Inquiry Magazine Northwestern School of Education and Social Policy

Fall 2017

McQuillan, Viano Receive Prestigious Dissertation Fellowships

Mollie McQuillan, Samantha (Adler) Viano

SESP doctoral candidate Mollie McQuillan and alumna Samantha (Adler) Viano (MS11) of Vanderbilt University have received highly competitive 2017 National Academy of Education (NAEd)/Spencer Dissertation Fellowships.

McQuillan, who also received a prestigious 2017 Presidential Fellowship, looks at how education policies and school climate impacts the stress levels and health of students, particularly those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer.

Viano, a doctoral student, is an alumna of the NU-TEACH program and former Chicago Public Schools math teacher. She will use her fellowship to continue studying whether online learning is helping students recover from failing a course.

Altered Cortisol Levels Tied to Poor Health

Emma Adam

A lack of variation in the stress hormone cortisol from morning to evening is tied to a wide range of negative health conditions, including inflammation and immune system dysfunction, suggests research by Emma Adam and her colleagues.

In the first comprehensive review of the relationship between daily cortisol fluctu- ations and health, researchers combined data from 80 different studies to show that while cortisol levels matter, a lack of variation from morning to evening may be even more telling.

“Cortisol, which is naturally high in the morning, decreases into the evening,” says Adam, professor of human development and social policy. “The loss of this cycle is what is associated with negative health outcomes.”

SESP Seniors Win Fulbright Teaching Fellowships

LEFT TO RIGHT Tamar Eisen, Arielle Ticho

Graduating seniors Arielle Ticho and Tamar Eisen received prestigious Fulbright English Teaching Assistant fellowships for the 2017–18 academic year to teach in Columbia and India, respectively.

It’s the 17th consecutive year at least one SESP student has been awarded a Fulbright.

Ticho and Eisen, who are friends and former roommates at Northwestern, were inspired to teach by previous classroom experiences and through School for International Training (SIT) Study Abroad programs. Ticho compared the education systems of Chile and Argentina through a semester-long SIT program, while Eisen spent a month in India with SIT’s multi-country International Honors Program.

Northwestern Academy Graduates Inaugural Class

Northwestern Academy seniors celebrate their accomplishments.
Northwestern Academy seniors celebrate their accomplishments. PHOTO BY GLITTER GUTS

Three years after they were chosen as the inaugural cohort of Northwestern Academy for Chicago Public Schools, 48 CPS students committed to 23 prestigious institutions, ranging from Northwestern University to Brown University and Colorado College.

The School of Education and Social Policy launched the college preparation and enrichment program in 2013 for a diverse group of academically talented Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) students who qualify for the free or reduced lunch program and attend their neighborhood, or non-selective, enrollment schools.

For the 2017–18 academic year, the program welcomed 78 new students from 27 CPS high schools. The Academy’s newly renovated, hightech home on the Chicago campus was a finalist for the 2017 Chicago Building Congress Merit Award. “They’re leveling the playing field—no student’s experiences, opportunities and dreams should be limited by their zip code, their background or their family’s income,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel told the Chicago Tribune during the grand opening of the new facility. “And that is a tremendous statement by Northwestern.”

ETHS students participate in classes during Kits & Cats Day.
PETHS students participate in classes during Kits & Cats Day. PHOTO BY STEVE DREY

ETHS Students Get a Glimpse of College

More than 100 Evanston Township High School (ETHS) sophomores and juniors peeked into Northwestern University’s dorms, classrooms, athletic facilities and more as part of Kits & Cats Day, a biannual initiative designed to help students imagine themselves in a college setting.

In the morning, the high schoolers received small group tours, led by Northwestern student tour guides from a variety of majors. After lunch in Allison Hall, they scattered across campus to Annenberg Hall, the Block Museum of Art, the Segal Design Institute and several other locations for 45-minute classes.

“It was the first college visit for many of our students,” said ETHS teacher and alumna Sabrina Ehmke (BS05), who was paired with SESP undergraduate Xiaowen Yang. “Xiaowen’s expertise on how to ‘do’ college helped give them an idea of college life in general, not just at Northwestern,” she said.

Spillane Finds Teachers Benefit From Proximity

Spillane Finds Teachers Benefit From Proximity

Isolation can be a serious problem for teachers, who are often secluded in classrooms.

But what if school buildings were designed to help educators cross paths in the hallway, giving them a chance to talk shop? Could these interactions spur collaboration and learning to create better teachers?

Research by SESP professor James Spillane demonstrates they actually do—and that could have policy implications for how schools are planned, built and managed throughout the nation to create a better educational system and more successful students.

“We want to create environments that maximize learning opportunities for both children and the adults who educate them,” Spillane says.

SESP Students Present to Illinois Governor’s Office
LEFT TO RIGHT Jamilah Silver, Samantha Vargas, Corinne Wessels PHOTO BY MICHAEL GOSS

SESP Students Present to Illinois Governor’s Office

SESP undergraduates tackled some of Illinois’ most pressing early childhood education issues before formally presenting their recommen- dations to policy makers at the Illinois Governor’s office in Chicago as part of an innovative new class.

Professor Terri Sabol created the 10-week “Crafting Child Policy” course after she received a list of research questions drawn up by the state. Sabol thought Illinois could benefit from the energy and brain power of the students, while her undergrads could use what they learned about child development to potentially inform Illinois child and family policy.

The students examined a range of issues, including chronic absenteeism; the skyrocketing attrition rate for preschool teachers; Illinois’ ExceleRate program; and the effects of Head Start programs.

Despite the pressure of presenting in front of some of the biggest names in early childhood education, “we were motivated to work really hard because we had the chance to create real change,” said graduating senior Lan Nguyen. “It was the coolest experience I had at Northwestern.”