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Member of the Month: Michelle Young


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Author: Nicola Mellor 

We’re excited to introduce July’s Member of the Month; Professor of Leadership at the University of Virginia, UCEA Executive Director, and #BELMAS2019 Keynote Speaker, Michelle Young…


Hi Michelle! First of all, can you tell us about your background? How did you start out in education?

My mother was an elementary school teacher, and I spent many summer vacations helping to organize materials, design bulletin boards, and build learning centers for her classrooms. When I was in high school, I spent a semester working with a 5th grade math teacher as part of the Future Teachers of America program. My first real teaching job, however, was in Thailand following graduation from college. I spent a year in Surat Thani, Thailand teaching English as a Foreign Language. That experience was life changing, as I learned so much about teaching, learning and myself. When I returned to the states I attended graduate school and continued my work in education. 

What eventually drew you to your position as Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of Virginia?

The University of Virginia (UVA) is an excellent institution with strong faculty and students. Several years after I started my career as a professor of educational leadership, I took on the additional role of UCEA Executive Director. One of my responsibilities with UCEA was providing a strong and supportive headquarters at one of UCEA’s member universities. The University of Virginia provided everything I was looking for: excellent colleagues, strong programs, substantive engagement in the field, and a commitment to scholarly excellence.

What, in your opinion, is the best thing about your role?

The opportunity to work and think with colleagues as we endeavour to understand and improve practice. It is incredibly satisfying to work with colleagues who share a commitment to making a positive difference.

What are your research interests?

My scholarship focuses on critical policy analysis and the preparation and practice of educational leaders. In my work, I seek to understand the relationship between leadership development, educational policy and the provision of equitable and quality experiences for all school community members. 

Can you tell us a little about your work as the Executive Director of UCEA?

I started working with UCEA in the summer of 2000. I had three goals: 1) to build a more diverse and inclusive UCEA community, 2) to build a research-base to inform quality leadership development, and 3) to build collaborations with other policy and professional organizations that would enable UCEA institutions and faculty to have a more substantive impact on the field. Although one could continue to work on each of these goals for years to come, I feel a deep level of satisfaction in the progress made in each area. None of these achievements would have been possible in the absence of an engaged and committed professional community, and so many more things will be possible for that very same reason.

How has your position at UCEA impacted your career? 

It both focused and expanded my work. It focused my work around leadership development, which is the focus of UCEA, while also extending my engagement significantly to work on a variety of projects related to leadership development with colleagues from around the world, representing practice, policy, higher education, professional association and funding communities. The people I have worked with due to my role have helped me become a better leader, researcher and thinker.

We’re very excited to have you join us at this year’s conference as one of our keynote speakers. Without giving too much away, what can we expect from your presentation?

I will be talking about the role of advocacy in educational leadership. 

What has been your experience of collaboration and sharing interests with BELMAS during your time with UCEA?

Understanding the policy context of leadership development and practice is one area of shared interest that has led to several collaborations between BELMAS and UCEA. In 2009, working with CCEAM, UCEA and BELMAS co-edited a comparative international handbook on the education of school leaders. Several years ago, UCEA and BELMAS took turns leading an International Congress (first initiated by Colin Russell), and supported a multi-country survey designed to capture contextual factors impacting the practice and development of education leaders. Additionally, the focus of both organizations on issues of leadership and social justice has led to other long-term collaborative projects. In fact, I believe there is a 10-year anniversary publication highlighting the work of this collaboration underway. 

You have attended several BELMAS conferences; how has this influenced your professional practice and development?

I have made some wonderful BELMAS colleagues, and I look forward to seeing them each year that I am able to attend BELMAS and when they are able to make it over to UCEA or AERA in the states. The greatest impact that these wonderful human beings have had on my professional practice and development is linked to the visits to schools in the UK. I have been very fortunate to visit multiple schools in conjunction with the BELMAS meeting, touring and talking with school leaders, teachers and students, and then later discussing those experiences with colleagues. Those experiences have been incredibly meaningful and I often share what I learned with my students and colleagues in the US.

Can you tell us something about yourself, completely unrelated to education, that not a lot of people would know? (such as a hobby, passion, musical influence, secret talent, standout experience, etc.)

I am a huge sci-fi/fantasy fan. I love going to the movies and the bigger the adventure the better. I am so impressed with the creativity and imagination that goes into this genre. It’s a thrill!


If you’re attending the Annual Conference, you can watch Michelle’s keynote speech at 9am on Saturday in the London Suite.

A huge thank you to Michelle for being our Member of the Month. It was fantastic to chat with you and we look forward to seeing you next week at the conference!

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