Meet the Dean

Dean Karen Symms Gallagher, PhD

Karen Symms Gallagher is the Emery Stoops and Joyce King Stoops Dean of the USC Rossier School of Education. Under her leadership, the USC Rossier School has risen to #10 among all education graduate schools in U.S. News & and World Report's national rankings. Its highly innovative masters and doctoral programs prepare educational leaders to be change agents as teachers, administrators, policy leaders and scholars.

USC Rossier's mission is to prepare leaders to achieve educational equity through practice, research and policy.

Dean Gallagher’s distinguished career has established her reputation as one who transforms educational organizations to successfully achieve their goals. In 2009, the Rossier School, under Dean Gallagher, launched its groundbreaking online Master of Arts in Teaching program, the first of its kind from a major research university. The program has now graduated more than 2,500 highly prepared teachers from around the country and the world, the majority of whom are teaching in hard-to-staff schools. For MAT students’ fieldwork, the program partners with 5,000 individual schools and nearly 2,000 districts.


"Our virtual classroom allows us to offer the same rigorous graduate degrees with the same faculty and same curriculum as we do on campus, and it demands that students do just as much as they would if they attended courses on campus."

— Karen Symms Gallagher


Dean Gallagher has been an active national speaker and thought leader on the emergence of online learning models. She has contributed several opinion pieces on the trend towards Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), including Where’s the Real Learning?, High Quality Online Learning: A Discussion with USC’s Karen Gallagher and Rethinking Higher Ed Open Online Learning.

USC Rossier also launched a revolutionary education doctorate for practitioners under Dean Gallagher’s leadership. The EdD program, now a national model, engages students in real problems of practice in schools and districts. Rossier’s Global Executive EdD is preparing administrators worldwide for 21st-century education leadership.

In 2007, Dean Gallagher led the effort to bring Math for America to Los Angeles in an effort to address the shortage of quality math teachers in the area. Math for America LA provides teacher preparation, stipends and ongoing professional development and support for its teaching fellows over a five-year period. The Master Teacher Fellowship supports experienced math teachers who mentor other teachers and initiate systemic changes in their schools.

In 2014, Dean 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, Dean Gallagher 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. Dean Gallagher was honored with the 2013 Annual Award for “significant contributions to education innovation and reform in California” by 120 state school superintendents, the Dean’s Superintendents Advisory Group.

In 2010 she received the Los Angeles Urban League’s Social Responsibility Award, and in 2011 she was awarded the Phi Delta Kappa International Service Key by the USC chapter of PDK.

Dean Gallagher has been a professor, scholar and academic administrator at both public and private research universities throughout the United States. Before joining USC, she was the dean of education at the University of Kansas and prior to Kansas, she directed Ohio’s Commission on Educational Improvement. She has published four books: Shaping School Policy: A Guide to Choices, Politics and Community Relations  (1992), Politics of Education Yearbook: The Politics of Teacher Preparation Reform (2000), College Bound (2010), and Urban Education: A Model for Leadership and Policy  (2011). She has also written dozens of scholarly articles for publications such as Educational Policy, Research in Higher Education and Early Education and Development.