Executive Ed.D. Cohort Profile

Summer 2020




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Araceli Lopez

Photo of Araceli LopezAssociate Director of First-Year Programs, Student Success Initiatives, Rice University, Houston

Earning a terminal degree has been a part of my plans since I decided to pursue a career in higher education. In the midst of completing my tenth year in the field, I started to reflect on my career goals and decided it was time to pursue the next chapter. Coincidentally, a few days later my mentor forwarded me details to an information session for the Executive Ed.D. in Higher Education Leadership program. I RSVP’d and headed to their website for more information. I was looking for a program that was reputable, intentional about the curriculum, and designed for working professionals. The program appeared to be a match for what I wanted in a doctoral program. After just a few minutes in the information session, this proved to be true. I was immediately impressed with the program’s format, course design, and content. It also fits my interests and aligned with my career advancement goals.

I cannot say enough about the faculty. They are phenomenal teachers and have been super supportive throughout these initial stages of the program. The cohort model was another plus. I was part of a cohort model for my masters and I really enjoyed the camaraderie and class dialogue. So, I was motivated to see this model implemented in the program. Developing fellowship within the cohort model has complemented our learning and progress.  It is great to be a part of this journey with people who can help you work through some of the challenges that arise in and out of the classroom. I am grateful to be a part of a program that fosters one’s success.

Paris Woods

Photo of Paris WoodsManaging Director, Harris County Promise Program. Houston

As a first-generation college graduate of Harvard University, I spent the early part of my career helping students from disadvantaged backgrounds gain access to highly selective educational opportunities. In 2013, I relocated to New Orleans to create a college persistence program for a charter school network and went on to co-found a nonprofit called College Beyond along with several colleagues. Through my work in New Orleans, I learned about the wide range of barriers that prevent low-income students from earning college degrees, and I have since worked to address the institutional policies and practices that drive student success. My research on effective institutional interventions lifted up the work of the University of Texas at Austin and the subsequent creation of the Executive Ed.D. program in Higher Education Leadership aligned with my interest in learning more from this institution.

In 2019, I relocated to Houston to serve as the founding Managing Director of Harris County Promise with Good Reason Houston. Given my newfound proximity to the campus, I was excited to apply for the doctoral program and join a cohort of peers working in higher education from throughout the state and beyond. I was especially excited to participate in an in-person cohort and appreciated that the program’s schedule allowed me to balance my studies with my full-time professional work. Starting my doctoral work in the midst of a global pandemic has been quite an experience, but I appreciate the university’s nimble adjustment to online learning and have still enjoyed getting to know my cohort-mates virtually. I look forward to researching effective interventions that expand higher educational opportunities for low-income students and students of color and learning from my scholar-practitioner colleagues and program instructors over the next few years (hopefully in person soon!).

Kristen Spindler

Photo of Kristin SpindlerDirector, Incubator CTX and Professor, Concordia Lutheran University, Austin

Kristin Spindler became attracted to the Executive Ed.D. program at the University of Texas at Austin because of its focus on entrepreneurial leadership. With 20+ years of business and leadership experience, she strives to bring an innovative approach to higher education.

Currently, Spindler is a faculty member and Director of IncubatorCTX at Concordia University Texas where she teaches in the College of Business and Communication and helps entrepreneurs grow and scale their businesses. She also is a former board member of the Central Texas Angel Network (CTAN) and an active startup investor. Spindler has a keen interest in educational and humanitarian causes, particularly those which enable more female and minority entrepreneurs.

Prior to transitioning to higher education, Spindler enjoyed a career in international banking and real estate. She was a Vice President and Credit Officer at Citigroup, New York. She then built her own real estate development company from a startup into a multi-million-dollar business. Spindler blends her financial expertise and project management skills for emerging businesses, leveraging her banking and entrepreneurship background. 

Spindler holds a BA from Duke University and an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin.  Her doctoral research focuses on increasing female entrepreneurship through higher education.

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