MSEd Anniversary Celebrates 30 Years with June 26 Event

MSEd Anniversary Celebrates 30 Years with June 26 Event

Northwestern celebration

All SESP alumni are invited to a 30th anniversary party for the Master of Science in Education (MSEd) program at 5 p.m. on June 26 in 303 Annenberg Hall. The event will feature a panel of alumni with remarkable accomplishments in education, along with food, drink and stories of the program from the past three decades.

The alumni on the panel have engaging stories to tell. “These teacher leaders are highly successful in the field of education,” says Sophie Haroutunian-Gordon, director of the MSEd program for the past 22 years.

Chicago principal Joel Pollack (MS06) led a Chicago turnaround school, and Carrie Jenkins Kamm (MS98) mentors teachers through the Academy for Urban School Leadership. Dilara Sayeed (MS00) founded the Global Teacher Project, and Cyndi Knodle Smith (MS95) is an international editor in publishing. Dan Montgomery (MS93) is president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, Emily Selden (MS08) is a college admissions counselor, Mike Nekritz (MS92) is a school consultant and Lindsey Snyder (MS09) is a museum educator. Andrew Hirschman (MS98) is a history teacher, and professors include Maria K. McKenna (MS98) of the University of Notre Dame and Rene Luis Alvarez (MS97) of Northeastern Illinois University.

Since the MSEd program started in 1982-83, it has grown rapidly, and its concentrations have evolved strategically. In 1983 there were only two graduates, but now MSEd has 1,641 alumni. The program’s newest concentration is the teacher leadership concentration, launched in 2012. While elementary and secondary teaching concentrations have remained over the years, other concentrations have spun off to become independent degree programs in SESP, such as the Master of Science and Learning and Organizational Change Program and the Higher Education Administration and Policy Program.

As Haroutunian-Gordon reflects on the past 30 years of the MSEd program, she appreciates that the program’s core strength is its conceptual framework with its guiding principles. “It’s a consistent, coherent program because it is grounded in these concepts,” she says. “The conceptual framework has had an enormous impact on the character of the program.”

The framework’s vision of learning and teaching emphasizes reflection and research as a means of learning, authentic experience, and learning as a social practice. These three principles led to the establishment of the three-course master’s research project sequence, beginning in 2001-02. “The master’s project sequence is a central part of our program,” says Haroutunian-Gordon, describing the three courses that help students develop research questions, review research literature, learn research methods, gather and analyze data, and present findings.

Another key outgrowth of the conceptual framework was the development of the Urban/Suburban Consortium for K-12 schools in 1996, according to Haroutunian-Gordon. “The goal was to bring institutions from across urban and suburban boundaries together,” she says. The consortium sought to develop a pattern of giving student teachers both urban and suburban experience and to further the development of practicing teachers. “These basic commitments remain today,” says Haroutunian-Gordon, pointing out that MSEd students teach and observe in both kinds of settings.

“The Urban/Suburban Northwestern Consortium reflected our commitment to the conceptual framework principles of  student diversity as a resource and theory related to practice. We want our students to have a variety of experiences both before and during the program — experiences which when shared with one another can yield new ideas about the relation between theory and practice.  

“To promote the sharing, for example, we divide students in the  master’s project sequence into small coaching groups.  Raising questions, looking closely, reflecting, investigating — all of these are central activities in the coaching groups and, indeed, throughout our program ,” says Haroutunian-Gordon. The use of technology to extend learning opportunities is another key principle that is integral to MSEd.

An overview of the MSEd program would not be complete without recognizing its tradition of winning awards. Award winners include Zack Ruelas (MS10), Scott Galson (MS06) and Roel Vivit (MS05), who won Golden Apple Awards. Allison Parker (MS13) and Sugandhi Chugani (MS13) recently won Education Pioneers fellowships. In addition, Daphne Whitington (MS00) is a Milken Educator Award winner. Golden Apple finalists include Meg Burns (MS05), Katherine Noonan (MS07), Heather Kelsey (MS05), Veronica Ruelas (MS04) and Claudine Randolph (MS06). Among other award winners, Cyndi Knodle Smith (MS95) won a Presidential Scholar Teacher Recognition Award, Galson won the Siemens Award for Advanced Placement and Chris Grodoski (MS03) won the Illinois Art Educator of the Year award in 2012. Overall, SESP ranks among the top graduate schools of education in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Many SESP faculty members have been centrally involved with the advances in the MSEd program. They include professors Miriam Sherin, Carol Lee, Brian Reiser, Karen Fuson, Edd Taylor, Jelani Mandara, Jim Spillane, Jim Rosenbaum, Dan Lewis, Dan McAdams and Bart Hirsch. In addition, Haroutunian-Gordon praises Dean Penelope Peterson. “We couldn’t have done it without our dean and her support for our vision of the program,” she says. 

MSEd alumni, students and staff who would like to attend the 30th anniversary celebration may e-mail

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 6/19/13