SESP Leadership Institute

SESP Leadership Institute

The School of Education and Social Policy Leadership Institute (SLI) is a Fall Quarter academic program that supports incoming first-years, transfers, and rising sophomores by using their histories and perspectives to help them thrive in their respective fields, at Northwestern, and beyond.

Students take two SESP core requirement classes, participate in a variety of leadership and team-building activities, and connect with professors, graduate students, and fellow undergraduates. The Institute also provides opportunities to get involved in a range of organizations and activities at Northwestern. 

If you believe you are eligible for SLI and are interested in participating, please fill out the SLI 2023 interest form here.   Admission notifications will be sent out on a rolling basis. 

Frequently Asked Questions

SLI is open to all rising first-year, second-year, and transfer students who are the first in their families to attend college and/or are from lower-income backgrounds. Most of our participants have been enrolled in the School of Education and Social Policy, though students from almost all other Northwestern schools are welcome. If you are not enrolled in SESP, please talk with the SESP administrative team and your home school adviser about how the SLI course credits will apply to your degree requirements. 

SLI 2023 will take place  during Fall Quarter. Previously, SLI was held before school started, but the pandemic shifted our schedule. Participants enroll in the two-credit SLI course during Fall Quarter registration. For returning and transfer students, this occurs in mid-to-late May; for first-year students, registration is during Wildcat Welcome in September, shortly before the Fall Quarter begins.

SLI 2023 will run the full length of an academic quarter. You will enroll in two credits: LOC 214-BR: Culture & Cognition, and SESP 218: Leaders Lab. You will take these credits concurrently with one or two other Fall Quarter classes. Undergraduate peer leaders (past SLI participants), graduate teaching assistants, the program coordinator, and the alumni community support you through the experience.

The academic portion of SLI 2023 fundamentally resembles two regular classes, but it has additional benefits. No other classroom on campus will offer the community, writing feedback and support, and deep academic engagement with like-minded peers and faculty. In the Culture and Cognition class ( LOC 214-BR; check out a previous syllabus of the course here ), students learn about critical theory and discuss how their life experiences and narratives shape who they are. The homework is very reading- and writing-intensive. The Leaders Lab component of SLI ( SESP 218; see previous syllabus here) is a series of peer-led workshops that focus on identity development, navigating Northwestern, community organizing and community building, and more.

We plan to host in-person class sessions and co-curricular community activities. Community is important in SLI and we are looking forward to social and cultural excursions in Evanston and Chicago that will help us get to know each other. We travel to Wisconsin for a weekend retreat and hold flexibility in the agenda for study time and homework. Past activities have also included spending time with new friends in the residence halls and dining together on and off-campus. 

  • Academic credits and quality letter grades that fulfill two units of SESP undergraduate degree requirements
  • Lifetime connections with your cohort, your peer leaders, and SESP faculty and staff
  • Increased awareness of and comfort navigating various resources at Northwestern
  • Beloved community
  • Become part of a vast, dynamic SLI alumni community
  • So much love

Simply fill out the SLI 2023 interest form, which can be done in ten minutes, or email us at  to start the process.

Fall 2023 course registration will take place in mid-to-late May for returning and transfer students, and in early September for new first-years. Once you fill out the form, you will hear from Vanessa Magallanes, SLI graduate assistant extraordinaire, and a program coordinator, who will answer questions and connect you to a peer leader.

If you believe you are eligible for SLI and are interested in applying, please still fill out the interest form!

Have questions?

For questions or more information about the SESP Leadership Institute, please email us at

Led By SESP Professors

Dr. Mesmin Destin

Dr. Shirin Vossoughi

The SLI Team

Josiah Rosario

sahibzada mayed

Djamila Oumarou

Alehandra Frausto

Miguel Angel Ovies-Bocanegra

Gautam Bisht

Vanessa Champagne

Contact Us

Student Affairs Office

School of Education and Social Policy

Walter Annenberg Hall
2120 Campus Drive, Suite 123
Evanston, IL 60208
Northwestern University

Phone: 847/491-3790