Kristen McMaster, special education professor at the University of Minnesota, named Peabody Distinguished Alumna

Kristen McMaster

Vanderbilt Peabody College of education and human development will bestow its 2024 Distinguished Alumna Award on special education and literacy researcher Kristen L. McMaster during Commencement ceremonies on May 10. A Triple ’Dore, McMaster earned her bachelor of science in 1995, master of education in 1998, and doctorate in special education from Vanderbilt University in 2002.

McMaster is the Guy Bond Chair of Reading and professor of special education in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Minnesota. After completing her doctorate, she began her career at the University of Minnesota as a lecturer in special education and rose through the ranks to become full professor in 2015 and chair in 2019. Over the years, she has taught courses on topics such as specialized interventions for students with disabilities in reading and writing, research in teacher education in special education, research on reading difficulties and disabilities, and advanced issues in learning disabilities, among others.

McMaster’s scholarship focuses on developing literacy-related assessments and interventions and supporting teachers’ use of data to individualize instruction. She has published more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles, co-authored and co-edited several books, and has been PI or co-PI on research grants totaling more than $22 million from the U.S. Department of Education.

“We are very proud to call Kristen McMaster an alumna of Peabody College. She not only leads rigorous literacy education studies, but she regularly supports K-12 teachers through evidence-based professional development—epitomizing Peabody’s mission of translating discoveries into more effective practice. I congratulate Kristen on being named this year’s Distinguished Alumna,” said Camilla Benbow, Patricia and Rodes Hart Dean of Education and Human Development.

In recognition of her excellence in teaching and research, professional organizations have honored McMaster with numerous awards, including the University of Minnesota Council of Graduate Students Advising Award (2021), the Samuel A. Kirk Award from the Division for Learning Disabilities of the Council for Exceptional Children (2017), and the Distinguished Early Career Research Award from the CEC Division for Research and the Donald D. Hammill Foundation (2011). She also was named a Fellow of the International Academy for Research in Learning Disabilities in 2010.

McMaster regularly provides professional development to practitioners and consults with researchers and policymakers in Minnesota as well as nationally and internationally. She has served as a member of the Minnesota Department of Education Advisory Working Group for the Multi-tiered System of Early Intervention and Instructional Support and as a member of the department’s Special Education Advisory Panel. At the Council for Exceptional Children, McMaster has held positions on special interest division boards, including as president of the Division of Research and chair of the Professional Development, Standards, and Ethics Committee. Additionally, McMaster is an associate editor of the Journal of Educational Psychology. She also was associate editor of Assessment for Effective Intervention (2014-2017) and the Elementary School Journal (2017-2023). She serves on numerous editorial boards of other academic journals in her field, as well.

“I feel deeply honored to be recognized by Peabody College in this way. The award reflects the tremendous mentorship of Peabody special education faculty who remain colleagues and dear friends to this day, along with the unending support of my husband and parents, my research collaborators, and my graduate students. I am profoundly grateful to them and to the teachers and children who motivate my work,” McMaster said.

Before pursuing her doctorate, McMaster was a high school life skills teacher and elementary resource teacher in Metro Nashville Public Schools. She enjoys reading, swimming, hiking, and traveling and exploring caves with her husband Eric.