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New UF Faculty Earns National Fellowship

F. Chris Curran, associate professor of educational leadership and policy, has been named recipient of the National Academy of Education and Spencer Foundation’s Postdoctoral Fellowship for the 2019 year. This fellowship is one of the highest honors for those early in their career in higher education.

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UF online graduate education rated best in nation

Online Grad Ed rankings (2016, top 5)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The distance education program at the University of Florida College of Education, already recognized for having some of the nation’s best e-learning students, now can stake a claim as America’s best online graduate education degree program overall, according to the latest national rankings announced Jan. 12 by U.S. News and World Report magazine.

UF was tied for first with the University of Houston in the new 2016 rankings of America’s Best Online Graduate Education Programs, improving by 12 spots over last year. For the second year in a row, UF also received the survey’s highest score for “admissions selectivity”—considered an indicator of the high quality of its students.

UF now is the top-ranked education college in Florida and among public education schools in the Southeast in both online and on-campus graduate degree programs. The College of Education also was UF’s highest-rated online program in the survey.

This is the fifth year that U.S. News has numerically ranked online learning programs in higher education. Education is one of seven disciplines at the master’s degree level that were rated. Programs were ranked based on five weighted factors: student engagement (35%), student services and technology (20%), admissions selectivity (15%), faculty credentials and training (15%), and peer reputation (15%).

“Our distance ed courses are designed by top-flight faculty using the latest knowledge about best practices in web-based learning environments,” UF education Associate Dean Tom Dana said. “Our goal is to develop master educators who can lead transformations in practice.”

COE online instructors work with the college’s instructional design creative teams to produce high-quality videos, both for on-screen lessons and “virtual field trips” (Photo courtesty of Matt Stamey/Gainesville Sun)

COE online instructors work with the college’s instructional design creative teams to produce high-quality videos, both for on-screen lessons and “virtual field trips” (Photo courtesy of Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun)

Dana said a key distinction of the UF online program is its cohort instructional approach, meaning the students start and complete the degree coursework together, which Dana said creates more opportunities for students to interact with each other and with their instructors.

“The cohort model has been shown to increase student retention and the graduation rate,” he said.

Dana has steered the development of the college’s e-learning program since its inception in 2004, when 57 students enrolled in three online graduate courses. In 2015, more than 1,750 students were enrolled in 160 online courses.

The College of Education offers eight Web-based degree programs, geared mainly to working teachers and school administrators seeking additional certifications, career advancement or professional development. The five online graduate education programs considered in the U.S. News rankings were: curriculum and instruction; educational leadership; educational technology; reading, language and literacy; and special education.

“Many of our online instructors are full-time college faculty members and nationally recognized as experts in their field,” Dana said. “All online instructors receive training in the technology and best practices of online learning.”

Many instructors have worked with the college’s instructional design team and digital creative staff to produce high-quality videos, both for on-screen lessons and for “virtual field trips” that allow students to see and hear some of Florida’s most inspiring teachers and school administrators in action and discussing best practices and professional insights.

best-online-programs-grad-education-2016“The videos link to a specific assignment or learning activity,” said Bruce Mousa, coordinator of UF’s educational leadership online degree program. Mousa also has been known to upload videos from his personal computer to provide feedback to individual students.

Education Professor Sevan Terzian even incorporates some Ken Burns-like production techniques to deliver engaging content in his Education and American Culture online course, such as inserting historical images accompanied by captions and his voice-over narration.

“I wouldn’t be the first to say there is a small element of performance in everything we do,” Terzian said with a smile.

For more information, visit the college’s distance learning website at

The full rankings and rankings data for Best Online Programs in Graduate Education are publicly posted on the U.S. News website at

SOURCE: Tom Dana, associate dean, UF College of Education;; 352-273-4134
SOURCE: Jason Arnold, associate direct of e-learning, technology and creative services, UF College of Education;; 352-273-4442
WRITER / MEDIA RELATIONS: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education;; 352-273-4137

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Ed. Leadership ranked 5th nationally among online master’s degree programs

Recruiting students for the College of Education’s online master’s degree program in Educational Leadership just got easier for Bruce Mousa, a course instructor and coordinator of the M.Ed. program.  

MOUSA, Bruce1

Bruce Mousa, a higher education resource website for college information seekers, recently ranked the program – which prepares working teachers and other professionals to become school principals — No. 5 on its list of the “25 Best Online Master in Educational Leadership Degree Programs.”

While the site also has listed the University of Florida’s overall distance learning program at No. 2 in the nation behind the Penn State World Campus, Mousa is quick to share the credit for the Educational Leadership program’s lofty status.

“I’ve got a fantastic team, and it’s very encouraging that such a young program would get this kind of recognition,” he said. “We’re less than two years old, so this can be used as a marketing tool.”  

Marketing is one of several responsibilities assumed by Mousa, who works in conjunction with the COE’s E-learning, Technology and Creative Services (ETC) staff to promote the fledgling program.

“I’m one of four faculty members, and we tell everyone that we’ve got a flexible, online course that maintains high standards set by UF,” Mousa said. “We personalize our course content by embedding videos of successful principals at Florida schools in our online course modules. They provide great examples of current best practices.”

Mousa also said the No. 5 ranking will help to increase future enrollment.

“I tell school administrators everywhere that our long-range vision is to move from a course sequence beginning every two semesters to having a minimum 15 students beginning the program each semester,” he said.

