Skip to main content

Our History

A school of education has been a part of Northwestern's for almost a hundred years, and education courses have been offered since 1888. Learn more about highlights in the history of the School of Education and Social Policy.

  • 1851

    Northwestern University is founded with Old College its first and only building

  • 1888

    Northwestern offers education courses for the first time

  • 1926

    A School of Education opens

    While a Department of Education had existed in the College of Liberal Arts since 1906, this expansion includes a four-year program. John Stout becomes the first dean.

  • 1941

    The school's first research doctorate degree program (EdD) is offered

    Music and speech education move to the respective Northwestern schools.

  • 1953-63

    The School expands as a traditional school of education

    More faculty are hired. Programs in home economics, health, gifted education are added. A master’s in teaching is added in 1961.

  • 1963-78

    With Dean B. J. Chandler, a new curriculum, Tutorial Clinical Program, replaces methods courses

    Upward Bound brings inner-city high school students to campus in the summer.

  • 1972

    The Old College is struck by lightning, and the School moves to Arthur Andersen Hall

  • 1974

    The Human Development in Non-School Settings program founded

    This paves the way for the Human Development and Social Policy program.

  • 1981

    The groundbreaking Human Development and Social Policy (HDSP) doctoral program is founded by Bernice L. Neugarten

    It highlights the contributions of psychology, sociology and economics toward understanding human development throughout life and how it is shaped by policies and institutions.

  • 1982

    Affiliated center is founded and a masters program launches

    The Center for Talent Development (originally called Midwest Talent Search) is founded. The same year, the School launches the Master of Science in Education program.

  • 1986

    The School of Education is renamed the School of Education and Social Policy

  • 1989

    The Learning Sciences program begins

    The interdisciplinary program that seeks to understand learning and teaching environments and design learning innovations, eventually becoming a model for similar programs at other universities. A Learning Sciences PhD program is founded two years later. 

  • 1993

    Annenberg Hall opens and becomes SESP’s new home.

  • 1997

    Penelope Peterson begins her 20-year deanship

    Under Peterson's leadership, SESP cemented itself as one of the world's most eminent school in its domain areas. The School advanced its identity as interdisciplinary and research-based, and new partnerships, initiatives, faculty, and research grants strengthened the School.

  • 1998

    The NU-TEACH alternative route to teacher certification is established

    The program is a partnership between the School, the Golden Apple Foundation and Inner-City Teaching Corps.

  • 2002

    US News and World Report first ranks SESP among the nation’s top ten schools of education

    SESP has consistently ranked among the top schools of education – despite being unlike any other education school – ever since.

  • 2004

    The School wins the highly competitive Institute for Education Sciences predoctoral training grant

    This grant establishes the multidisciplinary program in Education Sciences. SESP’s training grant has been renewed three additional times, most recently in 2020; no institution in the nation has won this training grant more often

  • 2009

    SESP establishes the Baxter Center for Science Education 

    The Center, which is founded in conjunction with Lindblom Math and Science Academy (and later also Round Lake High School) and the Baxter International Foundation to promote student success in STEM education and career pathways.

  • 2016

    Learning Sciences expands with new academic offerings

    The first-of-its-kind undergraduate program in Learning Sciences admits its first students. At the graduate level, SESP launches the nation’s first joint learning sciences/computer science doctoral program.

  • 2018

    Professor Larry Hedges wins the second Yidan Prize for Research, the world’s largest education prize

    Northwestern hosts the 2019 Yidan Prize Conference Series: The Americas.

  • 2018

    The Office of Community Education Partnerships is formed

    The office brings together research, teaching, and service missions to improve learning and well-being in our home communities of Evanston and Chicago, and beyond. It previously served as the Office for STEM Education Partnerships.

  • 2021

    The first cohort of students enroll in SESP's dual-degree applied economics and social and economic policy master’s program

    The joint program is offered by SESP and The Chinese University of Hong Kong’s (CUHK) Department of Economics.

  • 2021

    Center for Education Efficacy, Excellence and Equity receives Gates Foundation grant

    The $5.8-million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supports the research-practice partnership.

  • 2022

    The Northwestern Academy for Chicago Public Schools receives multimillion-dollar grant

    This gift is made in honor of Northwestern President Morton Schapiro. It is the largest gift in School history. The academy, established in 2013, is renamed the Morton Schapiro Northwestern Academy for Chicago Public Schools.

  • 2023

    Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy is named SESP dean

    An anthropologist and one of the world’s leading thinkers on race and Indigenous experiences in education, Brayboy’s research focuses on intersecting knowledge systems that illuminate the ways that institutional structures simultaneously hinder and enable the success of underserved students, staff, and faculty. Dean Brayboy is the first Native dean in the history of Northwestern University.