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Christopher Whiteley’s Journey

Christopher Whiteley’s Journey
From Teacher to Principal with UHD’s Master of Educational Leadership Program

UHD offers a myriad of master's degree programs to complement its most popular undergraduate majors. The following is the first in a series of graduate student profiles we will run throughout the year, all with the aim of shining a light on both our exceptional Gator graduate students and their respective programs. The result, we hope, will be to provide the reader a brief glimpse into life as a graduate student at UHD. As you will see, all UHD graduate programs are designed to captivate, educate, and graduate well-qualified students.

We also have many offerings that are designed for working professionals.

If interested, please contact a graduate program representative using the information below.

In Person Office Hours: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Email Address:
Phone: 713-221-8093

Christopher Whiteley Several years ago, Christopher Whiteley faced somewhat of a dilemma: He felt called to lead, and despite how much he loved being a teacher, he wanted to do more in his career. “About a year ago I started tossing around the idea of going into an educational leadership position,” he said. “I enjoy leadership, and I like encouraging people and building them up. There’s not enough positive thinking and positive words in the world.”

After researching programs that would help him take that step from public school teacher to administrator, he realized that whatever program he chose, it would have to allow him flexibility. He is, after all, a busy man—he’s a husband and father to six kids. After a time, Whiteley found UHD’s Masters of Educational Leadership (MEDL) program.

Christopher Whiteley’s Family

Once he found out the reasonable tuition and time commitments the program required, he knew that UHD was the right fit, as it provided the best value on both fronts. “I’m doing 36-hour days,” Whiteley said jokingly. “My schedule wouldn’t work with every school that’s out there, so the pacing of the courses helps, as long as I plan ahead.” He went on to say that while the MEDL program is challenging, anyone with determination and some good time management skills can succeed. For example, the classes are online and asynchronous, with one online meeting per week on Saturdays.

And what, exactly, has he gained from the program?

Christopher Whiteley Whiteley says that he and the rest of the MEDL students develop proficiency in areas like school law, community engagement, and talent management, and they also learn how to use research to improve student success and school culture, both in and outside of the classroom.

For example, Whiteley noted two experiences that have been particularly valuable. For one course, he conducted community research through interviews with local stakeholders—parents, local businesses, and nonprofits in his area—he learned, firsthand, how schools can better serve students and the communities in which they live.

The other was a conference he attended in Austin (paid for by grant money given to UHD) for aspiring school principals hosted by the Texas Association of Secondary School Principals. While there, Whiteley and his colleagues listened and learned from experienced principals. He said he also had the chance to talk with them about some of the challenges new principals face.

Chris Whitely

Another great experience? Shadowing assistant principals at his current job at Wood Creek Junior High in Katy. This, said Whiteley, helped him better understand a principal’s responsibilities. “I didn’t realize how much I wasn’t exposed to as a teacher. Now I know exactly the kind of duties I’ll be tasked with daily.”

Having gone this far in the program, Whiteley feels like he’s prepared and confident for a career in school leadership. “I feel ready to step into the job with very little ‘trial by fire.’ I’m much more aware now of what my responsibilities will be to the public, as well as to my students, faculty, and staff.” Because of that, he said, he’ll not only be successful in the next stage of his professional life, but he’ll enjoy it as well.

The Masters of Educational Leadership degree program at UHD is specifically designed to prepare K-12 educational leaders to better meet modern demands. Graduates gain firsthand knowledge of effective leadership strategies for learning and development, a firm grasp of school regulations at the federal, state, and local levels, and the organizational management skills to translate visionary ideas into overall school improvement.

The program, which admitted its first cohort in Fall 2023, is designed for students currently holding a teaching certificate and working towards principal certification. The courses for the MEDL degree program are taught in an online delivery format with interactive online sessions as scheduled by the instructor and are complemented by a full practicum experience.

About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit