Dr. Kristina A. Hesbol is an associate professor in the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Department at the University of Denver’s Morgridge College of Education, where she teaches doctoral leadership and research methodology courses. Her teaching, research, presentations, publications and service converge on the impact of culturally responsive leadership school and district leadership as praxis in guiding inclusive, improving rural systems of learners, with social and organizational contexts central to this focus. A first-gen scholar, her professional work is filtered through the intersecting issues of equity and social justice, systems thinking and leadership capacity for sustainable improvement. Dr. Hesbol earned a B.A. in Education (DePauw University), an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction (National-Louis University), and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis (Loyola University, Chicago), and she holds a current superintendent endorsement.
Her research agenda focuses on educational leadership and policy issues across two lines of inquiry. The first is focused on leading improvement to develop equitable rural learning organizations, including the leader’s pivotal role in building systemic capacity to improve intractable and complex problems. The second examines networked improvement communities, particularly their capacity to accelerate improvement in rural and remote learning communities. As an investigator of a five-year Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Grant, she is examining the underrepresentation of minority gifted students in rural contexts across the state of Colorado. Her current research examines the behaviors and attitudes of school principals, teacher leaders, and superintendents in rural and remote schools across the US who lead schools in which traditionally marginalized students demonstrate high levels of learning outcomes. In 2021, UCEA approved her application for the Center for Innovative Rural Collaboration for Leadership in Education (CIRCLE), which will serve as a national clearinghouse for rural practice-research partnerships, focused specifically on improving the preparation and practice of educational leaders in rural contexts, thereby improving equitable learning opportunities for rural students across the country. Thought leader practitioner colleagues will partner with university researchers to resolve rural problems of practice through improved leadership, from the classroom to the Board room, with implications for practice, research, and policy. CIRCLE will amplify rural voices, disrupt the deficit rural stereotype through innovative rural leadership training, and disseminate the results of our partnerships through both practitioner and scholarly journals and annual meetings. By incorporating high quality inquiry processes into continuous system level improvement efforts, policy decisions, and accountability systems within and among rural schools, districts, and communities, CIRCLE will develop a third space (Moje, Ciechanowski, Kramer, Ellis, Carrillo, & Collazo, 2004), where rural educational leadership teams and their university research partners engage to disrupt rural educational inequities, thereby developing an innovative and coordinated rural Professional Development Network for rural educational leaders.
In 2018, she launched the Rural Innovative School Leadership Networked Improvement Community (RISL_NIC), comprised of a research-practice partnership between a university faculty member and a practitioner in the field at one of 42 IHEs in the US. With support from The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, members of this research project are collaborating to studying the impact of improvement science tools on the acceleration of improvement at each node, as well as across the NIC.
Hesbol co-edited a research textbook for Ed.D. programs, Contemporary Approaches to Dissertation Development and Research Methods (2016). Her published chapters include, “Getting Real: Surfacing and Challenging Persistent Oppressive Behaviors of School and District Leaders” in Interrogating Whiteness and Relinquishing Power: White Faculty’s Commitment to Racial Consciousness in STEM Classrooms (2016), and “Preparing Leaders to Reculture Schools as Inclusive Communities of Practice” in the Handbook of Research on Educational Leadership for Equity and Diversity (2013). Her work has been published in The Journal of School Leadership (2019), The Journal of Research in Leadership Education (2019), the International Journal of Educational Leadership Preparation (2019), Impacting Education (2020; 2017) and was critiqued in Teachers College Record (2014). As a professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, she was named one of 12 Stafford Fellows for the National Institute for Leadership on Disability and Students Placed At-Risk (NILDSPAR). She was named a Coleman Foundation Entrepreneurial Faculty Fellow at Illinois State University, and a Senior Improvement Research Fellow by the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate. She has served as a mentor for ten Barbara L. Jackson Scholars, and has chaired 26 successful dissertations since coming to the University of Denver in 2013. She was appointed to serve as the University of Denver delegate to the Carnegie Project for the Education Doctorate (CPED), and is actively involved in the redesign of the EdD program at the Morgridge College of Education to integrate improvement and design research in leadership preparation. She serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of The Rural Educator and The Journal of School Leadership, and the Editorial Board of Leadership in Education as Review Editor for Frontiers in Education.
Dr. Hesbol has taught preK-high school students, as well as graduate students at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and at Illinois State University. She served as a principal in several culturally and linguistically diverse school districts, as the Coordinator of Literacy and School Improvement in a diverse suburban school district, and as the Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources at a large "rurban" school district. She consulted throughout North America in literacy leadership, and has worked extensively with aspiring and incumbent school and district leaders in leading equitable school improvement, interrogating data to inform instructional decision making, and disrupting hegemonic organizational processes.