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Inaugural Education Public Policy Leadership Certificate residency takes Washington, D.C.

Ten Ohio University graduate students from across the United States, most of whom had never met in person, walked into a conference room in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 8, 2019. They departed the U.S. capital  three days later as friends with purpose and a common experience: the inaugural Education Public Policy Leadership Certificate (EPPLC) networking residency. 

A partnership between Ohio University’s Patton College of Education and Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, the EPPLC is a yearlong online certificate program that immerses participants in the world of education public policymaking. The residency—the culminating experience for the EPPLC cohort—featured keynote speakers, discussion panels and networking opportunities, including a full day on Capitol Hill. While at the Capitol, the EPPLC scholars enjoyed meetings with Congressional members and staff from their hometowns.

“This event provided the EPPLC participants an opportunity to experience the policymaking sphere and interface with policymakers, decision-makers, and individuals engaged in the education policy process,” said Patton College Dean Renée A. Middleton.

“Ohio University is proud to support outstanding experiential-learning experiences such as the EPPLC program for our students,” President M. Duane Nellis said. “As we move ahead with our Fearlessly First plans for Ohio University, interdisciplinary programs such as this will provide critically important opportunities for our students.”

Middleton delivered an inspirational welcome message at the residency, urging EPPLC scholars to use their voices  and “make good trouble,” a phrase she borrowed from Georgia Congressman John Lewis. “Good trouble,” Middleton said, lies at the heart of all activism and creates change. She shared with the cohort her parents’ charge to her: “If you see a good fight, get in it!”


EPPLC cohort member Kathleen Blackwell with Rep. Donald McEachin
EPPLC scholar Kathleen Blackwell shared her policy passion, desegregation, with Congressman Donald McEachin.


EPPLC scholars spent the next few days learning to do exactly that.

Squire Patton Boggs, a law firm in Washington, D.C., hosted the residency on Dec. 9 and also invited participants to attend a reception with lobbyists, firm partners, affiliates  and former U.S. Congressional members, including Trent Lott (R-Miss.). The former senator shared personal anecdotes about his life and career and even discussed how he and former South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle worked through their ideological disagreements to create public policy for the common good. 

“I think this is a great program,” Lott told the EPPLC scholars. “I never had equated education leaders as being in the public policy arena, but when you think about it, it fits. Public policy is a broad thing and understanding how public-policy work and legislating and lobbying and the whole thing affects what you do — if educators don’t understand what goes on in this city [Washington, D.C.] or in your state capitals, you’ve got a problem. So, your being involved and giving time in this program will serve you well, I believe, and will serve the institutions that you represent.”


2019 EPPLC cohort members from Ohio meet Rep. Steve Stivers
Dr. Dwan Robinson joins cohort members Kelly Davidson, Jacqueline Miller and Thomas Stevenson with Ohio Rep. Steve Stivers.


The Patton College and Voinovich School partnered in 2018 to create the EPPLC, which facilitates greater understanding of educational public policymaking and provides professionals experience in real-world theory and practice. The online program runs for 12 months and fosters leadership and advocacy in the education public-policy arena. 

“Working collaboratively, The Patton College and Voinovich School partnership builds leaders in educational public policy,” said Mark Weinberg, dean of the Voinovich School. “With an incredibly enriching culminating experience, the certificate enables practicing professionals to learn directly from important legislative leaders in Washington and throughout the country on how to craft effective policy.”

Cohort members hailed from Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Washington, D.C. Together, they seek to combat teacher shortages, improve the National School Lunch Program, make financial literacy required in K-12 curriculum, enforce rights for English Language Learners (ESL), ensure educational access for hospitalized youth, further desegregation and redistricting, curb chronic absenteeism, and increase standardized-test accountability, among other policy issues. 

“All of us—every U.S. citizen—has the opportunity to be at the table,” said cohort member and Patton College Academic Advisor Kelly Davidson, who described the residency experience as “life changing.” 

EPPLC faculty Dr. Dwan Robinson, chair of The Patton College’s Educational Studies Department and the program coordinator; Dr. Marsha Lewis, associate professor and senior associate dean of the Voinovich School; Dr. Jason Jolley, professor of rural economic development and Master’s of Public Administration (MPA) program director at the Voinovich School; and Dr. Linda Trautman, associate professor of political science at Ohio University’s Lancaster Campus, guided the students. “The program provided an ideal venue for students in the cohort to increase their policy literacy and to ultimately use their voices to engage in policy, advocacy and change,” Robinson said. 


2019 EPPLC cohort members pose for a photo with legislative aides
Following an informative panel discussion, the full cohort pose with legislative aides Leah Hill, Chonya Davis and Nick Bush.


Dozens of accomplished professionals from all levels of government, as well as non-profit, research, lobbying, scholarly and professional organizations spoke throughout the event.

The EPPLC offers a flexible online format and the skills acquired can increase employability in professions that engage in public policy at any level. Program admission alternates between a traditional calendar year cycle and an academic year cycle that was implemented with the 2020 cohort to better accommodate working educators.

For more details, please visit To apply for the program, please visit The application deadline for the next cohort is April 10, 2020.

January 29, 2020
Tony Meale and Tasha Attaway