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Purposeful Design: Tulane’s MEd Degree is Created for Changemakers by Changemakers

April 23, 2024

Offering a cutting-edge curriculum and flexibility for working professionals, the online Master of Education program at Tulane University’s School of Professional Development is carefully designed to inspire and empower tomorrow’s education leaders. Working with industry experts and education faculty, the MEd team has created a one-of-a-kind educational leadership learning experience. The program is rooted in the culture of New Orleans, but the themes — equity, professionalism, collaboration — are universal, uniting students to bring about positive change, no matter where they are.

Faculty member Leah Peterson contributed to the program design. Her “happy to help” attitude brought her to Tulane to assist in building the MEd program; the inspiring colleagues she met there convinced her to stay.

Peterson received her EdD in higher education leadership from Northcentral University. She joins Tulane’s faculty in the School of Professional Advancement (SoPA) after 14 years of teaching at Nicholls State University in nearby Thibodaux, Louisiana. We met up with Dr. Peterson to hear more about what makes Tulane’s online Master of Education so unique.

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You are a new member of the Tulane SoPA faculty. Tell me what inspired you to come to Tulane.

Well, it was actually just by chance. Someone from Tulane reached out to the Louisiana Association for Colleges in Teacher Education for help with one of the technical programs at Tulane. I volunteered and started consulting in 2021. I was there offering guidance on quality assurance while they were developing the MEd program, so I was able to offer some of my expertise in that area. 

That consulting turned into a collaboration that just naturally grew into the position I have now. After meeting some of Tulane SoPA’s faculty members and program coordinators, I realized it was just a great fit.

Tell me more about your specialization and how your instruction grows the MEd program.

I’ve taught in higher ed for about 15 years, including everything from teaching technology for teachers to health and community wellness, but my specialty and passion lie in education research and school leadership. I share that expertise in the courses that I teach.

The Tulane SoPA faculty members are an extremely strong group. Through my expertise and theirs, we are creating a positive image and experience for candidates. They will spread the word about it, and we’ll be able to continue to grow this program to benefit teachers and students. 

New Orleans is well known for education reform. Even though the MEd program is online, how does Tulane’s location and history guide the MEd curriculum?

That’s one of the things that makes the program unique. One of the things that I noticed early on working in the MEd program is just how embedded New Orleans is. Its history and its culture are strategically interwoven throughout the curriculum.

That topic is one of the most rewarding discussions for me to facilitate in the classroom. There is nothing like hearing from a student who had to evacuate because of Hurricane Katrina, lost everything, and decided to come back and teach and have an impact in this region — and is getting the additional education to do so. Some of the candidates have had those experiences and they’re able to share them in the classroom. 

The MEd program is designed for everyone to succeed, but it absolutely has New Orleans embedded in themes — like the rich culture of the area, our ability to spread joy just about any occasion (we’ve got a festival for everything), and celebrating diversity. At the same time, the program is for everyone and I think that it is done well.

Tulane’s MEd courses are designed with the working student in mind. What advice do you have for working professionals balancing their career and their education?

The design of the MEd program is intentionally flexible so it can accommodate working professionals. The purpose is for these teachers, leaders and curriculum designers to have an impact. You can only do that if you have a flexible program so students can work and go to school.

This is something that I emphasize in my classes: If this is something that you want to do, find purpose in it. If you can find purpose in your educational work through the MEd program, you’re going to be successful. If you’re not passionate about what you’re researching, writing or implementing, it makes it much harder to be motivated. That is when candidates can fall behind. But if you are a passionate working professional, this program is for you.

At the same time, life does happen. You will find that the faculty members in the MEd program have a lot of grace, so keep an open line of communication with your professors. If you are in the program and find yourself falling behind or simply want to ask some questions, I think SoPA has some outstanding professors who are flexible and support working professionals because we’ve all been there.

Many of the MEd classes culminate in an experiential learning component. What are some examples of the hands-on learning students receive?

I am a former college athlete and coach, so I am a big supporter of “learning by doing.” That’s another reason why I love the MEd program set up. The courses are strategically integrated with hands-on learning opportunities for students.

For example, candidates can analyze school and professional settings; they have opportunities to make evidence-based recommendations, promote and model equity and inclusive behaviors, and do all of those types of things in an exponential learning environment.

The final capstone project is a site-based immersion project. Discuss the process and how it ties together the MEd coursework.

It is the best type of capstone course that ties everything you’ve learned throughout the program into a culminating experience. The capstone course allows candidates at the program exit to apply what they’ve learned in this fully immersive project at a real school site or field site. I believe there’s no better experience than learning from and reflecting upon that type of real-life application.

Capstone site assignments differ because certain candidates have had years of experience at a specific job site, so they would likely do it there. Some candidates may need a placement. Tulane has a lot of partnerships with local school districts, which is a great thing.

I think the difference from other university capstone projects is the intentionality, immersiveness, and flexibility the candidates have to do something more meaningful. My experience with some other capstone courses is that there is limited flexibility, limited interaction, and limited field-side time. The Tulane capstone course goes in the opposite direction.

Any final thoughts about Tulane’s online MEd programs that prospective students should know?

One of the extraordinary things about the program — and candidates can see this for themselves — is the SoPA faculty. It is diverse. You have principals, you have people who are in charge of entire research organizations, you have scholars, and you also have people who were classroom teachers. There is a wide array and so much to learn from the faculty .

The program launched in Fall of ’23, so it’s a new program. These courses are built with such intentionality. I have seen it from the ground level and I am so impressed.

My experience has mostly been on the front end of designing this program, which may be less glamorous. But I nerd out a little when I think about the teams that have put these courses together and how they’re designed. It’s a really amazing process.

I’m so excited to see the future teachers, leaders, and professionals who come out of this program and what they do. I think it’s something special.


Faculty members like Dr. Peterson are part of what makes Tulane’s MEd program unique. They are a diverse and knowledgeable group of educators, with professional and academic experiences to bring directly into the classroom.

Tulane’s online MEd program readies today’s education professionals as tomorrow’s changemakers. With its hands-on experiential learning, flexible scheduling, and robust curriculum, it prepares graduates to lead with knowledge and confidence and advance positive change in the dynamic field of education. 

Are you ready to lead the future of education? Contact an admissions advisor for more information about Tulane’s MEd program or start your application today.  

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