Longtime CTD Director Announces Retirement

Longtime CTD Director Announces Retirement

Headshot of Paula Olszewski-KubiliusPaula Olszewski-Kubilius has served as the director of the Center for Talent Development since 1987. Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, one of the world’s leading figures in the field of talent development and gifted education, is retiring after nearly four decades at Northwestern University.

Olszewski-Kubilius, director of the School of Education and Social Policy’s Center for Talent Development, was a major catalyst in the field’s shift from considering “giftedness” to be related to a personal characteristic to viewing it as a process or journey that develops potential into achievement.

“Giftedness is not a fixed trait that you are born with, like eye color,” she told SESP Magazine. “It’s developing a child’s strengths early on and providing experiences and support so they can turn their abilities and interests into achievement in an area they love.”

Olszewski-Kubilius, who will step down from the directorship on Aug. 31, 2023, will be succeeded by Susan Corwith, associate director of the Center for Talent Development and president of the Illinois Association for Gifted Children.

Corwith came to the Center for Talent Development in 2007 as associate director and was responsible for running CTD’s academic summer programs and civic leadership programming.

She currently oversees the Center’s admissions, school outreach and educator professional development, family services, and assessment. She has extensive experience in program design and evaluation, talent development, and advocacy. 

“For 40 years, Olszewski-Kubilius has been a pioneering scholar in the field of gifted education, nationally recognized for her keen insights and cutting-edge research,” said Interim Dean Dan P. McAdams. “As director of CTD, she has overseen a program that has enriched the lives of countless children while burnishing Northwestern’s reputation as an institution that aims to unlock human potential as it resides in the minds of all people, from all ages and backgrounds.”

The Center for Talent Development was founded as the Midwest Talent Search in 1982 by Joyce VanTassel-Baska, now the Jody and Layton Smith Professor Emerita of Education at William and Mary. It initially offered above grade testing for what was then known as talent identification; soon educational enrichment and acceleration programs were added to the mix.

Olszewski-Kubilius, whose research interest included cognitive development, language, memory, and early childhood development came to Northwestern in 1977 to pursue her doctorate in educational psychology at the School of Education and Social Policy, which she received in 1983.

After taking on various program leadership roles with Center for Talent Development under VanTassel-Baska, Olszewski-Kubilius became the Center’s director in 1987.

Throughout her career, Olszewski-Kubilius created a wide variety of program models to meet the need of diverse gifted learners, including online learning programs, summer, and weekend programs. She has written and published extensively about issues in gifted education, with a particular focus on developing the talent of underserved gifted students.

"When I came into the field of gifted education, it was very much dominated by a view of giftedness that was a significant factor in the under-representation of many gifted children," Olszewski-Kubilius wrote in her announcement to her staff. "CTD was always a front-runner in moving in the direction of talent development—decades before other centers and schools. We worked to change the field and put a focus on talent development through our programs and our research and outreach.

"Now, talent development is an accepted framework for gifted education and the field is finally in a place to address both equity and excellence. That is amazing and is what I am most proud of."

In 2022, she received the Palmarium Award for her pioneering vision of talent development and leadership in the field of gifted education. Her 2020 book The Psychology of High Performance: Developing Human Potential Into Domain-Specific Talent, was named a “Book of the Year” by the National Association for Gifted Children and a finalist for the 2020 Professional and Scholarly Excellence (PROSE) Awards, which honor scholarly books, journals, and electronic content.

Olszewski-Kubilius's other books include Talent Development as a Framework for Gifted Education: Implications for Best Practices, and Applications in Schools Unlocking Potential: Identifying and Serving Gifted Students from Low-Income Households, both Book of the Year award winners from the National Association for Gifted Children.

Her paper The effectiveness of current interventions to reverse the underachievement of gifted students, cowritten with colleagues Saiying Steenbergen-Hu and Eric Calvert, was awarded Paper of the Decade by the National Association for Gifted Children.

Olszewski-Kubilius, a fellow of the American Psychological Association, Division 15, is a past- president of the National Association for Gifted Children and the Illinois Association for Gifted Children. She has served as editor of Gifted Child Quarterly and co-editor of the Journal of Secondary Gifted Education and been an editorial board member for Gifted and Talented International, Roeper Review, Journal for the Education of the Gifted, and Gifted Child Today.

She has served as the vice chair of the board of trustees of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy and is a current trustee and serves on advisory boards for the Center for Gifted Education at the College of William and Mary and the Robinson Center for Young Scholars at the University of Washington.

She received the Distinguished Service Award in 2016 from the National Association for Gifted Children and the Distinguished Scholar Award in 2009.

Corwith earned her doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in educational leadership and policy analysis with an emphasis on high-quality programs for gifted students.  She also holds a master’s in curriculum and instruction, and a bachelor’s in secondary education (English) and has worked as a high school teacher.headshot of Susan Corwith

She served as president of the Wisconsin Center for Academically Talented Youth, a nonprofit educational organization for gifted students, prior to arriving at the Center for Talent Development.

"Susan has vision as well as strong management and organizational skills," Olszewski-Kubilius said. "She knows every inch and cranny of CTD! She has also established herself as a leader in the field.  I am thrilled that she will succeed me as director—as I know the great work of CTD will go on. Susan has strengths in areas that I do not, and I look forward to watching her develop those further into new opportunities and programs for CTD."

By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 3/15/23