that have proven immensely valuable.

The first was Topics in Sociology: Social Stratification (SOC 595) in the sociology department of the College of Literature, Science and the Arts, which helped ground my understanding of societal inequalities. The second is Advanced Topics in Social Work: Youth Empowerment (SW 713) in the School of Social Work. In focusing on inviting young people to take the lead, while exploring ways in which adults can serve them as allies, this course speaks to my desire to go beyond the “savior complex” so prevalent in educational and non-profit discourses. Applying the conceptual frames of different disciplines is a vital exercise, and I’ve hugely valued the opportunity to do this. 

Highlights of the Michigan Experience

I have had an all-round positive experience at the University of Michigan. Highlights include: being part of a school and university that share my values; having a fantastic advisor and program director in Maren Oberman; having a supportive and talented community in the Educational Leadership and Policy cohort; and enjoying the culinary delights of Ann Arbor.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

I have been so glad to be a member of the University of Michigan student community during a time when diversity, equity and inclusion have been a major focus university wide and in the School of Education. These values are close to my heart—more than that, they are the values that drive me—and to see those represented in my educational institutions has been a validating and rich experience.

Not only have I had ample opportunity to explore these values at length in my academic work, but I have also been able to take part in themed events in the School of Education and elsewhere on campus. So far this has included attending symposia on race and education, joining the dije book group, and attending talks across the university.

As a student with a learning disability, I have felt supported and welcomed by the University’s Services for Students with Disabilities and my professors. This support is valuable because it means that I feel included and validated: that I belong and deserve to be here.

Hearn’s program of study:
Educational Leadership and Policy