Simone Ispa-Landa Named William T. Grant Scholar

Simone Ispa-Landa Named William T. Grant Scholar

Simone Ispa_LandaSimone Ispa-Landa

Northwestern University’s Simone Ispa-Landa, an education sociologist, has been named a 2018 William T. Grant Scholar for her work examining racial inequities in school discipline practices.

One of six early career researchers in the U.S. to receive the honor this year, Ispa-Landa examines how well-intended policies can be harmful when people don’t consider the big picture.

Restorative justice programs, for example, promise an alternative to expulsion and suspension. But holding restorative justice sessions -- while also suspending and expelling students -- can have negative effects on the very students that schools are trying to help, said Ispa-Landa, assistant professor of human development and social policy and fellow at the Institute for Policy Research. 

“Simone takes a fresh look at school discipline—showing how well-meaning programs can have unintended consequences and looking for ways to accomplish the goals of those programs,” said David Figlio, dean of the School of Education and Social Policy, an IPR economist, and Orrington Lunt Professor. “She exemplifies the Northwestern direction of reaching across disciplines to find actionable solutions to the world's most challenging problems.”

Ispa-Landa, SESP’s third William T. Grant Scholar, will receive $350,000 over five years to investigate how school discipline can be modified to reduce racial inequality and be more developmentally appropriate for adolescents.

Emma Adam, associate professor of human development and social policy, received SESP’s first William T. Grant scholarship in 2004 to study the biological, cognitive, emotional and social factors that can predict whether adolescents will develop affective disorders as they transition to early adulthood.

In 2016, Mesmin Destin, associate professor of human development and social policy, received a grant for his work looking at whether it’s possible to improve adolescent health by implementing school-based interventions that focus on increasing motivation and improving grades for teens from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

Several SEPS alumni also have received the prestigious grant, including Stefanie DeLuca (PhD03), Leah Doane (PhD09), Rachel Dunifon (PhD99), Christina Gibson-Davis (PhD01), and Micere Keels (PhD06). 

Supported by the grant, Ispa-Landa will conduct in-depth interviews and observations and analyze administrative data as she examines what happens when schools employ several different disciplinary approaches. A school may employ a police officer, for example, while also involving parents in potential punishments. Ispa-Landa will explore how these disparate methods affect students of different races, and how teachers decide between multiple options.

In addition uncovering racial and gender inequality in schooling, Ispa-Landa researches criminal records, stigma, and employment. She has previously studied how individuals cope with their criminal record and how an urban-to-suburban busing program affected students’ views of race and gender.

She received her PhD in sociology from Harvard University, where she was mentored by prominent sociologists Orlando Patterson, Christopher Winship, William Julius Wilson, and Robert Sampson. The National Science Foundation and the Spencer Foundation have provided funding for her work.

“Simone's work is important and path-breaking,” said IPR Director and economist Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, the Margaret Walker Alexander Professor. “We are so fortunate to have her as a colleague and delighted to see her excellent work externally validated by this high honor.”

The William T. Grant Foundation also has awarded research grants to several faculty members, including Adam, James Rosenbaum, Cynthia Coburn, Jonathan Guryan, Jeannette Colyvas, and Barton Hirsch.

Learn more about SESP's Human Development and Social Policy doctoral program. 


By Julie Deardorff/Institute for Police Research
Last Modified: 4/30/18