They Built a Pioneering Program

Here’s their legacy

SESP celebrates and says farewell to three outstanding faculty members who helped build the Human Development and Social Policy doctoral program into one of the nation’s best. Professors P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale, Dan A. Lewis, and Regina (Gina) Logan conducted groundbreaking research, fiercely advocated for students, and touched hundreds of lives. The following tributes from colleagues and alumni offer a small window into the professors’ impact. 

Lindsay Chase-Lansdale 

Builder, Connector, Mentor

Lindsay Chase-Lansdale profoundly shaped the field of developmental psychology and built a generation of scholars by connecting numerous disciplines and studying programs and policies for children, youth, and families. The Frances Willard Professor Emerita of Human Development and Social Policy, she has been particularly interested in mentoring students of color and first-generation and lower-income students, and fostering the careers of Northwestern faculty, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds. 

Years in the faculty: 22

What she studied: A specialist on societal issues that affect families and children, Chase-Lansdale has published widely on family studies; child and adolescent development; two-generation education programs and policy; poverty and social inequality; mothers’ employment; immigration; and the resilience of children and parents facing economic hardship.

How she got here: Chase-Lansdale came to Northwestern in 1999 from the University of Chicago, where she was a tenured associate professor at the Harris School of Public Policy. 

Supporting families: When Chase-Lansdale began Northwestern’s Two-Generation Research Initiative, she was one of the first researchers to define and study education programs targeting both parents and children in low-income families. “Beginning in the 1980s, she launched innovative research programs on how mothers’ education and economic opportunities are linked to family systems and human development,” says Sandy Waxman, Northwestern’s Louis W. Menk Professor of Psychology. “At the time, there were chasms among the education, economics, and psychology disciplines, but Lindsay had the vision to bring them together.” 

Advocating for faculty: Chase-Lansdale became associate provost for faculty in 2013 and later Northwestern’s first vice provost for academics. In those roles, she focused on faculty development, leadership, and well-being in addition to faculty diversity and inclusion, multidisciplinary research initiatives, and the success of students from all backgrounds. The P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale Undergraduate Summer Research Grant in Social Policy for Children and Families was established by the provost in her honor in 2020. 

Why we love her

“Lindsay made it clear that she valued our ideas. As a mentor, she was generous and collaborative, supporting those who came behind her and encouraging us to dream big. She also saw us as people; she celebrated our weddings and the birth of our children, and on multiple occasions she opened her home to us. This generous spirit has tremendously shaped the way I mentor my own students.”

Natalia Palacios (PhD09), associate professor at the University of Virginia, who met Chase-Lansdale in 2003 while applying to graduate school 

“She taught me how to take big ideas at the intersection of policy and development and put them into action with rigor. Then she’d go really into the weeds: how do you carry it out? She taught so many of us how to do rigorous science without compromising the highest standards.”

Lauren Wakschlag, Chase-Lansdale’s first PhD student at the University of Chicago, now vice chair for scientific and faculty development for medical social sciences at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine

“She fiercely rallied for inclusiveness in the National Institute of Mental Health Family Research Consortium and for bringing in more postdoctoral students of color. She was always professional, but she didn’t mince words when it came to focusing on integration of the consortium. It was a game changer for scientists of color at the time.”

Linda Burton, dean of the School of Social Welfare at the University of California, Berkeley, and longtime research collaborator 

Dan Lewis 

Rebel with a Cause 

Professor emeritus Dan Lewis spent his career getting students out of the classroom and into the community. Those hands-on lessons, now a staple of a SESP education, remained with his students long after they left the Evanston campus. “Learning how to make a -difference—that should be part of the students’ education,” he says.

Years in the faculty: 42

The early years: Before coming to to Northwestern, Lewis was director of the Stanford Workshops on Political and Social Issues. When he arrived here in 1980, he played a formative role in SESP’s transition to a school that combined education with social policy. Lewis held nearly every SESP leadership position, including director of undergraduate education and chair of the graduate program on human development and social policy.

What he studied: Criminal justice and mental health issues. His efforts led to crime-prevention strategies, the deinstitutionalization of state mental-health patients, and school reforms that gave parents more power over their children’s education. He also studied welfare reform and homelessness.

What he’s known for: Being a tireless advocate for the underdog. Lewis could own a room and often played the role of contrarian, says SESP interim dean Dan McAdams, a colleague for more than 20 years. Lewis and Rob Donahue, director of the Center for Civic Engagement, designed the SESP Certificate in Civic Engagement in 2000, laying the groundwork for the CCE, where Lewis served as director for more than a decade. 

What makes him proud: He helped psychologist Bernice Neugarten create SESP’s groundbreaking interdisciplinary Human Development and Social Policy program in 1981 and revolutionized the practicum, making it more intellectually rigorous. At his final faculty meeting, Lewis said he was humbled to have played a part in making SESP one of the top schools in the US. “Keep this a great place for strays, misfits, and troublemakers,” he added. “SESP is a great home for them.” 

