2020 Presidential Medallion Honoree

Karen Symms Gallagher photographed in a headshot style photo. She is smiling and looking into the camera.Karen Symms Gallagher

Emery Stoops and Joyce King Stoops Dean of the USC Rossier School of Education

Under her leadership, the USC Rossier School of Education has risen to #10 among all graduate schools of education in the country according to U.S.News & World Report’s national rankings. USC Rossier’s highly innovative master’s and doctoral programs prepare leaders to achieve educational equity through practice, research and policy.

Dean Gallagher’s distinguished career has established her reputation as one who transforms educational organizations to successfully achieve their goals. In 2009, USC Rossier launched its groundbreaking online Master of Arts in Teaching program, the first of its kind from a major research university. Eight years later, the on-ground and online MAT programs have graduated 3,800 highly prepared teachers from around the country and the world, the majority of whom are teaching in hard-to-staff schools. For MAT students’ fieldwork, the program partners with almost 5,000 individual schools and 1,850 districts.

USC Rossier also launched a revolutionary education doctorate for practitioners under Dean Gallagher’s leadership. The EDL program, now a national model, engages students in real problems of practice in schools and districts. USC Rossier’s Global Executive EdD is preparing administrators worldwide for 21st-century education leadership.  In January 2015, the school launched the first online education doctorate in Organizational Change and Leadership, preparing educators to affect learning in nontraditional environments, including corporations, the military and nonprofits.

Dean Gallagher is a leader of the USC Rossier team that opened USC Hybrid High School in September 2012. This LAUSD public charter school, of which the dean chairs the oversight board, uses technology in a fully blended and rigorous curriculum along with self-paced learning to assure that 100 percent of its graduates are accepted into a four-year university. About 80 percent of the students, mirroring USC’s urban neighborhood, qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, an indicator of children living in poverty. The network is run by Ednovae, a charter management company founded by USC Rossier, and has now expanded to five high schools in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

In 2007, Dean Gallagher led the effort to bring Math for America to Los Angeles in an effort to address the shortage of quality math teachers in the area. Math for America LA provides teacher preparation, stipends and ongoing professional development and support for its teaching fellows over a five-year period. The Master Teacher Fellowship supports experienced math teachers who mentor other teachers and initiate systemic changes in their schools.

Dean Gallagher has a long career of collaborating on teacher preparation improvement. In 2015, she joined with other education leaders to form Deans for Impact, an organization that aims to improve educator preparation through data-driven initiatives. She is currently chair of the board of directors of the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), the nation’s only teacher-accreditation organization.

Dean Gallagher has been a professor, scholar and academic administrator at both public and private research universities throughout the United States. Before joining USC, she was the dean of education at the University of Kansas and prior to Kansas, she directed Ohio’s Commission on Educational Improvement. She has published four books: Shaping School Policy: A Guide to Choices, Politics and Community Relations (1992), Politics of Education Yearbook: The Politics of Teacher Preparation Reform (2000), College Bound (2010), and Urban Education: A Model for Leadership and Policy (2011). She has also written dozens of scholarly articles for publications such as Educational Policy, Research in Higher Education and Early Education and Development.

In 2014, Dean Gallagher received the Leadership Award from the USC Chapter of the international education association PDK, given to a member demonstrating an “extremely high level of leadership and inspiration.”  In 2013, she was honored with USC’s inaugural Provost’s Prize for Innovation in Educational Practice. She was named to the 2013 cohort of Pahara-Aspen Fellows, a highly selective group of two dozen national education entrepreneurs and reform leaders, the first dean of a school of education to be included. In 2013 she also received the Annual Award for “significant contributions to education innovation and reform in California” by 120 state school superintendents, the Dean’s Superintendents Advisory Group. In 2010, the Los Angeles Urban League awarded the Dean its Social Responsibility Award.