Message from the Dean

Message from the Dean

Dan McAdams

The School of Education and Social Policy is an innovative and daring intellectual enterprise wherein the world’s leading researchers in education, learning sciences, psychology, economics, policy studies, and related fields work with some of the finest students at Northwestern to understand and improve lives.  Our focus is on human lives in context — how people live and learn in families, schools, neighborhoods, organizations, and societal institutions. Leadership and learning cut across everything we do.

Why does the world need SESP?  Because solving human problems requires multiple disciplines and radically divergent points of view.  Whether we are talking about addressing racial injustice in the United States, improving our nation’s schools, or designing policies to support American families, we need to call upon the expertise of scholars, scientists, entrepreneurs, and social change agents from many different fields and domains. 

To take on the world’s most intractable social problems, we consider everything from the biology of human stress to the design of educational software to the intricate dynamics that shape culture, politics, and the economy.  SESP faculty and students draw upon cutting-edge theory from many different disciplines and the most innovative research methods to solve problems and help humans flourish.

Working alongside our communities in Evanston and the greater Chicago area is central to SESP’s mission. The daunting challenges we encounter today with respect to education and human development play out in the families, schools, and neighborhoods that are, in effect, right next door.  SESP prides itself in its productive collaborations with local school districts, museums, and community organizations.  With our local partners, we can test new ideas and develop better practices.  Collaborative research aims to spread new insights and discoveries to benefit as many people as possible — in our hometowns of Evanston and Chicago, and around the world. 

I study stories. People have stories, organizations have stories, and SESP has a story. My own perspective on the distinctive SESP narrative, shaped by more than three decades as a faculty member, department chair, and now interim dean, can be seen in the remarkable growth of a dynamic force that drives social good. 

So welcome to SESP! You say it this way: sesss-pee (it rhymes with ‘yes-pee’), with an accent on the first syllable.  SESP is a caring and compassionate learning community, just one reason we use the hashtag #SESPLove. The “love” in SESP is about our welcoming and supportive environment, where students from so many different backgrounds, identities, and life experiences work and learn together, all pursuing the purpose of making the world a better place.  

If you are part of the SESP community, tell us how you are making a difference. If you are a current student, prospective student, interested parent, or anybody else who wants to know more about SESP, please let us know. Email us at or, better yet, use the #SESPLove hashtag to connect with your SESP family. We love to spread the SESP love. 

Dan P. McAdams
Interim Dean, School of Education and Social Policy
Henry Wade Rogers Professor of Psychology
Professor of Human Development and Social Policy