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Learning How to Create Change in Higher Education: An Interview with Felipe Henao, Online Student


Felipe Henao is the executive director of Student Life, Health & Wellness at Mercy College, where he has been instrumental in bridging the gap between commuter and residential students through thoughtful and engaging programming. He has served as the co-chair for Mercy's Committee on Student Success, which drives policies and programs for LatinX students, adult learners, and second-year students, and recently secured an AmeriCorp Vista grant to implement campus-wide food pantries to address food insecurity in the college community. 

We spoke to him about his latest role as an NYU Steinhardt graduate student.

Why did you decide to pursue a degree in the online EdD in Leadership and Innovation

John C. Maxwell, the leadership expert, says in his latest book, Leadershift, “Leaders must be willing to let go of what worked yesterday and learn new ways of seeing, doing, and leading.” The EdD in Leadership and Innovation aims at doing just that: pushing cross-sectoral leaders to work together and find new ways to address problems at our organizations.

I applied to the NYU Steinhardt EdD program because I want to learn how to be a collaborative leader who pushes the envelope and challenges the status quo. No one leader/person can solve complex issues without the help of a team, but a single voice can disrupt systems and help a team embrace change. The EdD program promotes leadership and innovation, which is something institutions of higher education desperately need in order to address complex social issues and compete in today’s consumer’s environment. I believe the EdD in Leadership and Innovation will help shape the change agent that I am and create a ripple effect that will enrich the lives of students, faculty, and staff in my campus community. At this point in my personal and professional life, there is no better time for me to enroll and pursue a terminal degree.

Felipe Henao, online EdD student

Felipe Henao is a student in NYU Steinhardt's Online Ed.D program.

I chose to apply to the NYU Steinhardt EdD program because I want to learn how to be a collaborative leader who pushes the envelope and challenges the status quo.

Felipe Henao, executive director of Student Life, Mercy College

What are some of the changes you've seen during your time in higher education?

The major change I've seen in my time working in higher education is the increased growth of diverse student populations we serve. Today, we serve more non-traditional and first-generation students, as well as students from varying economic backgrounds. I love the diverse student body at Mercy College. It's exciting to help students navigate their transition, build a sense of belonging, and find a community that supports their development and success.

What is your favorite aspect of the Ed.D. program?

My favorite aspect of the Ed.D program is the camaraderie that we have among our cohort. While we are all in different parts of the world, we are able to stay connected through the bond we created at Residency Week and through the use of technology like WhatsApp and Zoom. I look forward to seeing my classmates every week for our class sessions. We hold each other accountable, but we also serve as a support system for one another. 

 I know it's still early in your studies, but do you have any ideas about your doctoral project? 

My problem of practice is focused on addressing food insecurity for at-risk populations. I'm excited for the time when K-12 and post-secondary education leaders and policymakers work together to address issues of equity and access in our educational systems.

Every issue that we work on --  from best practices in teaching English language learners to how we support student success -- should be approached from a collaborative lens. We have the potential to achieve results around student academic preparation and college completion if we work together with all systems in place. Systemic change won't happen until we start inviting and involving all parties around the table and talk more to one another in our shared spaces.

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