Message From The Dean


In this issue, we explore the theme of identity. One way of thinking about identity is as a response to the question, "Who am I? How do I fit into the world?" The famous psychologist Erik Erikson talked about the challenge that all of us face as we grow up, and we have to imagine our self in a way that brings unity and meaning to our lives. Here we inquire into how individuals and groups respond to this challenge.

Dan McAdams argues that a person creates his or her identity by developing an integrative life story. Through his work collecting and analyzing people's life stories, Dan has come to believe that as Americans, we have a unique identity. What this identity is and how it develops is not only the story of this Inquiry article but also the story that Dan tells in his forthcoming book, The Redemptive Self.

In their research on the Menominee reservation in Wisconsin, Douglas Medin and Megan Bang study the identities and science learning of Native American children. They conjecture that Native American identity may powerfully affect how well (or not) Native American children do when they get to school. Doug speculates that what we may have here is "a cultural clash between orientation and worldview."

In other articles, we learn how gifted children see themselves as well as how others view them and how immigrant children develop language skills and construct multicultural identities on the Internet. And finally, a talented undergraduate honors student in our School of Education and Social Policy offers a portrait of herself as an Arab, a woman and a Northwestern student.

In closing, I want to say a bit about the identity that we have tried to create as a School in the eight years that I've been dean.

We strive to recruit and retain only the best and brightest students and faculty. We aim to be the most innovative school of education in the nation in pursuing our mission to improve human learning and development across the life span. We break new ground with our research. We lead the way by developing new nontraditional interdisciplinary programs such as those in Learning Sciences and Human Development and Social Policy. Through our innovative doctoral programs, we hope to turn out the kinds of researchers that will be needed to solve problems of educational policy and practice in the future.

Right before we went to press with this issue, we received the exciting news that our School rose to sixth in the U.S. News & World Report rankings of graduate schools of education for this year. We are pleased that others recognize and value the innovative stance and commitment to excellence that defines our School.


Penelope L. Peterson, Dean
By Penelope Peterson