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. 

SESP Leadership Institute FAQ

Am I eligible to participate in SLI?

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. 

When is SLI 2021?

SLI 2021 will take place during Fall Quarter. Previously, SLI was held before school started, but COVID 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 August; for first-year students, registration is during Wildcat Welcome in September.

Is SLI a Regular Class? 

SLI 2021 will run the full length of an academic quarter. You will enroll in two credits: Learning Sciences 214: Culture & Cognition, and SESP 218: Leaders Lab. You will take these credits concurrently with one or two other Fall Quarter classes. Seven undergraduate peer leaders (past SLI participants), graduate teaching assistants, the administrative co-directors/advisers, and the alumni community support you through the experience.

What will the academic portion of SLI look like?

The academic portion of SLI 2021 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 (LRN SCI 214; 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) is a series of peer-led workshops that focus on identity development, navigating Northwestern, community organizing and community building, and more.

What other activities will I participate in during SLI 2021?

This is still largely to be determined. Depending on the state of the pandemic and state/University guidelines, we may or may not be able to host in-person class sessions and co-curricular community activities.

What will I get out of SLI 2021?

  • 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
  • Access and belonging to a vast, dynamic SLI alumni community
  • So much love

I’m interested in applying! What do I do now?

Simply fill out the SLI 2021 interest form, which can be done in ten minutes. Fall 2021 course registration will take place in mid- to late August for returning and transfer students, and in early September for new first-years. Once you fill out the form, you will hear from Dee Dee Hong, SLI graduate assistant extraordinaire, and an administrative co-director of the program, who will answer questions and connect you to a peer leader/alum.

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


Please email

Led by SESP Professors

  • Dr. Mesmin Destin

     Mesmin Destin

    Associate Professor,
    Human Development and Social Policy

    Associate Professor,
    Department of Psychology

  • Dr. Shirin Vossoughi

     Shirin Vossoughi

    Associate Professor,
    Learning Sciences

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