Educational Policy Studies & Practice
leslie gonzales headshot
Leslie D. Gonzales
Department Head, Educational Policy Studies & Practice

Welcome to the Department of Educational Policy Studies & Practice; we are so glad you’ve stopped by!

The Department of Educational Policy Studies & Practice (EPSP) includes two academic units: Educational Leadership & Policy (EDL) and the Center for the Study of Higher Education (HED). With 19 full-time faculty and five affiliate faculty, we offer an array of graduate programs, including in-person, hybrid, and online options. We are proud to partner and house Native Soar, Project Familia and the Emancipatory Education minor, which is a college-wide minor focused on liberatory approaches to education. Our fantastic staff, Erika Lopez, Diana Peel, and Lora Francois keep us steadily running, and Dr. Leslie D. Gonzales serves as our Department Head.


Our Graduate Degrees

EPSP prepares graduate students at the doctorate and master's degree levels.

  • Within EDL, our programs include an Ed.D. (fully online), Ph.D., and M.Ed. The M.Ed. degree is a standards-driven curriculum that includes the coursework required for PK-12 school principal certification in the state of Arizona.
  • Within HED, our programs include a Ph.D. and M.A. degree.


EPSP’s Academic Focus and Strengths

Both units center on equity, inclusion, and social justice. Both units prepare students as scholars, practitioners, and activists consistent with each unit’s professional career paths and state certification standards leading to licensure. However, together, the units offer expertise across multiple PK-20 educational contexts.

As a department, we have many strengths, including expertise in leadership, organizations, policy, and student experiences and outcomes. Given our location in the borderlands, we are attuned not only to the role of local and  national context, but to international contexts and how the educational enterprise is affected by societal, economic, historical, and political pressures. Finally, our faculty holds a robust array of methodological expertise, including critical quantitative skills, such as Indigenous statistics and big data, to critical and community-connected qualitative methods.



A/Cafecitos stands for Academic Cafecitos and refers to a collaboratively designed and administered professional development series intended to foster community amongst our students.

Sessions for Fall 2024 are scheduled as follows:

  • September 12, 3:00-5:00 p.m.
  • November 7, 2:00-4:00 p.m.


Student Resources

Visit the student resource page for additional support, including departmental travel support, campus safety, transfer credits, and more.


We respectfully acknowledge the University of Arizona is on the land and territories of Indigenous peoples. Today, Arizona is home to 22 federally recognized tribes, with Tucson being home to the O'odham and the Yaqui. Committed to diversity and inclusion, the University strives to build sustainable relationships with sovereign Native Nations and Indigenous communities through education offerings, partnerships, and community service.

Dr. Joonkil Ahn

Meet Dr. Joonkil Ahn, an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy (EDLP).

Using both quantitative and qualitative approaches, Joonkil’s research examines the ways in which leadership can be cultivated at an organizational level to promote teamwork and equity. Specifically, Joonkil’s first research strand concerns the measurement of educational practices that are often not directly observable. His highly cited article (Ahn et al., 2021) uses a four-fold cross-validation multilevel factor analysis and establishes a leadership for learning measurement model, testing the extent to which individual and collective faculty as well as principals (dis)agree in perceiving leadership practices. Using this measurement model, his recent work (Ahn & Bowers, 2023) further investigates the degree to which teacher beliefs (i.e., self-efficacy) mediate leadership practice's impact on equitable teaching practices. Within this research strand, he is currently working on the development of a measurement scale of deficit-laden educational practices to advance this project for an extramural grant submission.  

Using qualitative approaches, Joonkil also explores how principal leadership and teacher professional learning communities (PLCs) advance equity in school. A recent study published in AERA Open (Flores & Ahn, 2024) explores how principals demonstrate their commitment to equity by advocating for student voice. Another study, currently under revision in the Journal of Educational Change, investigates equity-related challenges educators face in a middle school’s PLC. In times when PLCs are often regarded by teachers as an additional meeting or even a waste of time, another study of his explores how a school district sustained its PLC to be accepted by the staff as a prevailing organizational culture, using an organizational learning theory lens and data from 19 building- and district-level leaders.  

Joonkil also provides the field with critical and integrative syntheses of research literature. Using a novel approach that combines meta-analysis and network analysis, Joonkil and colleagues (Ahn et al., 2023) published a literature review on the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) for the first time since TALIS became available in 2009. In another review study on TALIS (Wang & Ahn, 2023), he points out problematic issues with construct content validity used in TALIS literature. In an additional review study, currently under revision in the Review of Educational Research, Joonkil and colleagues use critical race methodology and elicit how the research on principal preparation has employed methods that demonstrate critical engagement with race and racism. To learn more about Joonkil’s research, check out his Google Scholar profile