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Future Ready: Tulane’s MEd Grads Are Tomorrow’s Leaders

June 13, 2024

Dr. Claudine Davis, program director for the online Master of Education from the School of Professional Advancement at Tulane University, has spent her career preparing for her current role. Forays into teaching, mentoring, leadership, and curriculum and instruction inform her broad perspective spanning the education spectrum. Now, she is leading a program that equips students with the leadership skills to meet current and future education challenges.

Davis earned her Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction at Mercer University in Atlanta, Georgia, and holds additional administration and teacher leadership credentials. Her research interests include teacher and leadership development, mentorship, effective instructional practices, and school reform and sustainability. She has worked in K-12 systems and higher education.

She recently sat down with us to discuss her career, the online MEd program, and the future of leadership in education.

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You started your academic career by earning a bachelor’s in finance and an MBA. What changed your focus from business to education?

I was in business school full-time working on my MBA when I started volunteering through the Big Brother Big Sister program. They placed me at a school where I had a little brother, and I ended up volunteering in his teacher’s classroom. I really enjoyed it. 

By the end of that year, the teacher mentioned that they had openings coming up, and I was offered a position to teach. So, essentially, I finished business school and then accepted a job as a teacher. 

As soon as I finished my certification, I was thinking, “Well, I don’t know if I’ll teach forever, so let me start working on getting trained on what could possibly be my next thing,” which was education leadership. So then I entered into a master’s degree there.

Over the last 20 years you’ve held various positions as a teacher, curriculum designer, administrator, and professor. How has your background prepared you for your current role as program director of Tulane’s online master’s of education at the School of Professional Advancement?

It can be very difficult to understand all of the moving parts, so having experience in all of the aspects of K-12 education was helpful. And my work as an adjunct professor gave me a better understanding of the higher ed side as well. 

One of the things that I really took advantage of was the training that I received throughout my career—a lot of that training was embedded in coaching and leadership. It is a big part of graduate programs in education: you utilize a lot of that coaching, especially with students preparing to go out into various education sectors. You are giving them experience with the coursework and also helping them grow in the field by constantly providing feedback and advising. 

Another thing was the leadership experience, including working with other leaders who doubled as mentors. That helped me in this role and also helped me understand how to leverage my faculty and their strengths so that we can operate as a skilled team able to prepare future educational leaders.

What features and values set Tulane’s online MEd program apart from similar programs?

I think one of the things would be the student connection. I am a firm believer that a large part of graduate school is the rich conversations and connections that are made within the classroom. We create time for that within our MEd program. There are a lot of online programs that don’t require in-person meetings at all; students just run through the coursework asynchronously. Or, if they do meet, there’s not much time carved out for connections and collaborations between the students. Not only does a lot of learning come from those conversations (because you’re learning about how to use somebody else’s experience to problem solve and plan), but it also helps the students to build their network—which is also a big part of graduate school. 

Additionally, we make sure our course design includes application pieces, whether it’s a part of student assignments or case studies. We make sure to merge theory and application, because we want our students to be prepared to go out and apply the knowledge that they’ve acquired through the program. 

What do you see as the greatest benefits of online learning and how does Tulane optimize them? 

I think the two greatest benefits are access and flexibility. The access piece comes from the unusual diversity of options we offer. Even within a specific specialization, Tulane does not limit you to just the courses within that specialization. Some of the specializations offer more courses than are required, so that you have the option to choose the courses that are of greater interest, or are more aligned to what you are currently working on or your career plan.

With most of our students working, just having the access to be able to get in class without physically traveling and adding to the daily schedule that some people have—specifically if they’re working full-time, have family or other obligations.

The other thing is the flexibility. Online programs give lots of flexibility not only within your schedule but also in terms of the course rotations—how you’re able to map out the way you matriculate. Some schools require that you take a minimum number of courses. Tulane’s online program gives you more flexibility with your schedule so you can optimize it as you try to fit graduate school into your daily routine.

