Hamline News

EdD Candidate Centers Students on the Margins

Black and white image of Dana Thompson centered on a red field.

Based on Dana Thompson’s experience at an entry-level job on a research project involving elementary-aged students, she knew that she wanted to work with students and families who are usually marginalized by mainstream education practices.

“I continue to view that as my primary calling and have spent my career working with and advocating for students of color, LGBTQIA+ students, students with disabilities, and others,” said Thompson, who is transgender.

Thompson secured her administrative license (director of special education) through the School of Education and is now working toward a Doctorate in Education (EdD). The program was recommended by a peer and appealed to her for its equity focus.

Her Hamline University administrative license allowed her to achieve her current position supervising middle school special education programming and other support services in the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage district which serves approximately 1300 students enrolled in special education programs.

“Every student is unique and support services help to address each student's individual needs related to disability, mental health, culture, financial status, and others,” said Thompson. “Support services help break down barriers and allow access to education, improving learning and academic outcomes.”

Useful Lessons and Flexibility

Thompson hopes to work as a school superintendent eventually and a personal goal and a love of learning drove her pursuit of an EdD. Along the way, Thompson has found the lessons in her Hamline classrooms related to her job, especially around leading her team and equity.

“I have used the things I learn in my classes around leadership and working with teams the next day at work,” said Thompson.

Along with a rigorous learning environment, Hamline provided a welcoming and flexible program.

Thompson noted that sometimes life got in the way of school but the Hamline faculty, including dissertation advisor Trish Harvey and administrative licensure program director Kim Hartung were understanding and they continue to be supportive.

The program has led to meaningful personal and professional connections.

“A primary benefit to the EdD program was the cohort model,” said Thompson. “The friendships I gained have proven to be enduring and I reach out to the individuals in my cohort frequently for advice and ideas.”

A Research Project with Purpose

Her classroom work complete, now Thompson is working on her dissertation, which focuses on the experiences of teachers who undergo gender transition while working.

“The research will dive into workplace protections; parent, colleague, and student reactions; avenues for advocacy, and more,” said Thompson.

Thompson, who transitioned while working and attending classes at Hamline, found little academic research and few personal narratives to support her journey.

“I started in my district presenting male (as I was assigned at birth) and transitioned while working two years ago,” said Thompson. “If I had someone I could look to, I would not have waited so long.”

A pathbreaker, she is open about her transition and now serves as the role model she had wished for. Thompson also hopes her research will help others.

“The goal of my research is to help create an environment that is welcoming to trans teachers and acceptance among students,” said Thompson. “I hope to impact how districts support their transgender staff and students. I also hope to demonstrate the value of transgender teachers when it comes to representation and student advocacy.”

Written by staff