Morgaen Donaldson Reappointed as Philip E. Austin Endowed Chair for Second Term

Donaldson’s tenure as Austin Chair has also been marked by her success in securing substantial research funding

The official University of Connecticut seal, in painted gold on an oak panel.

(Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Morgaen Donaldson has been reappointed for a second three-year term as the Philip E. Austin Endowed Chair, following a successful first term beginning in 2021. Her reappointment highlights her exceptional contributions to policy-relevant research, public engagement, interdisciplinary scholarship, and student mentorship.

Morgaen Donaldson.
Morgaen Donaldson, Philip E. Austin Endowed Chair. (Shawn Kornegay/Neag School)

The Austin Chair was endowed by a group of alumni and supporters to recognize President Emeritus Austin’s many contributions to the University, leading UConn’s transformation into its present status as a top public university in the nation. As the 13th president, serving from 1996 to 2007, Austin led the University through a major growth in its endowment, an increased reputation for academic excellence, national athletic success, and many other points of pride.

Since her initial appointment, Donaldson has significantly expanded her research output and interdisciplinary collaborations. She has published nine articles, two book chapters, and five policy reports, with several appearing in top journals such as Educational Researcher and Educational Administration Quarterly. Her work on policies related to the evaluation of school principals, the efforts of school districts to attract and retain a diverse workforce, and test-optional approaches to undergraduate admissions has been widely recognized. She is also the Neag School of Education’s associate dean for research and director of its Center for Education Policy Analysis, Research, and Evaluation (CEPARE).

Donaldson’s tenure as Austin Chair has also been marked by her success in securing substantial research funding. She serves as the principal investigator (PI) or co-PI on seven grants totaling $6.5 million, with an additional $2.8 million in pending grant proposals. Her interdisciplinary approach is evident in projects like her study on test-optional admissions, conducted with colleagues in educational measurement and higher education, and her research on the superintendency, which includes scholars from political science, economics, management, psychology, and education.

In addition to her scholarly achievements, Donaldson has made significant contributions to public engagement through initiatives like the Connecticut Center for Education Research Collaboration (CCERC) and the Rapid Research Brief (RRB) series. A novel partnership sponsored by the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) and managed at UConn, CCERC has gained national recognition for bridging research, policy, and practice. Under the leadership of Donaldson and her co-director at CSDE, the collaborative has focused on studying the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and supporting students’ recovery and has produced research that has been referenced in The New York Times, The New Yorker, and numerous other outlets. CSDE funded CCERC initially with a $3 million grant and recently renewed it for another $3 million.

The RRB series, which Donaldson expanded with the support of the Austin Chair, addresses pressing issues in Connecticut’s lowest-performing and lowest-resourced school districts. These briefs, produced with the help of doctoral students and requested by school district superintendents, cover topics ranging from family engagement to the relationship between school boards and superintendents.

Donaldson has also used Austin Chair funds to host influential events, collaborating between UConn, the Connecticut State Department of Education, and local school districts, focusing on critical issues like diversifying the educator workforce and building sustainable leadership pipelines in schools.

Mentorship and student engagement have been central to Donaldson’s work. She has established the Austin Fellowship, providing advanced doctoral students with opportunities to manage the RRB program and Austin-funded events and produce their own scholarship. Her mentorship extends to co-authoring articles and grants with students, helping them produce policy-relevant research.

“Dr. Morgaen Donaldson’s reappointment as the Philip E. Austin Endowed Chair is a testament to her outstanding contributions to educational research and public engagement,” says Anne D’Alleva, Provost & Executive Vice President. “Her interdisciplinary approach and dedication to mentorship not only enhances UConn’s academic environment but also strengthens our connections with the community. We are excited to see the continued impact of her work, which truly embodies the mission and spirit of the Austin Chair and honors President Austin’s legacy.”

Looking ahead, Donaldson plans to build on her achievements by further strengthening research-practice partnerships at UConn and enhancing opportunities for students to engage in policy-relevant scholarship. She aims to secure additional funding for CCERC and bring leading scholars to campus to share their expertise. She also plans to establish a summer program to support small-scale, policy-relevant research projects conducted by doctoral students.

“The Austin Chair has been instrumental to my efforts to build partnerships with educational leaders and policymakers across the state, enhance the impact and reach of my own scholarship, and bolster opportunities for UConn students. I am grateful for the opportunity to continue to work to advance President Austin’s commitment to producing policy-relevant scholarship and mentoring the next generation of researchers,” says Donaldson.

Donaldson’s reappointment as the Philip E. Austin Endowed Chair ensures that UConn will continue to benefit from her leadership and dedication to advancing research, public engagement, and student mentorship. Her work exemplifies the Chair’s mission and President Austin’s legacy, positioning UConn as a national leader in education policy and practice.