Inquiry Magazine Northwestern School of Education and Social Policy

Fall 2017

Carthen Watson: Building a Better Tomorrow

Sarah Carthen Watson

Sarah Carthen Watson (BS15), who is pursuing her law degree at Washington University, received the Leaders of Tomorrow Award from Missouri Lawyers Media. The award is given to female law students who demonstrate leadership, professionalism, and a passion for making a difference in the justice system or legal profession.

“SESP is always in the back of my mind,” says Watson, who majored in social policy and is pursuing civil rights law. “Whether through housing, education, or criminal justice reform, the things I learned in SESP are fundamental to my thinking as a future lawyer focusing on public interest work.”

One of Carthen Watson’s proudest accomplishments came last fall while working at the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing and Opportunity Council, where she successfully mediated over 50 landlord-tenant disputes. “I quickly learned that once a case goes in front of the judge, landlord-tenant law is incredibly stacked against tenants,” she told Missouri Lawyers Weekly. “Even if it came down to negotiating a few more days for the tenant to move out, or a payment plan for back rent owed, I left court every time feeling like I had made a tangible difference in someone’s life.”

Fishman Named Professor of the Year

Barry Fishman

Barry Fishman (PhD96), one of the first in the nation to receive a graduate degree in learning sciences, was recently named the Michigan Association of State Universities 2017 Professor of the Year, which recognizes outstanding faculty from Michigan’s 15 public universities.

We asked Fishman, who studies video games as model learning environments, the use of technology to support teacher learning, and more, to reflect on the rapidly evolving field of learning sciences and his time at SESP. Read the whole interview at

What changes have you seen in the learning sciences field over the last two decades? In the early 2000s, the field slowly shifted from “changing school” to “doing school.” More recently, with the rise of maker spaces, personalized learning, games for learning, computer science for all, and similar movements, we’ve moved back towards “academic innovation,” with a renewed focus on thinking about how to reinvent school. Any advice for current students of learning science? As cartoonist Scott McCloud said, “If you want to be successful, you have to do four things: (1) Learn from everyone, (2) Follow no one, (3) Look for patterns, and (4) Work like hell.” As soon as I heard McCloud say it, I knew it described my own experience in graduate school. It is, in fact, good advice on how to succeed in any endeavor.

Rocca Returns Home to Evanston Township High School

Mason Rocca

As a professional basketball player in Italy, Mason Rocca (MS17) was a proven leader, known for his creativity and collaboration. Now Rocca will take those skills into the classroom as a high school math teacher at his alma mater, Evanston Township High School, where he will be looking for ways to reform the system.

One of the nation’s top aspiring young teachers, Rocca has also received a five-year teaching fellowship from the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation (KSTF) to help jumpstart his career as an education leader. He joins several other notable SESP alumni who have received KSTF fellowship, including Dan Voss (MS16), John Holcomb (MS14) and Liz Smith (MS14).

“I’m at the age where my work has to matter to me, be significant,” says Rocca, 39, the father of five. “I’ve been very blessed to have a career that was all about myself. Education is one of the most important ways to give back to people, and I’m excited to be part of the national conversation on education reform.”