SESP Interim Dean Dan McAdama

Message From The Dean


The timing was no coincidence. Shortly after former dean David Figlio announced he was leaving the School of Education and Social Policy to become provost at the University of Rochester, I got an email from Northwestern’s own provost, Kathleen Hagerty: “Need to talk to you tomorrow, Dan—anytime!”

My first reaction was, “Oh, no!”

I mean, I love being a professor. You get to teach classes and write books and pursue whatever intellectual passions take hold in your mind. And you even get paid to do it! So why give up the greatest job on the planet?

The next day I was riding my exercise bike when some weird stuff must have happened in my prefrontal cortex. In a flash, I was suddenly convinced that being the dean of SESP—okay, interim dean—might not be the worst thing to do with my life. It might even be fun! And God knows, I have always loved SESP, ever since my colleagues made a risky bet in hiring me many years ago. They decided to create a spot on the faculty for a lifespan personality psychologist who studies the stories people create to make sense of their lives. Since my epiphany on the bike, I’ve been writing a new chapter in my own life narrative.

I accepted Provost Hagerty’s offer to become interim dean even before I knew the position comes with a prime parking spot on campus and permission to install new bookshelves in the dean’s office—and before I came to realize fully what a wonderful privilege it is to serve as SESP’s leader. Part of the privilege is getting to spread the good news of SESP to you today.

Feeling that we had moved into a new and less threatening phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, we began the 2022–23 school year with a sense of optimism. As students streamed into Annenberg Hall, it felt better than it had in the last several years. Things felt more alive, more vibrant.

For many of us here, it feels as if we are starting a new phase at SESP. This issue of our magazine features some of the most exciting new developments in our school. Everything in these pages is excellent, but make sure you read about professors Dan Lewis, Lindsay Chase-Lansdale, and Gina Logan, who are beginning new adventures in their own lives. Dan and Lindsay retired last year, and Gina will be retiring this spring. Their illustrious careers exemplify what I admire so much about the SESP story.