Aspiring Leaders Program

Are you a highly motivated individual who wants to lead an URBAN school? Are you committed to increasing social equity through public education?

The Aspiring Leaders Program is a unique partnership between SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education & Human Development and select districts. The program prepares school leaders to build an aspirational school culture and lead high-quality instruction for all students. Driven by a commitment of both excellence and equity, students are supported on a journey of personal and professional change as they strive to translate their vision into improved student outcomes.

Unique Program Benefits

  • Rigorous, competency-based program focused on action learning
  • Second year residency on an urban school campus
  • Mentoring program supported by successful school principals
  • Sharing of the latest effective practices in urban schools
  • Courses taught by experienced urban school leaders and Simmons School professors.
  • Learning alongside a cohort of values-aligned, influential changemakers
  • Significant scholarship availability to ensure affordability
  • Development of skills that span across various industries

Partner Districts

Prospective students must be employed by one of the following partner districts.

  • Dallas ISD
  • Fort Worth ISD
  • Uplift Education
  • Irving ISD
  • KIPP
  • Garland ISD

If you are not employed by a partner district, please contact us for more information. 

Program Structure

The master’s degree is designed to be completed in two years. 

Year One

In the first year of the program, students take courses at SMU taught by SMU faculty while working full-time in their current role as educators. Students take courses in a sequence that begins with a 3-week intensive session during the first summer of enrollment. During the fall and spring academic terms, students meet each week for classes on Saturdays. 

Year Two

In the second year, students serve in an on-campus leadership role for a Residency year where they are paired with a mentor principal and implement strategies and skills in real-time, often in roles as coaches or assistant principals. SMU collaborates with district partners in identifying appropriate positions to which residents apply during the first year of the program. Residents receive on-the-job coaching & support from a leadership development coach.

Alumni Support and Network

Alumni gain access to an expansive network of values-driven education leaders at school district and state levels, as well as other areas of the education sector. 

Texas Principal Certification

Students who meet TEA requirements are eligible to earn a probationary certificate at the end of the first year and the standard certificate at the end of the second year upon completion of the program.