Meet Our Staff

Center for Leadership

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Blazar headshotFaculty Director: David Blazar

David Blazar is an Assistant Professor of Education Policy and Economics at the University of Maryland College Park. He also is the Faculty Director of the Maryland Equity Project, an Affiliate Assistant Professor at the School of Public Policy, and an Affiliate at the Maryland Population Research Center. Substantively, his research examines resources that best support student outcomes and alleviate inequality, with a particular focus on teacher and teaching quality. Methodologically, he examines and employs research designs that aim to support causal conclusions. His research has been published in American Education Research Journal, Economics of Education Review, Educational Researcher, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Review of Educational Research, among other publications; as well as covered in national press outlets including The Atlantic, ChalkBeat, Education Week, The Hechinger Report, and U.S. News and World Report. Dr. Blazar received the Jean Flanigan Outstanding Dissertation Award from the Association for Education Finance and Policy, and he was recognized as an emerging education policy scholar by the Fordham Institute. He received his doctorate from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in quantitative policy analysis in education with a disciplinary focus in economics. He also holds an Ed.M. in policy and management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a B.A. in history and literature from Harvard College. Prior to graduate school, he taught high-school English Language Arts in New York City. 


Gail_Sunderman_Headshot.pngCo-Founder: Gail Sunderman

Gail Sunderman is the Co-founder and former Co-Director of the Maryland Equity Project and Senior Research Scientist in the College of Education. Her current research interests include the role of the state in education and the impact of policy on the educational opportunities of low income and minority students. Prior to joining University of Maryland, she directed the Mid-Atlantic Equity Center at The George Washington University where she spearheaded the development of the Equity Planning Tool, a research-based instrument designed to assist districts to assess equity. At the Harvard Civil Rights Project (CRP), she was lead researcher on a five-year study examining the implementation of No Child Left Behind and how this legislation influenced educational change in states and school districts. Dr. Sunderman has served as expert consultant on educational disparities for the U.S. Department of Justice and other organizations. She is a former Fulbright scholar to Afghanistan and received her Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago. 



Co-Founder: Robert Croninger  

Robert G. Croninger is the Co-founder and former Co-Director of the Maryland Equity Project. He is the associate chair in the Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership in the College of Education and an adjunct associate professor in the Joint Program on Survey Methods at the University of Maryland, College Park. Dr. Croninger teaches courses in education policy and quantitative methods, including courses in mixed methods and multilevel modeling. Prior to taking a position at the University of Maryland, Dr. Croninger was an associate director for the Programs for Educational Opportunity at the University of Michigan, where he worked with school districts and communities to implement desegregation plans and to address race-, gender-, and language-based inequities in schools. His current research focuses on the challenges of studying teaching and identifying instructional practices that affect learning, particularly for students who have been historically disadvantaged in elementary and secondary schools. His latest publications include “Equitable Public Education: Getting Lost in the Shuffle” with Kathleen Hoyer in Charting Reform, Achieving Equity in a Diverse Society, edited by Gail Sunderman, and a special issue of Teachers College Record, entitled “Researching quality in teaching: Enduring and emerging challenges” edited with Linda Valli and Marilyn Chambliss. 


Graduate Students

divided lineFrancisco LagosFrancisco Lagos

Francisco is a doctoral student in Education Policy at the University of Maryland, where he is also completing a Certificate in Population Studies through the Maryland Population Research Center. His research focuses on the causes and consequences of educational inequality, both in developed and developing countries. Francisco’s work characterizes the dynamics of educational stratification; exploits different sources of exogenous variation to identify plausible determinants of between-school segregation; and investigates the consequences associated with changes in the composition of schools on educational and social outcomes.

Marissa Sariol-CloughMarissa Sariol-Clough

Marissa is a research assistant with the Maryland Equity Project and first-year Ph.D student in the Education Policy and Leadership Program. She received her M.A. in Experimental Psychology from Appalachian State University. Her research interests broadly focus on early childhood education inequities and program interventions for low-income families. Before beginning the doctoral program Marissa taught Math, Money, and You, a class she developed to focus on personal finance for gifted middle school students, for Duke TIP at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina and Sherman College in Sherman, Texas. 


Jiehui ZhaoJiehui Zhao

Jiehui is a research assistant with the Maryland Equity Project and first-year Ph.D student in the Education Policy and Leadership Program. She received her M.A. in Educational Theory and Policy from The Pennsylvania State University in 2018. Before studying in the U.S., she obtained her M.A. in Higher Education from Fudan University, China. Her research interests include sociology of education, educational inequality, social and cultural context’s influence on family practices, schooling, and student academic achievement.