The Student Experience

Our semester-long course offers an equity-focused leadership development experience focused on the design, governance, regulation, democratic accountability, and transformation of school systems and allied public- and social-sector organizations. Students engage in a client-facing project and rigorous seminar and practical skills training to build their capacity to address complex problems and advance improvement and innovation in collaboration with peers, clients, and stakeholders. Students also have opportunities to connect with employers nationwide  as they plan their career trajectory, and they join a lifelong network of clients, alumni, funders, and leaders committed to public sector improvement. Graduate students join us from 25 professional programs at Columbia University and other universities around the country during the fall or spring semester. To learn more, attend a student information session and apply for an upcoming semester.

CT Innovation cohort in action in 2023

Client-facing high-impact projects

Under the guidance of CPRL’s Project Directors, students work on interdisciplinary teams of 3-5 students in deep collaboration with clients and stakeholders to develop creative solutions that advance urgent, high-impact efforts to improve public education. The project experience allows students to apply and grow the theory, knowledge and skills needed to become leaders who pursue educational equity. Clients include state departments of education; local school districts and charter management organizations; school-support or advocacy groups; and other non-profit organizations that serve children. CPRL assigns students to teams by matching student preferences with the skills and experiences needed to best serve the clients' needs. Read more about the student experience, our projects, and see our Publications and Tools for project deliverables.

Student at board teaching Skills class


CPRL's seminar offers a close study of governance systems, policies, and laws that accelerate and support, as well as hinder, educational equity. Through our seminar, students construct a framework for understanding systems change in education and other public sectors. Students explore case studies and models of deep organizational change, evaluate competing K-12 reform efforts, and problem solve in collaborative groups. Students also experience skills and competency training, which provides an applied setting for students to develop and refine the competencies needed to tackle public sector problems. Targeted competencies include systems analysis and design thinking; strategic planning; project and client management; qualitative data collection and review; measurement; and stakeholder engagement strategies like interviewing.

The seminar is taught by Professor James Liebman, J.D., CPRL Executive Director and Senior Research Scholar and Lecturer in Law Elizabeth Chu, Ph.D., Senior Director of Research Strategy and Lecturer in Law Kimberly Austin, Ph.D., and Director of Research Strategy and Policy Meghan Snyder, as well as visiting experts. Read the Seminar syllabus to learn about course goals, readings, and assignments.

Career services

At CPRL, we strive to prepare students for leadership roles in education and other public- and social-sector organizations. Through seminar, skills training, and project teams, students have the opportunity to identify personal and professional areas of growth and to receive support and feedback in these areas as well as areas CPRL has defined as central to leading change in education and similar sectors. CPRL also offers a range of professional services and networking resources to help students and alumni navigate their careers. Project Directors teach, coach, mentor, and support students, helping them set development goals and providing feedback toward those goals and other competencies. CPRL’s career workshops include panels with staff, alumni, and other experts in the education sector; resume and job search sessions; and other programming co-designed with each CPRL cohort.

Why Join CPRL? Ask our Alums.

Armando Lizarraga headshot

Armando Lizarraga, CPRL Fall 2020, Teachers College, Columbia University

“CPRL's mission in supporting and challenging our educational system to be more equitable is why I decided to join. I wanted to be a part of a collective that not only helped me advance my own education and training but also improve the experiences of other historically underrepresented students.”

Photo of CPRL alum Misbah Budhwani

Misbah Budhwani, CPRL Spring 2020, Columbia Business School

"I wanted to have a big impact by providing recommendations and advising educational organizations that would, in turn, affect change in schools and entire school districts. Having exposure to not just one classroom but also an entire educational organization was the experience that I was looking for and didn’t know how to find until I came to CPRL." 

Headshot of CPRL alumn Elizabeth Orem

Elizabeth Orem, CPRL Fall 2019, Columbia Law School

"I decided to join CPRL because I was burnt out from my first year of law school and wanted to reconnect with the values and goals that brought me to law school in the first place—namely, my passion for social justice." 

“CPRL provided a unique practical experience that provided hands-on project work, real time deliverables, and exposure to an entire part of the education industry I had never been able to interact with before.”

-Chloe O’Neill, Spring 2021

"In just one semester, I engaged in rich classroom learning experiences and discussions, developed valuable new professional skills, and applied Evolutionary Learning and continuous improvement frameworks to develop sustainable solutions on behalf of a high-profile education sector client."

-Cameron Lineberger, Spring 2020

"CPRL was a fast-paced, constructive, and collaborative learning environment. Participating in CPRL allowed me the opportunity to engage with challenging, relevant, high-quality, and real-life learning experiences."

-Ramón Carranza Jr., Fall 2018 

“I joined CPRL because I wanted to practice what I was learning in my education and social policy classes at NYU. I knew CPRL would offer great, hands-on experience with people who all come from a variety of backgrounds and, ultimately, wanted to improve students' lives, especially underrepresented students.”

-Aya Bukres, Fall 2020

“My CPRL experience gave me an opportunity to stretch my comfort zone and learn the power of interdisciplinary work with my CPRL colleagues from diverse backgrounds. At the beginning, it challenged me many times, but, by the end, this experience became one of the key secrets of better understanding education issues from different perspectives.”

-Yunee H. Yoon, Spring 2020

"CPRL’s rigorous coursework challenged me to think deeply about the current state of public education and equipped me with the tools to foster continuous improvement and work with various stakeholders. The client project was a great way to apply the skills learned, work with a collaborative team, receive a robust experience in education consulting, and learn how data analysis and visualization can be applied to think strategically and measure investments in education.”

— Carolyn Chen, CPRL Fall 2020

Living CPRL's Core Values

CPRL alumni Tashiah Singleton, Deepti Mani, Nevena Rakonjac, and Andrew Wong reflect on CPRL's core values and share what it means to embody the value "Promote Equity."

Promote Equity
Closed caption available on YouTube.

Apply to CPRL for an upcoming semester and join this dynamic network of leaders. Have an impact.