You can take one course a semester. The School of Professional Advancement also has a policy where if you need to sit out a semester, you meet with your advisor and take a leave of absence, and then you can return—you don’t have to reapply. The summers are not required, so if you only want to go fall and spring, or you only want to go spring and summer and not fall, the flexibility is there to allow that. 

What are the greatest challenges in online learning and how does Tulane address those?

I think the greatest challenge is something that I’ve already mentioned—the graduate connections. Being able to make connections and collaborate with other students can be difficult online. Many universities utilize discussion posts heavily and use that as the primary (or sole) means of connecting online students. Tulane also uses discussion posts, but we don’t solely rely on it for students to connect and collaborate. 

So, yes, it’s an online program, but you could meet up to six times each semester within that course. We are intentional about those meetings, so that our students are able to have some time to collaborate and to have a community discussion about the course content and how it’s applied within their various jobs or their sector of education. It opens the eyes of other students to their peers’ different viewpoints.

What career outcomes do you envision for students in this program? Please speak to the range of career opportunities for which this degree prepares students.

We are trying to create educational leaders in general; that’s why we have the four specializations. We want to make sure that our students are prepared to go into schools or school district central offices as coaches and curriculum leaders. We also want them to be prepared to go into educational corporations—corporations who design and train on professional learning or curriculum resources. We want our graduates to be able to do that. Also, being able to create their own consulting opportunities, so that they’re able to consult with other entities and help them along the way based on the knowledge that they’ve acquired with their MEd. 

There’s also the option for nonprofits, which work on a wide range of topics within the educational sector. We want our students to know that this is an option and show them how that work can connect with what they are learning. 

And then, of course, there’s always educational policy. We want people to be versed in that and join the fight to make sure that things are going in the right direction in education. Overall, we want to develop leaders who are able to go out and advocate within their communities and beyond, helping communities to embrace educational resources that we know are going to benefit society as a whole.

We are seeing a regrettable amount of pushback against programs and policies that promote equity and inclusivity in education institutions and the general workplace. Your program is built around these values. How does your program address these challenges and what is your advice to educators in the face of this resistance?

Our programs are heavily based in equity, diversity, and inclusion. Those are the values of Tulane as an institution, so the MEd program is aligned to the values of our University. We also have ethical responsibilities to the communities that we serve, to produce students who have been trained and are able to see the benefits of applying these values within their communities and their careers. We know that there’s pushback in several different areas. However, we continue to embed these values within our programs and we use our time with the students to help them understand advocacy is not always easy. 

The way I see it, when you’re training educators, there’s always a trickle-down effect. So, it doesn’t matter which sector you’re in; at some point your work will impact students in some way. Our goal is to make sure that we are producing students who are trained and have the knowledge to apply these values, no matter where they are, so that as it starts to trickle to the students, that the students are getting exactly what they need. We put people out into the education world who can consistently advocate for what is best for students who eventually will make up the adult society.

What advice would you offer prospective students in the online MEd program?

Get started now, because we are eagerly accepting new students who are ready to be a part of a great network of learners and instructors. I encourage all graduate students: when you get ready to start this journey, really think about the balance and support. Those two things are going to carry you a very long way. 

We encourage students to take advantage of our flexible offerings and our flexible schedule. Although we want them to come in and push really hard, we also want them to have a realistic idea of how they can balance work, life, and grad school at the same time so that it doesn’t become overwhelming and they don’t feel the need to put it on hold. Take advantage of the available flexibility and support. We offer support to our students and we encourage them to take advantage of tit.

Approach the courses and coursework with an open mind and be prepared to contribute to the community of learners, because that’s a part of our goal—to have a community of learners and not just students who are able to run through modules and complete tasks for the entire semester.


Davis wants prospective students to know that Tulane’s online MEd program is unique. From supporting values of diversity and equity to fostering rich conversations and connections, Davis’ talented team of faculty and industry experts deliver a one-of-a-kind program that prepares education leaders to transform the future of education.

With its hands-on experiential learning, flexible scheduling, and a robust curriculum, Tulane’s MEd program 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? Reach out to an admissions advisor for more information about Tulane’s MEd program or start your application today.  

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