Dean David Figlio

Message From The Dean: New research, new stories, new magazine

Dear Friends,

Although I spent nearly a decade on the SESP faculty before assuming the deanship last September, my first year turned out to be quite the eye-opener. Of course, I knew about the extraordinary research and teaching of our faculty. And I had already seen countless examples of our students, faculty, and staff striving to make life better by focusing on individuals, families, organizations, and systems.

But once I began hearing the stories of hundreds of SESP alumni, I realized the depth and breadth of SESP’s reach. Just as we here in the SESP “mothership” focus on teaching, research, creative work, and service to make the world a better version of itself, so do our tens of thousands of alumni in their everyday lives and work—from the classroom to the boardroom and everywhere in between.

As you can see, we’re embracing both our unique mission and our beloved acronym in this freshly redesigned magazine, now simply called “SESP.” SESP has a real place in the world and is the one word that connects us all. Everyone in the SESP family of students, alumni, faculty, and staff are partners in change, a force for good. This magazine is dedicated to our collective effort to improve lives.

SESP magazine will still highlight the pathbreaking research of my talented colleagues. In this issue, you’ll learn how Mike Horn created TunePad, a tool that allows people to make music through code. Mike believes that computational thinking can be integrated into artistic fields to help hook kids who might not ordinarily be interested in computer science. And you’ll see how Simone Ispa-Landa unpacks the surprising ways policies aimed at reducing disparities can actually exacerbate the very inequalities that they seek to solve.

We’re also intentionally focusing more on the exceptional work of our alumni—people who are taking #SESPLove into the world. Neal Sáles-Griffin (BS09), for example, uses his SESP lessons in his work as a non-profit leader, teacher, and political candidate. And, in the spirit of a magazine celebrating the entire SESP family, we couldn’t resist highlighting the five Lee siblings. This fall Joanne (BS23), who is pictured on this issue’s cover, joined her siblings Curie (BS12), Josephine (BS14), Sarah (BS17), and Moses (BS20) as part of our family of leaders and change agents.

I began my deanship by asking a simple question: “Where do you find someone whose life has been changed by SESP?” Now I know a better question may be, “Where don’t you?”

We here at SESP would love to hear how you’re making lives better. Please email us at or use the #SESPLove hashtag on Twitter. And I hope you’ll drop by to watch an inspiring new video that tells the story of our school of learning, leadership, and policy and our collective impact in the world far and wide.

David Figlio
Orrington Lunt Professor and Dean