Michael K. McLendon

Annette and Harold Simmons Centennial Endowed Chair & Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Simmons School of Education and Human Development, SMU

3101 University Blvd, Ste 247
(214) 768-4632

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Dr. Michael K. McLendon is the Annette and Harold Simmons Endowed Centennial Chair in Education Policy and Leadership in the Simmons School of Education and Human Development at Southern Methodist University, where he serves as the associate dean. In the Simmons Dean’s Office, Dr. McLendon oversees academic affairs and faculty development, and works closely with the dean on strategic initiatives. His scholarship and teaching focus on governance and leadership, finance, and public policy for higher education.

A primary strand of Dr. McLendon’s research is directed toward understanding the factors influencing policy change at both the state and campus levels, with a particular focus on the role of political behavior in shaping the policy choices of states. Among his recent studies are ones that have examined the rise of new accountability and financing policies for higher education, the influences on public funding for higher education, and the impacts of policies and practices that are designed to increase the performance of private and public colleges and universities. In a related vein of research, Dr. McLendon has studied the effects of campus and state policies on college student success. 

He has published widely on these topics in the leading journals in the fields of higher education and education policy studies. In 2013 and 2014, he was named one of the nation’s leading university-based academics whose research contributes most substantially to public debates about K-12 and higher education.

Much of Dr. McLendon’s scholarship has found support from foundations and public agencies. He has been a principal investigator or a lead consultant on national studies funded by the Lumina Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. He consults with governors, legislatures and state boards of education.  Dr. McLendon also advises campuses and national organizations on matters relating to strategic leadership in response to changing financial and fiscal conditions for higher education.  

A recipient of a number of awards in recognition of outstanding teaching and mentoring, Professor McLendon instructs graduate and undergraduate courses on university governance and finance, leadership and organization behavior, public policy and higher education, and American public policy. 

He is active in national and international professional associations, and is a former elected member of the Board of Directors of the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE).  Additionally, Dr. McLendon serves or has served on the editorial boards of Research in Higher Education, The Review of Higher Education, Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research, and the Politics of Education Yearbook.  

Dr. McLendon has held a number of academic leadership roles, in addition to his current duties at SMU. From 1999 to 2012, he served as a professor of public policy and higher education at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, where he held the role of executive associate dean and chief of staff (2008-2011). His portfolio included academic affairs, state and community relations, and strategic initiatives. While at Vanderbilt, Dr. McLendon also directed the university’s doctoral and master’s programs in higher-education studies (2005-2009), led its master’s program in public policy (2005-2010), and chaired the academic policies and affairs committees of the University Senate. 

He earned his Ph.D. in higher education studies from the University of Michigan, an M.S. in higher education from Florida State University, and a B.A. in political science from Baylor University. Prior to undertaking his doctoral studies, McLendon served as a policy analyst in the Florida House of Representatives and as a staff member in the United States Senate in Washington, D.C. In 2008, he was named a distinguished young alumnus of his undergraduate alma mater.


  • Ph.D. Higher Education Policy, University of Michigan
  • M.S. Higher Education, Florida State University
  • B.A. Political Science, Baylor University

Publications, Speeches and Presentations

  • McLendon, M.K., D. Tandberg, & N. Hillman. (In press). Financing college opportunity: An analysis of factors influencing state spending on student financial aid and campus appropriations from 1990 to 2012. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.
  • Perna, L.W., M.K. McLendon, & M. Klein. (In Press). State policies and higher education attainment: Insights and implications for state policymakers. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.
  • McLendon, M.K., & Hearn, J.C. (2013). The resurgent interest in performance-based funding for higher education.  Academe.
  • Hearn, J.C., McLendon, M.K., & Lacy, A. (2013).  State-funded “Eminent Scholars” programs: University faculty recruitment as an emerging policy instrument. The Journal of Higher Education, 84(5), 601-639. 
  • McLendon, M.K., C. Mokher, & S.M. Flores. (2011). Legislative agenda-setting for in-state resident tuition policies: Immigration, representation, and educational access.   American Journal of Education, 117(4), 563-602.
  • Hearn, J.C. & McLendon, M.K. (2011). Governance: Toward new models and methods for understanding postsecondary governance. In M. Bastedo’s (ed.) Governing the University. The Johns Hopkins University Press. 
  • McLendon, M.K., & Hearn, J.C. (2010). Openness laws, institutional governance, and democracy. Politics and access to state information about higher education. Teacher’s College Record, 112(10), 2649-2663.
  • Doyle, W., McLendon, M.K., & Hearn, J.C. (2010). Why states adopted prepaid tuition and college savings programs: An event history analysis. Research in Higher Education, 51(7). 
  • McLendon, M.K., Mokher, C.G., & Doyle, W. (2009). Privileging public research universities: The political economy of state appropriations to higher education. Journal of Education Finance, 34(4), 372-401. 
  • McLendon, M.K., Hearn, J.C., & Mokher, C. (2009). Partisans, professionals, and power: The role of political factors in state higher education funding. The Journal of Higher Education, 80(6), 686-713.
  • McLendon, M.K., Heller, D.E., & Lee, S. (2009). High school to college transition policies in the states: Conceptual and analytic perspectives on conducting across-state study. Educational Policy, 23(2), 385-418.
  • McLendon, M.K., & Mokher, C. (2009). The origins and spread of state policies privatizing public higher education. In C. Morphew and P. Eckel (Ed.). Privatization of the public research university. (pp. 24-62). Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press. 
  • McLendon, M.K., & Hearn, J.C. (2009). Viewing recent U.S. governance reform whole: “Decentralization” in a distinctive context. In J. Huisman (Ed.). International perspectives on the governance of higher education. (pp. 161-181). New York: Routledge.
  • McLendon, M.K., R. Deaton, & J.C. Hearn. (2007).  The enactment of state-level governance reforms for higher education: A test of the political-instability hypothesis. The Journal of Higher Education, 78(6), 645-675.
  • McLendon, M.K., J.C. Hearn, J.C., & R. Deaton.  (2006).  Called to account: Analyzing the origins and spread of state performance-accountability policies for higher education.   Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 28(1), 1-24.