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As UIC became increasingly well-known for its work in and expertise with school leadership preparation/development, it became clear that UIC was positioned for national leadership on the critical agenda of practice, policy, and research in preparation and development of school leaders who could lead school improvement in under-resourced urban neighborhoods. Centers for research and policy are created on university campuses in large part to concentrate a number of researchers and other staff around a common agenda. In 2011, the UIC College of Education received Illinois Board of Higher Education approval for a new Center for Urban Education Leadership (CUEL). Initially granted five-year temporary status, application was made for permanent status in 2016 and was approved by the Illinois Board of Higher Education in 2018. The CUEL was initially led by Dr. Steven Tozer, Professor in the Department of Educational Policy Studies.

Under Dr. Tozer’s leadership, the founding purpose of the CUEL (2011-2018) was to increase and institutionalize UIC’s capacity to provide leadership in a state and national movement to improve the preparation and development of school leaders, with an emphasis on school principals. With this in mind and in collaboration with UIC’s doctoral program in Urban Education Leadership (UIC’s EdD program), CUEL used processes of continuous improvement to support the ongoing improvement of UIC’s EdD program. Through these processes this program has been dramatically enhanced, has been nationally recognized as one of just several exemplary educational leadership preparation programs in the US, and currently serves as a national model for the field. To a slightly lesser extent from 2012-2018, the CUEL also engaged in research (initially related to the preparation/development of leaders) and policy engagement to advance the field of school leader preparation at state and national levels. These efforts produced an assortment of empirical and scholarly publications, a steady stream of invited presentations to scholarly, policy, and practice groups, and coverage in national media outlets such as the New York Times.