These Five Faculty Members Earned Promotions

These Five Faculty Members Earned Promotions

collage of five faculty members(Left to right:) Ofer Malamud, Jolie Matthews, Sally Nuamah, Sepehr Vakil, and Marcelo Worsley.

Five Northwestern University School of Education and Social Policy faculty members with wide-ranging research interests were promoted for their outstanding scholarship and contributions to the field.

Ofer Malamud, a labor economist, was promoted to professor of human development and social policy. Four other faculty members––Jolie Matthews, Sally Nuamah, Sepehr Vakil, and Marcelo Worsley––received tenure and were promoted to associate professor, effective Sept. 1, 2023.

Tenure is a permanent teaching position that offers job security and protects a scholar’s academic freedom. At Northwestern, tenure is awarded to those who excel in both teaching and research. In addition to the quality of their work, they are assessed on the distinctiveness of their voice and the degree of influence on the field.

Here’s more about our outstanding faculty:

Ofer Malamud:

ofer_400.jpgA global perspective: An economist who studies educational policy around the world, Malamud researches how investing in education can affect health, income, and employment. Other lines of work include the role of technology in children’s learning, and how skills are developed over the life course. Malamud’s scholarship spans the globe; in addition to the US, he has worked in Chile, England, Israel, Mexico, Mongolia, Peru, Romania, and Scotland.

An international upbringing: Born in Israel, Malamud’s family moved to Japan when he was 6 years old. Three years later, they relocated to Hong Kong, where he attended a British secondary school. At Harvard, Malamud studied economics and philosophy, before becoming a labor economist.

In the pipeline: He’s examining the adoption and spread of an online math curriculum called Conecta Ideas in Peru. His project has received funding from the Abdul Latiof Jameel Poverty Action Lab and SESP’s Venture Research Fund.

Recent Research:

Jolie C. Matthews

matthews_400.jpgMatthews, whose work focuses on media literacy, learning across contexts, bias, source credibility, and especially what counts as “diverse” representation in history and contemporary society, has been promoted to associate professor of learning sciences. She studies how media and popular culture shape people’s beliefs about different events, individuals, and groups in the past and present.

Representing the past: Matthews is an expert on what’s called the historical imaginary—how the past is represented by educational institutions, museums, and other cultural influences such as movies, novels, memes, family stories, and even the names of the buildings, streets, and monuments that surround us.

Current research: One of her projects explores how race and gender intersect in contemporary media narratives. Another looks at who gets represented in the public sphere (monuments, museums, media, school curricula, etc.), who gets left out, and why.

Partnering with a legend: A big fan of professional tennis, Matthews feels lucky to have seen her favorite athletes in person (including Serena Williams, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal) before they retired. She is currently working on a non-fiction children’s tennis book, under contract, in conjunction with tennis legend Billie Jean King for Billie Jean King Young Readers.

How she got here: The California-born Matthews completed her PhD in learning sciences and technology design from Stanford University. While there, she was a research assistant with the Stanford Joint Media Engagement Group, Wallenberg Media Places Grant for Digital Humanities, and the Stanford YouthLAB. She was also a doctoral research intern at Microsoft’s Social Media Collective. She earned her bachelor’s (magna cum laude) at New York University with a concentration in Ancient, Medieval and Renaissance studies, initially considering history for her graduate career. She also earned a master’s degree in writing at the University of Southern California.

Read a profile of Matthews and her work in SESP Magazine.

Recent research:

Sally Nuamah

sally400.jpgNuamah, the author of How Girls Achieve and Closed for Democracy, was promoted to associate professor of human development and social policy. Her work looks at the intersection–of race, gender, education policy, and political behavior. Education, she says, is one of the best ways to improve people’s lives. “Schools are a main vehicle for accessing economic, social, and political equity,” she said.

How she got here: Raised in the inner city of Chicago, Nuamah fit the statistical categories of disadvantage: She was the child of immigrants, Black, and a girl. Inspired by her Ghanaian-born mother, who loved school but never had the financial means to attend college, Nuamah earned her master’s degree and doctorate in political science at Northwestern before returning as an assistant professor.

A versatile scholar: In 2009, Nuamah traveled to Ghana, which inspired her to create a documentary HerStory and start a foundation, TWII, to help low-income Ghanaian girls attend college. She delivered a TEDx talk called Clapping With One Handand in 2019 won a $200,000 Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, which she used to research how the punishment of Black women and girls affects democracy.

