Professional News

New Rankings Place UK Education Dean Among Top Education Policy Influencers

Dean of the University of Kentucky College of Education Julian Vasquez Heilig
Dean of the University of Kentucky College of Education Julian Vasquez Heilig

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Jan. 28, 2021) — An annual ranking of the U.S. scholars most influential in shaping education practice and policy once again includes University of Kentucky College of Education Dean Julian Vasquez Heilig. 

Vasquez Heilig has consistently been ranked among the top public influencers in the Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings. The 2021 edition was released by American Enterprise Institute Director of Education Policy Studies and Education Week blogger Frederick M. Hess. 

With a focus on making academic research useful and relevant to policy makers and the communities they serve, Vasquez Heilig works to move ideas from academic journals into the national conversation. He uses popular platforms such as podcasts, news media interviews, blogs and social media to reach audiences beyond academia and spark useful discussions. 

Hess created the rankings to encourage academics to use their voices to inform discussions on education policy and practice.  

“As I see it, the extraordinary policy scholar excels in five areas: disciplinary scholarship, policy analysis and popular writing, convening and shepherding collaborations, providing incisive media commentary and speaking in the public square,” Hess said. 

About 20,000 scholars tackling education questions in the U.S. could be considered for the rankings, but only 200 are chosen. The ranking takes into account factors that demonstrate public influence such as citations of research, being quoted or mentioned in the press, web mentions, and being followed and retweeted on Twitter.   

“Producing quality research on educational issues is important, but journal articles can be difficult to quickly interpret,” Vasquez Heilig said. “It’s our role, as academics, to ensure we are reaching the people who are impacted by educational practices, but don’t necessarily work in research. I am fortunate to be in a leadership role at a college that has long valued serving as a community resource. Our students, faculty, and staff are highly engaged in community issues and focus on being relevant and impactful in addressing local, state and national needs through research and service.” 

Vasquez Heilig’s efforts to shape public discussion are cataloged in his "Cloaking Inequity" blog, read by more than 1 million people. His work, largely focused on equity and inclusion in education, has been cited by The New York Times, The Washington Post, Associated Press, USA Today, Education Week, Huffington Post and other print and electronic media outlets. He has also appeared to discuss his research on local and national radio and TV including PBS, NBC, NPR, Univision and MSNBC. Notably, Harvard’s Education Next magazine once named him as one of the top 10 education policy voices — the #2 ranked professor in the U.S. 

For more information about the Rick Hess Straight Up Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings visit

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.