Karen Symms Gallagher

  • Professor of Education

Research Concentration

  • K-12 Education Policy


PhD Educational Administration Purdue University 

MEd Educational Communication and Technology University of Washington 

BA Political Science Western Washington University


  • Educational Policy • Online Education
Download CV


Karen Symms Gallagher is a member of the senior research faculty specializing in issues of equity related to women in leadership. In addition, Dr. Gallagher has a long record in K−12 education policy and teacher preparation improvement. She is Board Chair of CAEP, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, and in 2015 joined with other education leaders to form Deans for Impact, which aims to improve educator preparation through data-driven initiatives.

From 2000 to July 2020, she was the Emery Stoops and Joyce King Stoops Dean of the USC Rossier School of Education. 

During Dr. Gallagher’s tenure as dean:

  • She led the effort in 2007 to bring Math for America to Los Angeles to provide teacher preparation, stipends and ongoing professional development and support for teaching fellows, and a Master Teacher Fellowship that supports experienced math teachers who mentor others and initiate systemic changes in their schools.
  • In 2009 the school launched its groundbreaking online Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program, the first of its kind from a major research university. The program partners with almost 5,000 individual schools and 1,850 districts for MAT students’ fieldwork.
  • USC Rossier launched a revolutionary doctorate for practitioners, the EdD in Educational Leadership (EDL program), that is now a national model for engaging students in real problems of practice in schools and districts; and the Global Executive EdD that prepares administrators worldwide for 21st-century education leadership.
  • Dr. Gallagher led the Rossier team that founded the Ednovate network of public charter high schools in Los Angeles and Orange counties and opened USC Hybrid High School in 2012. The school uses technology in a fully blended and rigorous curriculum along with self-paced learning to assure that 100 percent of its graduates – about 80 percent of whom qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, an indicator of children living in poverty – are accepted into a four-year university. She has served as Ednovate’s Board Chair since 2012.
  • In 2015 the school launched the first online education doctorate in Organizational Change and Leadership (OCL), preparing educators to effect learning in nontraditional environments, including corporations, the military and nonprofits.
  • Dr. Gallagher led the school in revising and rejuvenating its mission to “achieve educational equity through practice, policy and research”; enabled the expansion of Rossier’s research centers from three to 11 over just three years; and oversaw the strategic planning and school re-accreditation processes that began in 2019.

In 2020, President Carol Folt announced she would award Dr. Gallagher the Presidential Medallion, USC’s highest honor, upon Dr. Gallagher’s return from sabbatical leave and when the University has resumed major events.

In 2014, Dr. Gallagher received the Leadership Award from the USC Chapter of the international education association PDK, given to a member demonstrating an “extremely high level of leadership and inspiration.” In 2013, she was honored with USC’s inaugural Provost’s Prize for Innovation in Educational Practice. She was named to the 2013 cohort of Pahara-Aspen Fellows, a highly selective group of two dozen national education entrepreneurs and reform leaders – the first dean of a school of education to be included. The same year she received the Annual Award for “significant contributions to education innovation and reform in California” by the Dean’s Superintendents Advisory Group, composed of 120 state school superintendents and Rossier alumni. In 2010, the Los Angeles Urban League awarded Dr. Gallagher its Social Responsibility Award. 

Before joining USC, Dr. Gallagher was dean of education at the University of Kansas and previously directed Ohio’s Commission on Educational Improvement. She has published four books:  Urban Education: A Model for Leadership and Policy (2011), College Bound (2010), Politics of Education Yearbook: The Politics of Teacher Preparation Reform (2000), and Shaping School Policy: A Guide to Choices, Politics and Community Relations (1992). She has also written dozens of scholarly articles for publications such as Educational Policy, Research in Higher Education and Early Education and Development.

Awards and Grants