Lilly Endowment pledges $14.48 million toward Woodrow Wilson fellowships


Education MBA degree serves as national model

UIndy Woodrow Wilson Indiana Teaching Fellow David Johnson teaches math at Lynhurst 7th & 8th Grade Center on Indianapolis’s west side.

UIndy Woodrow Wilson Indiana Teaching Fellow David Johnson teaches math at Lynhurst 7th & 8th Grade Center on Indianapolis’s west side.

An innovative new MBA degree for school leaders, developed at the University of Indianapolis as a national pilot program, will expand at UIndy and spread to two more Hoosier universities, thanks to a $14.5-million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. The Woodrow Wilson MBA Fellowship in Education Leadership is intended to prepare aspiring principals and administrators to manage the new challenges facing schools, with an eye toward closing achievement gaps between low- and high-performing schools and between top-performing U.S. schools and those around the world.

UIndy was one of just two institutions selected by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation to launch the program for the 2014–15 academic year. Faculty from the University ’s School of Business and School of Education collaborated in designing a 13-month program that blends transformational education coursework and a tailored business curriculum with intensive clinical experience in schools, corporations, and nonprofits, as well as involvement with innovative schools abroad. Candidates for the program are education professionals nominated by their school districts or charter school leaders. In essence, those school systems partner with UIndy to establish internal pipelines and cultivate new leaders.

The first cohort of 15 Woodrow Wilson education MBA fellows at UIndy is now finishing the program, having worked throughout the year with their own leadership development teams to implement bold changes in their districts, schools, and communities. The group also traveled to Switzerland in June to gain insight into how schools and businesses work in concert to promote a thriving economy and educational excellence. The new funding will expand the UIndy program from 15 fellows to 35 fellows for the second cohort that is entering the program this summer, comprising a rich mixture of urban and rural school educators. Each Woodrow Wilson fellow receives a $50,000 stipend that covers tuition, technology, national and international travel, and some living expenses. In exchange, each agrees to serve in a leadership role in a school or district for at least three years, with Foundation-supported executive coaching.

Fellowships produce top-notch STEM teachers

UIndy’s relationship with the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation also includes the Woodrow Wilson Indiana Teaching Fellowships, a separate program that debuted at UIndy and three other Indiana universities in 2009 and now has expanded to more than 20 universities in five states. The Teaching Fellowship, which recruits candidates to teach math and science in high-need schools and works to transform teacher education, has proven highly successful in its initial years at UIndy. Of the 51 fellows who completed the program in its first four years, for example, all found teaching jobs upon graduation. Almost half of them work at schools that partner in the program by hosting student teachers or site visits. “Our fellows are highly sought after by administrators, who say they are not typical first-year teachers,” program director Deb Sachs says. Graduates of the program are more likely to remain in the teaching profession than the average beginning teacher. A national survey found that only 70 percent of teachers continue in the profession after their first year in the classroom; in contrast, 97 percent of UIndy’s WWITF graduates remained for a second year and 87 percent remained for a third year of teaching.