Convocation Features Spencer President Na’ilah Suad Nasir

Convocation Features Spencer President Na’ilah Suad Nasir

Na'ilah NasirNa'ilah Suad Nasir is president of the Spencer Foundation, which supports education research.Na’ilah Suad Nasir, president of the Chicago-based Spencer Foundation, will address more than 300 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral graduates during the 2022 School of Education and Social Policy Convocation ceremony.

The in-person event will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. on Monday, June 13 at the Ryan Fieldhouse, 2333 Campus Drive on Northwestern University’s Evanston campus. A reception for graduates and their families follows the ceremony.

In addition to Nasir’s keynote, Convocation features the annual Alumni Leadership Award, given to an undergraduate and graduate student for exceptional leadership in the School of Education and Social Policy, Northwestern, and beyond. Graduating seniors Joanne Lee (Learning Sciences) and Ren MacLean (Learning and Organizational Change) are the 2022 Convocation co-chairs.


Nasir first found the Spencer Foundation, which invests in education research and researchers when it supported her doctoral work. But the assistance to young scholars went beyond funding, she said. It also brought her together with peers and influential academics across the nation.

“It made me feel like I could be a researcher and transformed my professional trajectory,” she told Chris Riback on The 180 Podcast. “Then, in talking to people, I realized that it had done that for so many scholars.”

Nasir researches how school districts might rethink a standardized educational approach to help fix identity and racial inequality issues in schools. She is keenly interested in cultivating educational spaces that are “equitable.”

“Part of what equity means is that people have the full opportunity to develop all of who they are, to develop their full potential,” she told Riback. “Inequity is honoring those needs for some but not others.”

Prior to her appointment at Spencer, Nasir held a faculty appointment at the University of California, Berkeley, where she also served as vice-chancellor of equity and inclusion. Nasir earned her doctorate in education psychology at the University of California Los Angeles and was a member of the faculty in the School of Education at Stanford University.

She is the author of many publications, including “Racialized Identities: Race and Achievement for African-American Youth” and co-editor of “We Dare Say Love: Supporting Achievement in the Educational Life of Black Boys.”

She also coedited the landmark Handbook of the Cultural Foundations of Learning in 2020 with SESP’s Carol Lee, professor emeritus of education and social policy, learning sciences, and African American Studies.

Nasir is a member of the National Academy of Education and the National Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is president of the American Educational Research Association for 2021-2022. 

By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 3/31/22