Meet some of our Higher Education graduates

Where are our students now?

Click on each person's name to learn more about them.

Recent Ph.D. graduates:

  • Noah D. Drezner (2008), Associate Professor of Higher Education, Teachers College, Columbia University
  • Jamey Rorison (2014), Research Analyst, Institute for Higher Education Policy
  • Keon M. McGuire (2014), Assistant Professor, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, Arizona State University

Recent Ed.D. graduates:

  • Gregory J. Vincent (2004), Vice President/WK Kellogg Professor, University of Texas at Austin
  • Janet Lindner (2008), Deputy Vice President for Human Resources & Administration, Yale University
  • Suzanne Wasiolek (2008), Dean of Students, Duke University

Recent M.S.Ed. graduates:

  • Ashaki Charles (2009), Senior Major Gifts Officer, Teachers College, Columbia University
  • Wesley Horng (2014), Graduate Admissions Coordinator, Viterbi School of Engineering, University of Southern California
  • Lionel Anderson (2014), Contributor, The New York Times
View HED Alumni Careers

 

Noah D. Drezner (2008)

Associate Professor of Higher Education, Teachers College, Columbia University

 
Q: Why did you choose to pursue a graduate degree in Higher Education at Penn GSE?
A: The faculty. Having the ability to work with some of the most renowned faculty in our field on their research and in their classrooms was a definite draw. Their combined interests aligned with mine in a way that no other program in the nation was able to match.

Q: What was the single most important thing you learned in the Higher Education program?
A: My combined love of research and the classroom through strong mentorship. I came to Penn GSE in hopes of returning to practice as an advancement officer. Quickly I was inspired in the classroom with Marybeth Gasman, Matthew Hartley, and Marvin Lazerson to ask questions, do research, and eventually TA and teach on my own. My training in research broadened as I joined Marybeth Gasman on numerous projects and had the fortune of engaging in research with Laura Perna, as well, once she joined our faculty. To this day I try to emulate the mentorship I had at Penn GSE in my research teams, advising, and classrooms that I was fortunate to receive as a student. I pledged to "pay it forward" and that is what I strive to do each day and in every interaction.

Q: How did your experience in the Higher Education program inform your career path?
A: The faculty, alumni, and friendship networks that I made as a result of my time in the program, Penn GSE, and Penn more broadly have been extremely valuable throughout my career. The continued mentorship by the Higher Education faculty helped my transverse my pre-tenure years at the University of Maryland with success and gave me the skills and support to transition to my current position at Teachers College, Columbia University. The knowledge I gained in the classroom and my research experiences were invaluable; however, the continued investment in my career has gone beyond what I imagined.

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Jamey Rorison (2014)

Research Analyst, Institute for Higher Education Policy

 
Q: Why did you choose to pursue a graduate degree in Higher Education at Penn GSE?
A: So, my master’s and doctoral experiences differ slightly. I chose Penn GSE for my master’s for several reasons: Mostly, I felt that the faculty and curriculum were really strong. (The curriculum has since changed, but the faculty are still great!) I liked the assistantship aspect of the program – a lot of schools talk about integrating research and practice, but Penn’s program actually makes a strong effort to do so. I liked the one-year aspect – as you surely know, master’s degrees are not cheap, so having the opportunity to get in and back out into the workforce was really attractive to me at the time. (Of course, I ended up staying for five additional years, but I didn’t foresee that when I was applying to the master’s program.) I wanted to study in a large city as well.

When I applied to the Ph.D. program, it was very clear. While most of the above still applied, I really wanted to study at Penn so I could stay with Laura Perna and Joni Finney. Laura is – without question – the finest mentor and advisor in the business. I can’t think of anyone else who maintains very high research productivity, steps up to effectively perform administrative roles, and also ALWAYS makes time for her students. I can confidently say that I would not have made it through the doctoral program without Laura’s sound advice and meticulous care. She is the best. Joni was also integral to my decision. She really is one of a kind. She is one of the most respected figures in state higher education policy, and she still approaches all of her work through a policy lens, yet she is on the faculty at GSE. There aren’t many places where you can find someone with Joni’s breadth and depth of policy experience also with a deep interest in working with graduate students. Every year, we go to professional conferences where the theme is “Linking Research and Policy,” yet not much happens to advance the conversation. Joni and Laura are two people who diligently work to make those connections – they are really cutting edge and leaders in the field.

