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Faculty Member Wins Ver Steeg Award

March 25, 2024
Quinn Mulroy: “She has a gift of pushing for rigor while being supportive and encouraging."

Northwestern University political scientist Quinn Mulroy received The Graduate School’s 2024 Ver Steeg Award for her often behind-the-scenes work supporting graduate students throughout the University, whether she was assigned to formally mentor them or not.

Mulroy, assistant professor of human development and social policy at the School of Education and Social Policy, was a co-founder and co-coordinator of the ambitious and inclusive Connections program, a “first look” experience for historically marginalized students planning to apply to PhD programs in human development, social policy, and related fields.

She also co-developed the Politics and Policy lab space to improve mentorship, advising, and training. The group now includes close to 50 graduate students.

“She has a gift of pushing for rigor while being supportive and encouraging,” said Cynthia Coburn, professor of education and social policy at the School of Education and Social Policy and Mulroy’s former program chair.

“Graduate students––especially those who have been traditionally underserved––reach out to her because she has a reputation for honoring their interests and experiences, affirming their promise for graduate education, and providing practical and hands-on support for their research, even when it is outside her immediate area of expertise.”

Mulroy provided this support on top of challenges to her own work, which was upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the main faculty members who conducts archival research, she lost access to most of the documents she needed for more than two years.

Still, Mulroy advised and trained the growing body of graduate students who are interested in using archival methods, through one-on-one discussions and step-by-step training. After sites reopened, she took several students, including SESP’s Andrew Stein, to the National Archives and Record Administration in College Park, Maryland for individualized, onsite training on how to conduct archival research.

“Quinn knows how and when to push as well as how to encourage us to take a step back and reflect on my big-picture goals and questions, Stein said. “She is a fantastic brainstorming partner who makes the research process enjoyable and always listens to my ideas and takes them seriously.”

Mulroy, described by Coburn as a “rigorous thinker with impeccable methodological skills”, studies policy, equity, and the development of political ideas in a range of educational environments.” Her latest study, coauthored with SESP associate professor Sally Nuamah, looked at how race and gender stereotypes affect public support for the punishment of Black girls.  

She is also diving deep into archival materials for a book she is writing with alumna Heather McCambly, assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh. The two are studying how ideas about educational “quality” develop and can form the backbone of a sustained backlash to civil rights policies over time.

At SESP, she championed equity and inclusion and represented student voices as a member of the Human Development and Social Policy program’s equity policy and the graduate admissions committees. But her impact is schoolwide. In 2018, she was voted Outstanding Faculty Member by undergraduates.

“Quinn’s mentorship is caring, subtle, and pragmatic–with lasting impacts on the SESP and broader Northwestern communities,” said graduate student Claire Mackevicius. “She has helped me bridge multiple disciplines to craft my dissertation projects and consistently provides deep and rich feedback on every draft I share.”

School of Education and Social Policy Dean Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy called Mulroy a role model for junior scholars and praised her often invisible work. “Her care for the overall health and well-being of our students sets an example for the rest of us,” he said. “Our colleagues are doing amazing things.”

Named for Clarence Ver Steeg, a former Northwestern University professor in history and Dean of The Graduate School, the award annually recognizes one outstanding graduate faculty member and one staff member for excellence in working with students at The Graduate School. The staff award went to Mel Keiser, a business administrator in the Department of Art History and Classics at Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.