Cynthia Ellwood, Ph.D.

Cynthia Ellwood
Cynthia Ellwood, Ph.D.Marquette University

Schroeder Complex, 116F

MilwaukeeWI53201United States of America
(414) 288-6749
Curriculum Vitae

Clinical Associate Professor, Educational Leadership Program Coordinator

Educational Policy and Leadership

As Coordinator of the Educational Leadership program, Cynthia Ellwood leads the design and implementaion of leadership education within the Department of Educational Policy and Leadership. She currently chairs the Marquette University Committee on Teaching. 

Dr. Ellwood brings extensive leadership experience to her teaching and research. Before joining the Marquette faculty in 2013, she served as a Regional Executive in the Milwaukee Public Schools, where she oversaw 35 schools, elementary through high school, serving 17,500 young people. In this capacity, she supported, supervised, hired and developed the principals of her region. She was responsible for developing a mix of high quality educational programs in the region, including starting a new high school, leading the transformation of a low-performing high school into a school for creativity and innovation, as well as cultivating a wide range of school programs and initiatives in Milwaukee’s most diverse region. Ellwood also led the development of the district’s teacher growth and evaluation system.

Previously, Dr. Ellwood served as the principal of Hartford University School for twelve years; during this time, the staff, parents, and students dramatically transformed the educational program, climate, achievement, and enrollment in this high-poverty, predominantly African American elementary and middle school. In addition, during her 29 years in the Milwaukee Public Schools, Dr. Ellwood taught high school and served as the chief academic officer. Ellwood was a founding editor of Rethinking Schools, an urban educational journal.

Degrees Held

  • PhD – Education, Stanford University
  • MA – History, Stanford University
  • MA – Education, Stanford University
  • BA – Communications, Stanford University (Phi Beta Kappa)

Courses Taught

  • The Principalship
  • Politics and Community in Educational Organizations
  • Instructional Leadership
  • Practicum in the Principalship
  • Master’s Capstone: Current Issues in Educational Policy and Leadership

Research Interests

  • Developing in leaders the capacity to cross boundaries of race and class to build community and serve all students well
  • Leadership to transform schools for racial equity
  • Use of narrative in educational research and practice
  • Creating culturally responsive systems of high demand/ high support at the district, school, and classroom levels

Professional Experience

  • Regional Executive – Milwaukee Public Schools (3 years). Regional superintendent with responsibility for 35 schools serving 17,500 students, K-12. Hired, developed, supported and supervised principals; guided and supported all aspects of school operations, including teaching and learning, climate, human resources, finance, public affairs, safety, and facilities; developed new schools and school programs; led the re-design of the district’s teacher growth and evaluation system.
  • Principal, Hartford University School – Milwaukee Public Schools (12 years). With staff, parents, and students, transformed the educational program, climate, achievement, and enrollment in this largely Black elementary and middle school.
  • Director of Education – Milwaukee Public Schools (7 years). Chief academic officer with responsibility for curriculum, instruction, assessment, professional development, bilingual education, special education, funded programs, and community schools.
  • Teacher of English and Social Studies – South Division High School, Milwaukee Public Schools (7 years).
  • Founding Co-Editor, Rethinking Schools, an Urban Educational Journal.


  • $50,000 Spencer Foundation Small Research Grant (with Sharon M. Chubbuck), “Toward Dismantling Tracking and Systemic Inequity.” (Marquette University)
  • $15 million for the National Science Foundation Urban Systemic Initiative for district-wide mathematics and science reform. Co-Principal Investigator with UWM colleagues. (Milwaukee Public Schools)
  • $3 million from the Danforth Foundation for the Dorothy Compton Danforth Urban Teacher Fellowship (also known as the Compton Program) to recruit and train highly qualified middle school teachers in cooperation with Marquette University and Alverno College. (Milwaukee Public Schools)
  • $600,000 from the Joyce Foundation for the Assessing Learning Project, a collaboration of Milwaukee Public Schools and Alverno College.
  • $500,000 from the Joyce Foundation for the Leadership Academy, in cooperation with the North Central Regional Education Lab. (Milwaukee Public Schools)
  • $225,000 from the Danforth Foundation for Team Planning for Action. (Milwaukee Public Schools)

Professional Presentations

  • Fiddling with the flame of disequilibrium: A study of distributed adaptive leadership toward systemic detracking. American Education Research Association (AERA), April 2016, Washington, DC.
  • Understanding we misunderstand: Disrupting cultural narratives in developing school leaders. American Education Research Association (AERA), April 2015, Chicago.
  • Interrogating narratives of race, class, and justice: Community mapping in preparing school leaders. University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA), November, 2014, Washington, DC.