UMD College of Education Appoints Two New Department Chairs

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The University of Maryland College of Education has announced the appointments of Dr. Laura Stapleton as chair of the Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology, effective July 1, 2022, and Dr. Nihat Polat as chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership, effective August 1, 2022.

“Drs. Polat and Stapleton possess a wealth of knowledge in their respective areas of study and bring significant experience to their roles,” said Kimberly Griffin, dean, College of Education. “I look forward to their innovative ideas and collaborating with them to advance the mission and goals of our College, as well as the University of Maryland.”

Laura Stapleton July 19 2021

Stapleton previously served as the College’s interim dean and associate dean for Research, Innovation, and Partnerships, where she built an infrastructure to support faculty in securing funding to conduct their impactful research. Under her leadership, research awards and expenditures in the College reached their highest levels in recent history. She has stewarded partnerships including those with the Baltimore Education Research Consortium, the District of Columbia Education Research Collaborative, and the Maryland Longitudinal Data System Center.

“I look forward to serving the department in this role, building on the strong infrastructure put in place by former chair, Dr. Kelly Mix,” said Stapleton. “The Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology has dedicated staff members, impressive scholars, and engaged students, all focussed on the discovery of new knowledge related to child and adolescent development and on the advancement of approaches to using data to understand social science phenomena. I am most energized by the opportunities we have in the next few years to broaden the pipeline of undergraduate students who discover our fields of study."

An accomplished and well-regarded scholar, Stapleton’s research focuses on evaluating existing, and developing new, statistical models necessary for turning data into information for shaping education and policy research. Stapleton has garnered over $8.5 million in federal grant funds and over $500,000 in contracts. She has authored or co-authored 60 journal articles, co-edited two books, and contributed to over a dozen book chapters. She has served on the faculty of the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences’ Summer Institute on Cluster Randomized Trials for over a decade and currently serves as the Director of the National Science Foundation Quantitative Research Methods for STEM Education Scholars Program. She has held Associate Editor positions with leading education journals and has served on, and chaired, many federal agency review panels including those of IES, NSF, and NIMH. She was recently appointed by Governor Hogan to the Accountability and Implementation Board that will oversee the progress of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. In 2000, she received the coveted Educational Testing Service’s Gulliksen Psychometric Fellowship and was elected to the Society for Multivariate Experimental Psychology in 2016.

Stapleton holds a B.A. in Economics and Japanese from the University of Michigan, an M.A. in Curriculum & Instruction from George Mason University and a Ph.D. in Measurement, Statistics, and Evaluation from the University of Maryland.


Polat comes to the College of Education from Texas State University, where he served as professor and chair of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education. He brings with him over 15 years of leadership experience at various institutions, including  associate dean for graduate studies and research at Duquesne University’s School of Education, where he also served as the director of the Canevin Center for Educational Transformation and Social Justice.

“I’m thrilled to join the College of Education as the chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership,” said Polat. “It’s an honor to be part of a community committed to scholarship, innovative programs, and strategic priorities, and I am eager to work with colleagues, students and alumni to strengthen and elevate the work we do to address so many of today’s hardest challenges.”

Polat's research is situated at the intersection of applied linguistics, teacher education, and educational psychology. He has authored and co-authored over 40 peer-reviewed publications, including four books. Many of his works have been published in top-tier journals including Teachers College Records, Applied Linguistics, Language Learning and Technology, TESOL Quarterly, The Modern Language Journal, and The Journal of Educational Research. He has received several institutional and foundation grants, while also receiving five institutional research awards. Just recently, he received the 2022 Leadership through Research Award from the Second Language Research SIG of the American Educational Research Association. He has served as chair of the Applied Linguistics Intersection at TESOL in 2015 and an editorial board member of several journals, including the Journal of Educational Research and TESOL Quarterly.

A first-generation college graduate, Polat holds a B.A. in English language teaching from Marmara University (Turkey), an M.A.  in English from Georgian Technical University, and a Ph.D.  in Applied Linguistics and Foreign Language Education from the University of Texas at Austin.