Creating “Feminist Schools: How Girls Achieve highlights how the biased educational experiences of Black girls in the U.S. and Africa limit their ability to achieve democratic equity. She argues for “feminist schools” or schools that act as safe spaces that redistribute power, actively teach girls how and when to challenge society’s norms and set them up for success. 

Her latest book: Closed for Democracy investigates how mass school closures affected Black Americans' relationship with government and the political consequences.

Before SESP: Nuamah was an assistant professor at Duke, a research associate at Princeton, and a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard. She graduated from George Washington University with a bachelor’s degree in political science in 2011 and a PhD in political science and methodology from Northwestern in 2016. She has received numerous academic and public awards, including Forbes’ “30 under 30” in Education.

Sepehr Vakil:

sepehr_400.jpgVakil, who studies issues of ethics and technology in STEM education, was promoted to associate professor of learning sciences. His research examines race, power, and ethics in the fields of engineering and computer science education. “Issues of justice are not merely incorporated into my pedagogy,” he said. “They are the foundation.”

One question he wants to answer: What can we learn about education by looking at the past?

A new direction: Vakil is calling for learning scientists to incorporate historical context into their work. He’s currently studying how the cultural, religious, and political conditions of late 20th century Iran shaped a premiere engineering university in the years leading up to the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Empowering youth and community: Vakil’s Technology, Race, Equity, and Ethics in Education (TREE) lab, is home to the Young People’s Race, Power, and Technology Project. This National Science Foundation-funded initiative brings together undergraduate and graduate students with local youth and community experts to investigate the social and ethical dimensions of emerging technologies.

Did you know? Vakil’s family immigrated from Iran in 1986 when he was three years old, in the middle of the Iran-Iraq war. He received his PhD in the Education in Mathematics, Science, and Technology program at the University of California-Berkeley, and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from the University of California Los Angeles.

His previous life: Before coming to Northwestern in 2018, Vakil was assistant professor of STEM Education and the associate director of equity and inclusion in the Center for STEM Education at the University of Texas at Austin. Before that, he was the director of a STEM education program at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Oakland. Vakil has also worked as an engineer within large companies including Intel and The Aerospace Corporation, as well as web and imaging tech start-up companies in the San Francisco Bay area.

Recent research:

Marcelo Worsley

worsley400.jpgWorsley, whose work merges sports, engineering, and education, has been promoted to associate professor of learning sciences and computer science.

He’s the principal investigator on a National Science Foundation grant that combines computing, physical education, and teacher professional development in partnerships with Evanston/Skokie School District 65 and the Evanston Public Library. The curriculum they codesigned with teachers was used across the district.

A prolific writer: Worsley has published 25 peer-reviewed articles in the last two years. Another major research area combines spatial reasoning, multimodal interfaces and computational thinking among elementary and middle school students.

His educational path: Born in Brazil, Worsley attended elementary school in Belgium and high school in Michigan, where he was a state-ranked sprinter for the track team but also loved soccer and other sports. In 2003, after high school, he studied chemical engineering and Portuguese at Stanford University, where he later completed a master’s degree in computer science and his doctorate in learning sciences and technology design.

Getting Black kids into computer science: Black Kids Predict, which is based on Worsley’s research, introduces young people to scientific disciplines through sports. The six to 10-week curriculum is designed for children from kindergarten through high school and can also be used outside of the classroom. The initiative was developed in partnership with the community, local schools, Worsley’s colleagues, and several professional sports teams. It’s led by college-aged mentors from diverse backgrounds, athletes, coaches, and teachers. Together with people from Worsley’s lab (technological innovations for inclusive learning and teaching), these mentors help youth learn about designing sports wearables, machine learning, and data science. “We want Black kids to see data and computer science as creative superpowers,” Worsley says.

When he’s not doing research: He’s likely cooking, reading, gardening, spending time with his family or participating in a range of sporting activities: skiing, running, basketball, biking, capoeira, gymnastics, swimming, and soccer.

One class to take: Worsley’s class Sports, Technology and Learning looks at race, gender, nationality, socioeconomic status, and disability in the context of sports. His classes also discuss how sports are intertwined with capitalism at the expense of the health and well-being of athletes.Recent work:

By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 6/7/23