Shelby Cosner

Professor, Educational Organization and Leadership, University of Illinois, Chicago (UIC)


United States of America

Shelby Cosner is a Professor of Educational Organization and Leadership in the Department of Educational Policy Studies. She is also the Director of UIC’s Center for Urban Education Leadership. Her research interests include organizational change, school reform and improvement, leadership for school improvement, principal preparation/development/evaluation, and principal preparation program improvement.

She is an applied qualitative researcher whose work draws heavily from the organizational sciences, sociology, social psychology, and management. Her recent work appears in such peer-reviewed journals as Educational Administration Quarterly, the Journal of Educational Administration, the Journal of School LeadershipLeadership and Policy in Schools, Urban EducationEducational Management Administration & Leadership, the Journal of Research on Leadership Education, and Planning and Changing. Working independently and with various colleagues, Cosner has obtained over 6M in external funding (e.g., US Department of Education, The Wallace Foundation, The McCormick Foundation, The Lyle Spencer Foundation, The Broad Foundation) as PI or Co-PI for various research or development/research projects.

Cosner has served as the Academic Program Director and Associate Program Coordinator for UICs Doctorate in Urban Educational Leadership. In these roles she co-led program redesign and implementation over a multi-year timeframe using improvement science/inquiry cycles. This program is nationally recognized as a model principal preparation program, and it has received national awards and recognitions for its program quality including UCEA’s 2013 award as an Exemplary Leadership Preparation Program (one of two programs nationally to receive this designation in its inaugural year ) and the 2012 Urban Impact Award from the Council of Great City Schools. She teaches a variety of leadership, school organization, and qualitative research methods courses for doctoral students in the Department of Educational Policy Studies. Cosner has received multiple awards for her teaching including UIC’s Council for Excellence in Teaching and Learning Award in 2009 and UIC’s most prestigious Career Teaching Award, the Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2016.

Cosner is recognized as an expert related to leader preparation, development, and evaluation. She has particular expertise related to leader learning designs and leadership coaching. She is regularly sought to design curriculum materials for the development of school and system leaders. In this work she has served as a curriculum developer and trainer of trainers for research/development centers, state departments of education, regional educational offices, and state superintendent/principal associations. She supported the design and pilot implementation of Wisconsin’s state-wide principal evaluation system and she is currently leading the design and implementation of a multi-year federally funded principal development program for the Center for the Study of Education Policy. She consults with school districts throughout the US to provide development for senior/district-level leadership teams, senior leaders, school leadership teams, principals, and teacher leaders. Her work in these areas often focuses on leading cycles of inquiry and data use to inform organizational improvement and diagnosing/cultivating organizational resources that support improvement–such as teacher and leadership teams. She is also recognized as an expert related to principal preparation program improvement and evaluation. Through multi-year funding from The Wallace Foundation, she is currently leading UIC’s efforts to support two universities (University of Connecticut and Western Kentucky University) as these institutions engage in work to improve their principal preparation programs.