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Tuesday, October 5, 2021

New Ed.D. Director Vicki Park Seeks to Support Leaders to Make Change

Dr. Vicki Park

Dr. Vicki Park vividly remembers the feelings of anger and frustration.

It was the early 2000s and she was an elementary school teacher in central Los Angeles working with students of color, many of whom came from low-income immigrant communities. Park, who herself came to the U.S. from Korea as a young child and grew up not far from her school site, loved the kids and relished getting to know their families. 

But experiences such as tutoring one summer pushed her to think more broadly about systemic change. 

“I had a fifth grade student and she didn't even know basic subtraction,” recalls Park, now an associate professor in SDSU’s Department of Educational Leadership (EDL). “She was incredibly smart and was putting in so much effort — you could tell how hard she was trying.
“I was just so angry that our system had failed her and so many students like her in the communities where I was teaching.” 

Moments like these led Park to pursue a new path — as a researcher and scholar focused on education policy implementation and urban school reform. And it’s the lens through which Park takes on her newest challenge as the newly-appointed director of SDSU’s Ed.D. Program in Educational Leadership, concentration in PK-12

Park, who has taught in the program since joining the SDSU faculty in 2018, will step into the role in January 2022. She succeeds Dr. James Marshall, who has stepped down from the directorship after four years of leadership to return full-time to his faculty role. 

“Dr. Park has a really good way of mentoring doctoral students and supporting the rigor of the program,” said Dr. Douglas Fisher, professor and chair of EDL. “When doctoral students get worried and stressed, she's very good at helping them see the next thing they need to accomplish. She's a logical choice to follow Jim Marshall and his skill set in getting people supported to graduate. Our graduation rate is tremendous and wonderful and that’s a testament to Jim.” 

Park is particularly excited about the opportunity to support Ed.D. students, many of whom are already in positions of leadership within PK-12 schools and districts. She said she views the program as a collective space where leaders can learn from each other, share best practices and — most critical at this time of crisis and high-stakes decisions during the pandemic — provide socio-emotional support. 

But harkening back to that moment of frustration in Los Angeles that changed her professional path, Park also wants to make one message clear: Systemic change is needed, and we can help drive it. 

“When I think about policy implementation, I don't just think about it as a set official policy from the state, federal or local governments,” Park said. “Teachers and educators and administrators across the system are also policy makers and policy actors. I always ask my students, ‘How do you want to craft impact beyond the life of this program? 

“‘How do you want to make schools and your organizations better? And how can we support you?’”