Q: What was the single most important thing you learned in the Higher Education program?
A: This is a really difficult question. What made my experience so positive was that it was a whole experience. Coursework was a big part, but so were my research assistantship, the lifelong friends I made, the professional connections. This is really hard. If I had to pinpoint one thing, I think it would be something that Laura Perna told us in a course (Proseminar in Research and Analysis). Most of us in the class were struggling with developing conceptual frameworks for our studies (which – for most people – evolved into dissertations). Laura told us that it is supposed to be hard, because we were creating knowledge. That was very liberating. If you ever decide to pursue a doctorate, you’ll probably understand this. It’s fairly common for doctoral students to feel inadequate, when in reality, it’s not us – it’s the task at hand! Laura shared a lot of similarly helpful insight throughout my time in the program that helped me to not get caught up in thinking that my work wasn’t good enough. At times, I thought I’d be in the program forever, but five years really isn’t all that bad.

Q: How did your experience in the Higher Education program inform your career path?
A: This is a long story, but I’ll try to keep it brief: Higher education, like most career fields, rewards people with strong professional networks (for better or worse). While I gained tons of valuable knowledge and skills through coursework and my research assistantship (some of which still I use daily), I ended up in my current position at IHEP because of professional relationships I formed and cultivated while I was a doctoral student. Through a program that I helped Joni coordinate when I was a first year student, I met Jennifer Engle. At the time, she was at the Education Trust. We kept in touch, and I interned for her the summer after my second year – it was a wonderful experience. Jen and I grew close enough that I asked her to serve on my dissertation committee. While I was working on my dissertation, Jen left Ed Trust and moved over to IHEP. By the time I was nearing my final defense, Jen was already recruiting me to work here. I defended my dissertation on April 9th of last year, and the next day I had a job offer. So, basically, if Joni Finney hadn’t made this connection for me, I would surely be somewhere else right now. A lot of people engage in lengthy, annoying job searches. I applied for ONE job, and I was able to start before I walked at graduation!

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Keon M. McGuire (2014)

Assistant Professor, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, Arizona State University

 
Q: Why did you choose to pursue a graduate degree in Higher Education at Penn GSE?
A: I was drawn to Penn’s Higher Education program because of their world-class, student-centered faculty. It was clear that this community of scholars would provide exceptional academic training and substantive mentorship. Also, the curriculum’s structure promoted interdisciplinary training, which allowed me to pursue a joint degree in Africana Studies.

Q: What was the single most important thing you learned in the Higher Education program?
A: The most important thing I learned was how to conduct rigorous qualitative research to advance issues of equity in Higher Education. Our faculty set a great example of how to translate their scholarship into practice.

Q: How did your experience in the Higher Education program inform your career path?
A: Undoubtedly, I would not have secured a tenure-track, assistant professor position upon graduation had it not been for the thoughtful, engaged mentorship of my advisor Dr. Shaun R. Harper. Shaun ensured that I had opportunities to participate in research projects, conference presentations, and other professional development opportunities that would prepare me for faculty life. To be sure, the collective Higher Education faculty kept an open door and never hesitated to connect me with summer research opportunities as well as offer insights at critical moments during my time at Penn.

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Gregory J. Vincent (2004)

Vice President/WK Kellog Professor, University of Texas at Austin

 
Q: Why did you choose to pursue a graduate degree in Higher Education at Penn GSE?
A: The University of Pennsylvania is one of the premiere universities in the world, and their graduate program in education is one of the leaders. It allowed me to continue to pursue my career while also pursuing a rigorous doctoral education.

Q: What was the single most important thing you learned in the Higher Education program?
A: The single most important thing I learned in the higher education program is that institutions need to be market smart and mission driven.

Q: How did your experience in the Higher Education program inform your career path?
A: I'm currently doing the same job I did when I entered the program, but the program certainly deepened my knowledge and made me an even more effective, committed leader to my craft.

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Janet Lindner (2008)

Deputy Vice President for Human Resources & Administration, Yale University

 
Q: Why did you choose to pursue a graduate degree in Higher Education at Penn GSE?
A: I had deep experience in several administrative and financial areas, but I wanted to extend my knowledge so that it would be both deep and broad, rather than isolated within a few areas.

Q: What was the single most important thing you learned in the Higher Education program?
A: An understanding of the issues and complex environment of higher ed, and how to navigate successfully within that environment.

