Educational Leadership and Policy Studies professor wins Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Award

Christopher Lee Small was named the recipient of FSU's 2024 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Award.

Christopher Lee Small, a professor in the Florida State University Educational Leadership and Administration program in the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences, has received FSU’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Award.

Small, a proud alumnus of FSU who completed his Ph.D. in the Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies (ELPS) in 2012, earned a $1,000 stipend for the annual award that honors a faculty member, administrator or staff member for outstanding service in keeping with the principles and ideals of King.

“Dr. Small lives Dr. King’s principles and ideals of freedom, equality, justice, liberty,

individuality and respect, in both his professional and personal lives,” said Stephanie Simmons Zuilkowski, associate director for research at FSU’s Learning Systems Institute. “He has a deep commitment to increasing equity and justice in the education system and his leadership of the FSU Educational Leadership and Administration program has been transformational.”

Zuilkowski noted that in the three years since Small joined the department, they have more than doubled the percentage of school principal candidates of color enrolled in ELPS’ licensure programs.

As a former elementary and middle school leader, Small led successful school turnarounds at several schools in Leon and Jefferson Counties, improving student learning outcomes and climate while reducing student discipline referrals. His doctoral dissertation study consisted of a mixed-methods analysis of academic achievement and student engagement of Black males participating in single-gender and co-educational language arts classes using culturally relevant pedagogy.

From the month he arrived at FSU as a faculty member in 2020, he sought out opportunities for faculty and staff in the ELPS department to engage with local schools and families in need. One colleague shared that the department has adopted families for the holiday season, supplied coats for school children, filled backpacks with school supplies, hosted a middle school art display and raised funds for middle-school children to go on their school trips.

“Under his leadership, we have become more engaged members of our community and my colleagues and I deeply appreciate how he leads us to be better versions of ourselves,” Zuilkowski said.

Small’s commitment to King’s ideals extends beyond campus and throughout the community. He has served as an active member on the Recruitment and Retention of Underrepresented Students Committee for the past four years and is an active volunteer for Leon County Schools, serving in various roles from judging student speech competitions to supervising lunch periods. Small also volunteers at a local food pantry and provides academic support to youth attending summer camps run by a local nonprofit.

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Award was established in 1986. All faculty and staff are eligible for the award, which is presented by the Division of Student Affairs Office of Student Agencies & Institutes and the Human Resources Office of Equal Opportunity Compliance and Engagement.

For more information about this award, visit