Expressing Themselves: Faculty Join Public Voices Program

Expressing Themselves: Faculty Join Public Voices Program

Simone and SaiyingSimone Ispa-Landa (left) and Saiying Steenbergen-Hu
School of Education and Social Policy (SESP) faculty members Simone Ispa-Landa and Saiying Steenbergen-Hu have been selected for the 2018-19 Public Voices Fellowship program, a year-long initiative designed to help faculty members express themselves and hone their skills as thought leaders.

Ispa-Landa, a sociologist and fellow at Northwestern University’s Institute for Policy Research, studies how race and gender relations contribute to inequality in schools and criminal justice settings. Steenbergen-Hu, research director of the Center for Talent Development (CTD), examines ways to help academically gifted students thrive both in and out of the classroom.

“The work of education researchers should not stop at merely generating high-quality research evidence,” Steenbergen-Hu said. “We play a key role in communicating our work to shape policy and practice.”

SESP faculty members have participated in the fellowship during five of the last seven years. Prior Fellows include Jeannette Colyvas (2016-17), Heather Schoenfeld (2016-17), and Matt Easterday (2016-17), Uri Wilensky (2015-16), Emma Adam (2014-15), Diane Schanzenbach (2014-15), and Miriam Sherin (2012-13).

Throughout the year, the fellows will attend a series of workshops, meet one-on-one with mentors, write and submit commentaries for possible publication, and more.

Learn more about the new fellows:

Simone Ispa-Landa

Ispa-Landa, assistant professor of human development and social policy, captures the unintended consequences of policy and how educational and criminal justice systems provide unequal opportunities to individuals, based on their race, gender, and/or socioeconomic status.

“The public is hungry for stories about social problems that point to feasible solutions,” she said. “I can responsibly supply that kind of information and positively impact public debates about how to increase opportunity, reduce inequality, and reverse the harmful effects of race and gender discrimination in society.”

Her research has examined how poor and working-class black girls bussed to historically white suburban public schools cope with gendered racism and social ostracism and the impact of having a criminal record on housing and employment. She has also studied how members of stigmatized groups cope with their stress.

A current William T. Grant Foundation Scholar, Ispa-Landa has embarked on a five-year project looking at racial inequities in high school discipline practices.

A separate project draws on in-depth interviews with sorority women at an elite, private university to trace how university policies regarding sexual harassment and assault are interpreted and utilized (or not) by college women.

“As a female gender scholar, I want to contribute to ongoing conversations about the lives and needs of women in the U.S.,” she said. “I’m driven by questions of how we can effectively increase opportunity and reduce inequality, and how we can harness the power and openness associated with #MeToo and related social movements to address workplace discrimination and bias.”

Saiying Steenbergen-Hu

Steenbergen-Hu, a research assistant professor of gifted education and talent development, studies the effectiveness of controversial educational programs such as ability-grouping, academic acceleration, and school-based cognitive-behavioral interventions on students’ academic achievement and social-emotional development.

She recently received a $50,000 Spencer Research grant to synthesize evidence about the effects of ability grouping on children and adolescent development.

Steenbergen-Hu also won the 2018 Award for Excellence in Research from the Mensa Foundation. Along with her colleagues Olszewski-Kubilius and Rosen, she won the Paper of the Year Award from the National Association for Gifted Children in 2018 for their longitudinal study of Project Excite. This is the second time she earned this award, which is considered to be exemplary of high standards of scholarship in the field of gifted education, six years after her first time winning the prize as a newly-minted PhD in 2012.

Having spent her formative years in China, Steenbergen-Hu hopes to help strengthen the voices of Asian-Americans, who are often viewed as a “model minority”—a group who are hard-working, highly value education, and thrive economically but who still face discriminations that prevent them from reaching the highest professional tiers.

She believes that her skills with meta-analysis, research design, and advanced statistical analysis have given her valuable perspectives and approaches for communicating education research to serve the public good.

“Changes are needed to advance democracy and society,” she said. “The Public Voices program will be an excellent opportunity for underrepresented Asian female faculties like me to learn to have a public voice and to increase our visibility and influences as intellectual leaders in academia and the society at large.”

For more information, visit the Public Voices Fellowship website.

By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 10/19/18