Jason Arnold, who serves as a liaison between ETC and the Educational Leadership program, said ETC’s marketing support has included creation of a website that provides details about the course. The website address — — is distributed through email blasts and at state education conferences and other gatherings held throughout the year.

“The students have been awesome about helping the ETC creative team develop the website,” Arnold said. “They’re a diverse group of working professionals, and several of them have submitted their photos and testimonials about the program.

“Our goal is to have the best online courses available for any area of study,” he added “The online master’s degree program in Educational Leadership is paving the way.”

      Source: Bruce Mousa, UF College of Education;; 239-593-9196.
      Media Liaison: Larry Lansford, director, COE Office of News and Communications;; 352-273-4137.
      Writer: Stephen Kindland, COE Office of News and Communications;; 352-273-3449.

Doctoral student receives National Data Institute fellowship


ULMER, Jasmine (crppd, 2:2013)Jasmine Ulmer, a doctoral student in educational leadership, was selected as a fellow for this year’s National Data Institute on the datasets of the National Center for Education Statistics and National Science Foundation. 


The institute serves as an intensive introduction to using national data to support research on science, engineering and postsecondary education. The meeting will take place from July 14 to 20 in Washington, D.C. 


“I hope to gain an in-depth understanding of federal research policies and procedures,” Ulmer said. “I’m interested in learning more about how the National Science Foundation and the National Center for Education Statistics collect data on issues in postsecondary education that address the career pathways of teachers and school leaders.”



‘Rising star’ crafts plot to narrow learning gap

Sometimes, all it takes is a notable quote to inspire a person to seek change, lead reform and serve the community.

For University of Florida education doctoral student Jasmine Ulmer, the life-changing words were voiced by former U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige: “In the greatest, wealthiest nation the world has ever known, nearly seven out of 10 fourth-graders in big cities and rural areas cannot read. It is our greatest failure as a nation. It is our failure as a people, and we must do something about it.”

At the time, Ulmer was an undergraduate at UF studying English and classical studies. But after stumbling upon Paige’s comments, Ulmer was driven to become a reading teacher and coach.

“After reading that quote, I was inspired to enter the College of Education upon graduation to earn a master’s in reading education,” said Ulmer, who graduated with her bachelor’s degree in 2004 and her master’s degree the following year. “But once I entered the classroom to address challenges in literacy, I became aware of a broader spectrum of challenges that face the students, teachers and leaders in our schools.”

Today, Ulmer is pursuing her Ph.D. in educational leadership at UF, and her professors peg her as a rising star in Florida education policy with a desire to improve the learning gap in schools with the help of teachers and school leaders.

Along with several years of teaching experience, she has participated in a number of education policy projects, including the Florida Department of Education’s FCAT bias review committee from 2008 to 2011. In 2009, she was selected to serve as a U.S. Department of Education teaching ambassador fellow and got the opportunity to travel, speak with education policy makers and attend conferences.

Now she co-chairs the state education department’s teacher and leader preparation implementation committee, which makes recommendations to Florida’s Race to the Top committee about standards and learning targets for state-approved teacher preparation programs.

Ulmer began her upward journey in 2005 as a teacher who took on a variety of roles, from teaching second- and seventh-grade classes to serving as an elementary science coach.

She also found time to collaborate with district, state and federal officials on issues related to advancing the teaching profession.

“As an elementary classroom teacher I could affect 18 students at a time, and as an instructional coach I could influence a thousand students at a time,” she said. “Though I love my students and miss them very much, I felt the way I could best contribute to the profession was to support my students’ teachers on a larger scale.”

Ulmer believes one way the teaching profession can be transformed is through the development of career ladders that build upon teachers’ individual talents and interests. Then, she said, schools might be able to retain more teachers and create stronger internal systems of support.

“For example, some teachers might be able to spend more time mentoring other teachers, leading professional development, designing instruction, utilizing technology, working with the community, or collaborating with researchers on projects,” Ulmer said.

Ulmer’s colleagues and professors tout her as a major player in the future of Florida education. She hopes to focus her dissertation research on how the perspectives and experiences of educators can be better incorporated into educational policy and practice decisions.

“Jasmine has just been an exceptional addition to our class of college research fellows,” said Bernard Oliver, UF program coordinator in educational administration and policy. “Her experience and involvement with Florida’s Race to the Top initiatives provide our students and faculty in educational leadership with the most current thinking about preparing leaders for Florida’s future.”

Ulmer plans to graduate with her Ph.D. in 2015 and then work in academia or for a governmental agency.

“I see myself as one of many voices contributing to a larger conversation,” Ulmer said. “I’m relatively new to the field and feel fortunate for the opportunities that I’ve had, and I hope I’m able to continue making positive contributions.”

WRITER: Alexa Lopez, news and communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4449
MEDIA CONTACT: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4137

Doctoral student to represent UF on council for pre-service leadership preparation, practice

Second-year educational leadership doctoral student Jasmine Ulmer was recently appointed to the Graduate Student Council (GSC) of the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA). As one of eight graduate students in the GSC, Ulmer will help to increase the voice and presence of graduate students in the UCEA, among other responsibilities.

The UCEA, composed of higher education institutions, aims to further the preparation and practice of educational leaders through research, preparatory resources and influencing educational policy at all levels. UF is a member of the UCEA.

Ulmer has previously served as a teacher and instructional coach for six years during which she worked to increase teacher involvement in educational policy at the state and federal levels. At the University of Florida, her research focuses on issues of teacher quality, evaluation and career pathways.