Diana Hess

Dean & the Karen A. Falk Distinguished Chair of Education at University of Wisconsin, Madison - School of Education

Diana Hess

Diana Hess

Dean & the Karen A. Falk Distinguished Chair of Education at University of Wisconsin, Madison - School of Education

Biography

Diana Hess has been dean of UW–Madison’s School of Education since Aug. 1, 2015. She is only the ninth dean of the School of Education since its founding in 1930.

Under Hess’ leadership, the School has experienced notable growth, including the development of two new undergraduate majors and several popular certificate programs that span the arts, education, and health. The School has also established new initiatives focused on strengthening and expanding its efforts around teacher education, diversity and inclusion, global engagement, professional learning, and community partnerships. Investment in new research centers and a new Grand Challenges program to jumpstart innovative and interdisciplinary research across the School has advanced our research mission. Hess has also spearheaded efforts to increase graduate student support.

At UW–Madison, Hess is the principal investigator of The Discussion Project, a professional development program that aims to strengthen campuswide capacity to create welcoming, engaging, and academically rigorous classroom environments in which students experience productive classroom discussions on important issues and topics. In 2019, the Mellon Foundation awarded The Discussion Project a $1 million grant to increase the number of cohorts at UW–Madison, expand to other schools, and undergo an in-depth study.

Hess first arrived on campus in 1999, joining the School’s highly ranked Department of Curriculum and Instruction as an assistant professor. She became an associate professor in 2005 and a full professor in 2009. In 2011 she took a leave from the university to serve as senior vice president of the Spencer Foundation in Chicago. The organization funds research to improve education policy and practice. Hess today also holds the Karen A. Falk Distinguished Chair of Education. She was elected to the National Academy of Education in 2019.

Since 1997, Hess has been researching how teachers engage their students in discussions of highly controversial political and constitutional issues, and what impact this approach to civic education has on what young people learn. Her first book on this topic, Controversy in the Classroom: The Democratic Power of Discussion, won the National Council for the Social Studies’ Exemplary Research Award in 2009. Her most recent book, The Political Classroom: Evidence and Ethics in Democratic Education, co-authored with Paula McAvoy, won the American Educational Research Association’s Outstanding Book Award in 2016 and the prestigious Grawemeyer Award in 2017. Also in 2017, Hess was recognized by the National Council for the Social Studies with the Grambs Distinguished Career Award for Research.

Hess is deeply committed to working with teachers to improve the quality of democratic education in schools. In September 2018, for example, Hess and the School of Education hosted a day-long event leading up to the November midterm elections titled, “Teaching About the 2018 Elections: Preparing Students for Political Engagement.”

Hess began her education career as a high school social studies teacher in Downers Grove, Illinois, in 1979. During her time there, she became president of the Downers Grove teachers’ union. She then went on to work as the associate director of the Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago from 1987 to 1995.

Hess earned her Ph.D. in 1998 from the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Washington–Seattle with extensive coursework in educational policy and law. In 2018, she received the University of Washington College of Education’s 2018 Distinguished Alumnus Award. Hess holds a master’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois University.

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Chief Financial Officer at University of Wisconsin, Madison - School of Education

Relationship likelihood: Strong

Director, Career Center at University of Wisconsin, Madison - School of Education

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CIO & Co-Director of Merit at University of Wisconsin, Madison - School of Education

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Co-Director for Global Engagement Office at University of Wisconsin, Madison - School of Education

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Co-Director, Wisconsin Collaborative Education Research Network & Professor, Instructional Leadership Practice, Technology & Reflective Practice at University of Wisconsin, Madison - School of Education

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Director, International Academic Programs at University of Wisconsin, Madison - School of Education

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CIO & Co-Director of Merit at University of Wisconsin, Madison - School of Education

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Communications Coordinator at University of Wisconsin, Madison - School of Education

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Coordinator, Strategic Programs Planning at University of Wisconsin, Madison - School of Education

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Director of Clinical Training & Assistant Clinical Professor, School Psychology, Educational Psychology at University of Wisconsin, Madison - School of Education

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Diana Hess
Dean & the Karen A. Falk Distinguished Chair of Education at University of Wisconsin, Madison - School of Education
Career History
Dean & the Karen A. Falk Distinguished Chair of Education
2015 - Current

The UW-Madison School of Education, like its peers, prepares a variety of professional educators through degree and certification programs in such areas as elementary and secondary education, educational leadership, special education, and counseling. But the School houses a much broader and more diverse array of undergraduate and graduate programs than traditional education schools — from studio art, modern dance and theatre to exercise science and occupational therapy. In all, the School of Education is home to 10 academic departments. The School's excellence flows from this diversity of offerings that are made possible by our dedicated, top-caliber faculty and staff — many of whom are nationally and internationally prominent in a range of fields. Many of our programs are ranked as being among the very best in the nation. We are consistently achieving at the highest levels across the entire School — in the arts, education and health-related fields. In addition, our research prowess is second-to-none. The Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER) is one of the largest, oldest and most respected education research centers in the world. The demand for the highest quality research and well-prepared leaders has never been greater.

Professor, Department of Curriculum & Instruction
Prior - 2015

The University of Wisconsin System is one of the largest systems of public higher education in the country, serving approximately 170,000 students each year and employing 39,000 faculty and staff statewide. With 13 universities across 26 campuses and a statewide extension network, the UW System is a tremendous academic, cultural, and economic resource for Wisconsin, the nation, and the world.

Senior Vice President
Prior

The Spencer Foundation was established in 1962 by Lyle M. Spencer. The Foundation received its major endowment upon Spencer's death in 1968 and began formal grant making in 1971. Since that time, the Foundation has made grants totaling approximately $250 million. The Foundation is intended, by Spencer's direction, to investigate ways in which education, broadly conceived, can be improved around the world. From the first, the Foundation has been dedicated to the belief that research is necessary to the improvement in education. The Foundation is thus committed to supporting high-quality investigation of education through its research programs and to strengthening and renewing the educational research community through its fellowship and training programs and related activities. The Spencer Foundation remains committed to Lyle Spencer's original mandate, and it is hard to imagine a time when that will change. But even as we remain constant in purpose, we must, like any vital enterprise, from time to time renew our approach and our methods. We have undertaken such a process of renewal at Spencer. A description of that process can be found in two documents: President Michael McPherson's essay from the 2003-2004 Annual Report presents some reasons for looking at the Foundation's work in a somewhat new way, and the second document puts forward a list of "areas of inquiry" that the Foundation aims to promote through its grant making programs. Beginning in February 2006, the Research Grants program began accepting applications that fit within one or more of four areas of inquiry: The Relation between Education and Social Opportunity; Organizational Learning in Schools, School Systems, and Higher Education Institutions; Teaching, Learning, and Instructional Resources; and, Purposes and Values of Education. In addition to proposals in these defined areas, the Foundation will continue to provide an opportunity to submit field-initiated proposals outside these areas. These areas of inquiry are intended in the first instance as a guide to applicants in our Research Grants program, but they have a larger purpose as well. We intend to use these declared areas of interest as starting points for a richer conversation with both the research community and with communities of policy and practice about the best ways to focus our work. We will strive to develop within these broad areas of inquiry more focused and sustained programs of research and improvement, undertaken in a spirit of partnership with our colleagues in the worlds of scholarship and of educational practice.

Political Donations
$250
2012

Senator from Wisconsin

$250
2012

Chief Executive Officer at Openhomes, Inc.

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