Inquiry Magazine Northwestern School of Education and Social Policy

FALL 2013

In this issue: Global Engagement

Meixi Ng in Peru

Global engagement is a top concern for many SESP students and alumni. Now 43 percent of SESP undergraduates study abroad, up from 35 percent five years ago. Photos portrays Meixi Ng (BS10) in Peru.

Penelope Peterson

Message from the Dean

Dear Friends,

The Northwestern University Strategic Plan states, “We will broaden our students’ global perspectives and prepare them for global leadership in ways that are meaningful and integrated with the curriculum and research priorities.” The Northwestern University School of Education and Social Policy Strategic Plan 2013–2017 specifies further that we will “develop a global perspective” and “engage internationally with others to inform our work and extend the best of our resources and expertise to address critical human development, learning and education issues worldwide.” View the plan at

This issue of Inquiry focuses on global engagement. In the lead article, we describe the many ways our faculty members engage with colleagues around the world in pursuit of the global education agenda. These faculty are actively involved in research on education policy and practice, investigating issues related to educational accountability, education systems and diverse cultural contexts for education. We also announce the creation of our new Office of Global Initiatives directed by Olin Professor James Spillane. The Office will enlighten our School’s community about international issues and carry the work of our faculty and students to worldwide audiences.

Our second feature article and our Alumni Profile (page 21) explore the global engagement of our young alumni. Students come to our School because they want to make a difference in people’s lives. Increasingly, our students focus on improving lives not only locally, but also globally. Undergraduates and graduate students alike begin this important work as students in our School, and then they continue to expand upon this work after they graduate.

Finally, we describe a specific example of our research that has made it “around the world.” Professor Uri Wilensky argues that “rapid technological advances are revolutionizing how science, mathematics and complex theories” are taught around the world, and we learn how the software he has developed over the past 25 years is now used on every continent in education and research.

In sum, while faculty and students in the School of Education and Social Policy (SESP) do engage globally, we are setting our course to do much, much more. Three years ago, a group of nine undergraduates in our School got together and proposed changes aimed at increasing our School’s international perspective and presence. These students aptly summarized our challenge and laid out our charge:

“We are the small school that thinks big — and now we want to think bigger. SESP has created a culture and framework for us to critically engage with the world and to ask tough questions about our role as global citizens. We believe SESP is already a leader in nurturing young change makers and has the assets and fabric to be at the very forefront of this movement — to prepare us to lead social change in a globalized world.”

Penelope Signature
Penelope L. Peterson, Dean