Q: How did your experience in the Higher Education program inform your career path?
A: Penn allowed me to become an expert in the field, to move outside the boundaries of my campus--and learning came from professors, practitioners and classmates.

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Suzanne Wasiolek (2008)

Dean of Students, Duke University

 
Q: Why did you choose to pursue a graduate degree in Higher Education at Penn GSE?
A: I was ready to return to the classroom and had heard wonderful things about the Exec Doc Program at Penn GSE. The more questions I asked about the program, the more I uncovered that revealed a challenging and rich educational opportunity. I was particularly impressed by what I heard about the faculty.

Q: What was the single most important thing you learned in the Higher Education program?
A: Because I have spent my entire professional career at one institution, I was able to learn about 23 other schools through the members of Cohort 6. The opportunity to interact with these remarkable individuals and learn about each of their institutions was an incredible gift.

Q: How did your experience in the Higher Education program inform your career path?
A: Although many of my classmates were interested in becoming college presidents (with a good number of them having actually accomplished this since graduation), I just wanted to enhance my work by learning more about the role of higher education in the world today as well as conducting research. I was able to do both and my overall confidence and desire to continue with my current work have been solidified.

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Ashaki Charles (2009)

Senior Major Gifts Officer, Teachers College, Columbia University

 
Q: Why did you choose to pursue a graduate degree in Higher Education at Penn GSE?
A: Pursuing a graduate degree in higher education at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education presented an opportunity to study with Drs. Marybeth Gasman, Matt Hartley, Laura Perna and Shaun Harper - scholars whom I admire who change how people think and learn about philanthropy, governance, leadership, equity and access/success in higher education.

Q: What was the single most important thing you learned in the Higher Education program?
A: The higher education program gave me a deeper appreciation for philanthropy in higher education. Philanthropy is very American – if you look at the diversity of our educational and cultural institutions, hospitals, and library systems, they are built by people who were generous and passionate visionaries and that is unlike any other country in the world. I am proud to be part of an industry that collaboratively develops a vision of higher education for society.

Q: How did your experience in the Higher Education program inform your career path?
A: It has been a privilege to work professionally in higher education for the past 15 years. My experiences in the higher education program further strengthened my passion for affording students the opportunity to access higher education and interests in philanthropy, cultural communication and motivations for giving.

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Wesley Horng (2014)

Graduate Admissions Coordinator, Viterbi School of Engineering, University of Southern California

 
Q: Why did you choose to pursue a graduate degree in Higher Education at Penn GSE?
A: I chose to pursue a graduate degree in Higher Education at Penn GSE because I was inspired by the diversity of the cohort and the flexibility of the classes that allowed me to truly explore and find my passion in the field of higher education.

Q: What was the single most important thing you learned in the Higher Education program?
A: The immersive experience at Penn GSE opened my eyes to the complexity of higher education and taught me to analyze each issue and current trend critically and with an open mind.

Q: How did your experience in the Higher Education program inform your career path?
A: The wonderful and caring faculty and the professional development gained from my graduate assistantship ultimately helped solidify my interest in college admissions. I was able to achieve hands on experiences as well as a deep understanding of the theories behind enrollment management. I knew after one year that this was the path for me!

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Lionel Anderson (2014)

Contributor, The New York Times

 
Q: Why did you choose to pursue a graduate degree in Higher Education at Penn GSE?
A: : I attended Penn for college. I had just accepted a position at Penn working in residential life. And I was still very active around the Penn community. To me, there’s just no better place to learn. For my money, Penn and Penn GSE can take the Pepsi challenge with anyone. But the close community vibe of the Graduate School of Education was particularly appealing for graduate study.

Q: What was the single most important thing you learned in the Higher Education program?
A: The diversity. Penn and Penn GSE can always reach for greater heights in this regard. But the level of diversity challenged my thinking and ways for viewing people. There was rarely a week where I wasn’t pushed to think intelligently outside of my comfort zone. And that was nearly seven years ago. The diversity, in many forms, has increased since then.

Q: How did your experience in the Higher Education program inform your career path?
A: The Higher Education program and, more broadly, Penn GSE undeniably crafted my early career. My first position, after graduation, was networked by an alumna with ties to the hiring manager. The mentorship I’ve been given and, eventually, been able to give others has been priceless. And GSE alumni are everywhere. Most of the time, they’re within the broad field of higher education but so many of us are movers and shakers across industry.

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