Peterson Welcomes Class of 2020

Peterson Welcomes Class of 2020

Northwestern University wildcat welcome students 2016

Stressing the importance of learning from mistakes, Northwestern School of Education and Social Policy (SESP) Dean Penelope Peterson welcomed the class of 2020.

The 59 new students – some homegrown, others from as far away as South Africa and China -- make up the largest and most diverse class in SESP history.

“Many of you got here by being straight-A students, participating in dozens of activities and having great SAT scores,” Peterson said. “Now I’m giving you permission to make some mistakes.”

Peterson, who is retiring in August of 2017, cited one of her favorite children’s novels, Norton Juster’s “The Phantom Tollbooth,” a fantasy adventure story that emphasizes the need for a love of education.

“You must never feel badly about making mistakes…as long as you take the trouble to learn from them,” Peterson quoted. “For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons.”

At Northwestern, which pioneered the field of learning sciences, researchers have provided evidence that people do actually learn more from making mistakes than from being right all the time, Peterson said.

“So remember, we’re here for you,” she added. “Advisors are never going to criticize you or look down on you. You got here because you are smart. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Just promise you will learn from them.”

By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 9/14/16