Why we love him:

“Dr. Lewis was my favorite professor at Northwestern. I did several independent studies with him after taking his course, because I loved working with him. He always pushed his students to improve, think more critically, challenge themselves and their own ideas, and remain active and engaged. His guidance on detailed field notes has helped me as a writer to this day. Honestly, I always wanted to impress Dr. Lewis. I was never sure if I was successful, but I know he made me a better writer and observer and helped deepen my understanding of many subjects.”

Dan Perlman (BS12), comedian and executive producer, cocreator, writer, and star of Showtime’s Flatbush Misdemeanors

“Dan was not one for faint praise. I recall him commenting on a student’s paper that he wouldn’t wrap his fish in it. So when you received an A with the comment ‘to the top of the class—a beautiful paper’ (yes, I still have that paper), you knew it meant something. I would not have completed a PhD in 1995 (back when we had to mail dissertation chapters) as a new mother living and working 2,000 miles away in Seattle if not for Dan Lewis. For that I will be forever appreciative.”

Cheryl Milloy (PhD95), one of the first HDSP students, who met Lewis in 1983 

“The sheer quantity of hours he spent working with me was staggering—we literally met several times a week, every week. More importantly, of course, was the quality of that mentoring. We would spend hours talking ideas, doing deep dives into readings that he’d sent. He taught me how to think—certainly how to think like a social scientist. He saw mentoring as the central aspect of his job in ways that I try, but fail, to recreate with my own students. He is the last of a dying breed in that sense, and I got extremely lucky to have him as a supervisor and a friend.”

Shadd Maruna (PhD98), professor of criminology at Queen’s University Belfast 

Regina Logan 

Bringing Generations Together

Regina Logan (MA84, PhD93) always wanted a career helping others. An assistant professor of instruction, she was greatly influenced by Bernice Neugarten and professor Dan McAdams, now SESP’s interim dean, who became her adviser. With shared interests in life stories and complementary skills, Logan and McAdams created the Foley Center for the Study of Lives interdisciplinary research group. She was director of the Foley Longitudinal Study of Adulthood, won SESP’s Outstanding Professor Award, and was named to the Associated Student Government Honor Roll. 

Years at SESP: 40

Logan’s legacy: Logan, who will retire in June, was known for creating community by bringing voices of the young together with those of their elders. In her Adulthood and Aging class, she asked students to interview adults over age 70—an assignment Neugarten had once given her. 

Persistence pays off: After studying French at the University of Michigan and getting her master’s in that subject at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Logan came to Northwestern in 1982, where she discovered the field of human development and social policy. The mother of three children, all born when Logan was a graduate student, she earned her PhD in 1993.

Signature class: Adulthood and Aging, which teaches that development continues throughout life and is affected by race, ethnicity, class, and gender. Students learn about the major developmental issues of adulthood, from age 18 through the end of life. The class includes expert guest lecturers and a panel of parents for the parenthood unit. The final project is a case study of an older person, preferably a family member.

Annual intergenerational exchange field trip: For at least a decade, Logan took students to Evanston’s Mather senior living community, where, over tea and cookies, they interviewed residents. “It’s a great way to look at research on adulthood and apply it,” Logan says. “It also can change the students’ attitudes about what it means to be an older adult. They realize everyone has a story to tell.” 

What makes her happy: “I’m thrilled when students see themselves, their parents, and their grandparents in the course materials,” Logan says. “I want them to see that we never stop developing and growing and that most adults continue to contribute to their communities, families, and friends well into old age.” 

Why we love her

“She was the heart and soul of the Foley Center for the Study of Lives. Gina has tremendous social capital and wisdom. If you have a problem with a spouse, job, or health, she’ll know how to help. She is also quite the scholar in adult development and aging. She has always been aware of how stages and interests change, and she’s very, very good at understanding things from the other point of view. She was always an advocate for the students.”

Dan McAdams, chair of Logan’s dissertation committee and longtime collaborator

“Dr. Logan held high expectations for all because she believed everyone could reach them. She was warm and strict and always made sure to adapt her teaching to the times. One of my favorite memories was, while serving as research assistants on her team, another student and I went to her house and made holiday cookies. It was such a nice time to connect with her on a human level as a mentor.”

Fannie Koltun (BS10), third-grade teacher at Equitas Academy Charter Schools in Los Angeles

“I am a better writer, researcher, and person because of Professor Logan and her mentorship. What really stuck with me is how she centered diversity and inclusion in every aspect of her work, constantly pushing students to rethink their biases and expand their perspectives. The attention she gave each individual student as a learner was unmatched.” 

Joanna Sherman (BS21), a Springboard Innovation fellow at Cornell Hillel