Prospective Students | Ph.D in Education Leadership Program | Education Leadership | Organization and LeadershipSkip to content Skip to main navigation
Ph.D in Education Leadership Program
In the Department of Organization and Leadership
Meet Current Students
Mariela Graham is both a practitioner and student of Education Leadership. After graduating from Duke University, she joined the NYC Teaching Fellows and became a middle school social studies and mathematics teacher in Washington Heights. Since 2007, she has served as the founding principal of the Urban Assembly School for Criminal Justice, an all-girls’, grades 6-12 public school in Brooklyn. In June 2014, the school celebrated its first graduating class – with an 89% graduation rate – with students gaining admissions to top universities including Columbia, Barnard and the Rochester Institute of Technology. Mariela holds two Masters degrees, one in bilingual education from the City College of New York and one in education leadership from Teachers College where she was a member of the 2005 founding cohort of the Summer Principals Academy. Her affiliation with Teachers College continues; she was recently inducted into the Cahn Fellows Program for Distinguished Principals, and she is been working towards a PhD in Education Leadership at TC.
Derek Kanarek is a doctoral student and teaching fellow in Education Leadership at Teachers College, Columbia University. He also serves as the Mathematics Department Chair at Newark Academy (Livingston, NJ), an independent school for grades six to twelve. Derek’s research and teaching in his doctoral work lives at the granular level of school leadership and professional development, using theories of how adults develop to inform the work of teacher leaders, staff developers, and building-level administrators. He has served four times as a teaching fellow on courses that help school leaders learn to develop themselves and their colleagues. Drawing on his doctoral work, Derek has also co-created and taught leadership courses for high school students.
Derek holds a B.S. in computer science and B.A. in communication from Rutgers University (New Brunswick, NJ), a Masters of Teaching from James Cook University (Townsville, Australia) in secondary school math and IPT education, and an Ed.M. in educational leadership studies from Teachers College. He and his partner, Rebecca, live with their sons in New Jersey.
Chelsey Saunders is a Ph.D. Candidate in Education Leadership at Teachers College, Columbia University (TC). Her dissertation research focuses on understanding how teacher-leaders describe and understand their own flourishing in the increasingly complex political environment of public education, if they do at all. The topical foci of her studies include adult development and leadership; teacher leadership; teacher job satisfaction; critical theory, pedagogy and leadership praxis; constructive conflict; and social justice. Her interests also extend to studying leadership preparation programs in the Western Cape of South Africa. She has been a Teaching Fellow with Professor Drago-Severson for classes educating interdisciplinary doctoral students and master’s students in the Summer Principal’s Academy, and she is the President Emeritus of the TC Student Senate, an elected body that promotes diversity, community, and civility of the student body.
Prior to TC, she graduated from University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill as a North Carolina Teaching Fellow and earned her M.Ed. from Wake Forest University. While an English teacher at an International Baccalaureate high school in Raleigh, North Carolina, she led professional development for differentiation and literacy, wrote 10th grade English Language curriculum for Wake County, assisted coaching women's soccer and cross country, and earned her National Board Certification.
Phillip Smith is a mid-career, second year doctoral student on the Education Leadership Ph.D. program. His sponsor and advisor is Professor Ellie Drago-Severson. Phillip is also a graduate assistant of the Institute for Urban and Minority Education. Phillip’s research and work explores how the racial and cultural backgrounds of Black male secondary school principals inform their approach to exercising leadership and seeks to present “color conscious” paradigms of education leadership. Phillip joins Teachers College from London, England, with an extensive background in district and local level education administration and leadership in the UK. He is a certified accountant and member of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountant (CIPFA). Phillip earned his MBA (Public Services) with distinction from Warwick Business School, University of Warwick, UK where he completed substantive research on “succession planning in London secondary schools: implications for male African-Caribbean leaders”.
Phillip’s research and work on how race/color conscious approaches to education leadership is within a broader context of improving understanding of global leadership competencies, as different and distinct from leadership in a domestic context, that is cognizant of how a global mind-set, cultural, social, racial and ethnic backgrounds inform our notions of leadership and approaches to leadership development. He has presented his research and findings at conferences in the United States and internationally including Scotland, Greece, Germany and Jamaica.
Phillip is currently involved in a number of other research activities both at Teachers College and elsewhere. He is a contributory member of Dr. Robert Carter’s research group at TC that is currently conducting extensive research in Race-Based Traumatic Stress. Phillip was a member of the teaching team for the internationally renowned Teachers College’s 2014 Summer Principals Academy (SPA. He is a 2014 graduate, one of thirteen selected nationally, of the Asa G. Hilliard III and Barbara A. Sizemore Research Institute on African Americans and Education sponsored by the American Educational Research Associations’ (AERA) Research Focus on Black Education SIG. Phillip intends to pursue a career as a professor in a research I institution upon completion of his Ph.D. degree.
Christy Joswick- O’Connor
Christy Joswick- O’Connor is a PhD student in Education Leadership at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her advisor is Dr. Ellie Drago-Severson. After graduating from The University of Scranton, Christy started her career in education as a New York City Teaching Fellow. She became a middle school English and Social Studies teacher in the Bronx. She currently serves as an English Language Arts supervisor in Florham Park, New Jersey.
Christy holds two Masters degrees, one in bilingual education from Lehman College, and one in education leadership from Teachers College where she was a member of the 2013 Summer Principals Academy.
Her current research explores teacher leadership. She is specifically interested in working with teachers and administrators to develop teacher capacity through the pillar practices. Christy lives with her husband Kyle, and their son in New Jersey.
Hyunjin Choi is a PhD student in Education Leadership at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her advisor is Dr. Ellie Drago-Severson. Her current research explores professional development and learning community of teachers.
Hyunjin has worked as an English teacher and a homeroom teacher in public elementary schools in Seoul, South Korea for the eight years. She holds a M.A. in Educational Administration from Seoul National University and a B.A. in Elementary Education from Seoul National University of Education.