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NELA-DST Project Team

Bonnie C. Fusarelli, Ph.D.

Bonnie C. Fusarelli, Ph.D., is a Professor of Educational Leadership and Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis at NC State University and a University Faculty Scholar. She earned a BA in Political Science from the University of Texas at Austin, a Master’s in School Leadership from UT San Antonio and her Ph.D. in Educational Administration from The Pennsylvania State University.

Dr. Fusarelli’s research focuses on educational leadership and policy, the politics of school improvement, educational equity, and organizational change, with a particular focus on state-level education reform and leadership development. In addition to her two books, she has authored over 60 articles published in various research journals. To support her work, Dr. Fusarelli has received over $25 million in grant funding from various organizations including the U.S. Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Wallace Foundation, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.

She past President of the Politics of Education Association and has been ranked in Edu-Scholar Public Presence Rankings, which is a national ranking of scholars who are contributing most substantially to public debates about K-12 and higher education. Dr. Fusarelli serves on several advisory boards, including those for the educational leadership programs at Southern Methodist University and The University of Illinois, Chicago.

Dr. Fusarelli is the recipient of numerous teaching awards at both the K-12 and university level, including being an inductee into NC State’s Academy of Outstanding Teachers.

Dr. Fusarelli is Program Coordinator for NC State’s Educational Leadership & Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis programs and is the Director of NC State’s Leadership Academies, which are nationally recognized as innovative and effective at preparing school leaders for high-need schools. Please see:

Dr. Lance Fusarelli, Ph.D.

Dr. Lance Fusarelli has been at NC State since 2003. He conducts research in the politics of education, federal education policy (NCLB), poverty and demographic change, and on superintendents/school board relations. He received his Ph.D. in Educational Administration from the University of Texas at Austin in 1998, M.A. in Government (UT-Austin, 1994), and B.A. in History and American Studies (Case Western Reserve University). In 2012, he was ranked 79th in the nation among scholars whose research contributes most substantially to public debates about schools and schooling. He serves as co-editor of the Series in Education Policy (Palgrave Macmillan) and serves on the Editorial Board of Educational Researcher, the Journal of School Public Relations, and the National Advisory Board, UCEA Center for Research on the Superintendency and School Governance. He serves on the advisory board of the Hill Center in Durham. He can be reached at

Lesley Wirt, Ed.D.

Dr. Wirt serves as the Associate Director of Principal Preparation at NC State University. She earned her undergraduate degrees in psychology and early childhood education from James Madison University in VA. She taught elementary school for two years in VA. She then decided to work in higher education and received both her master and doctoral degrees in Higher Education Administration from NC State University. She has worked at NC State University and Edgecombe Community College recruiting prospective students, advising new and current students, tracking student achievement, planning programs, and enhancing student retention and success. She also assists with grant writing and managing budgets. She greatly enjoys working with the Master of School Administration (MSA) Leadership Academies’ students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders. She can be reached at

Karen Anderson, MSA

Karen Anderson serves as the NELA-DST Continuing Professional Development Coordinator. Karen is a proud NC Teaching Fellow and a graduate of North Carolina State University with a B.S. in Elementary Education. She successfully completed the Piedmont Triad Leadership Academy and earned a Master of School Administration degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Most recently she received her Educational Specialist (Ed.S) program from Appalachian State University specializing in leading and promoting high-quality student achievement. Her experiences as a teacher, curriculum facilitator, assistant principal, and principal solidified her desire and passion for joining the NELA team in their pursuit of excellence in education. She can be reached at

Dianne Griffiths

Dianne is Project Coordinator for the Northeast Leadership Academy at North Carolina State University. She earned her bachelor degree in Communications from The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. She is an ardent supporter of public education and has served in a variety of educational volunteer positions for many years.

She can be reached at

Angela VanGorder, M.Ed.

Angie joined NC State University’s Northeast Leadership Academy in January 2015 and is currently a NELA-DST graduate assistant. Previously, she directed MBA employer relations at the College of Charleston and career services at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. Angie is pursuing a Ph.D. in educational research and policy analysis at NC State University. Originally from South Carolina, she earned a Bachelor of Science in business management from Anderson College, a Master of Education in higher education administration from Clemson University, and certificate in nonprofit management from the University of Pittsburgh. She is a board member for the Friends of Wake County Guardian ad Litem program, a 501(c)(3) non-profit with a mission to change the lives of abused and neglected children by supporting the work of Guardians ad Litem who advocate for the best interests of foster children in the Wake County court system. Additionally, she is a member of the 2015-2016 North Carolina Education Policy Fellowship Program, a 10-month professional development program designed for emerging leaders with a common interest in education and a belief in its power to shape the lives of individual North Carolinians and their communities. She can be reached at