Alum Diana Hess Appointed Senior Vice President of Spencer Foundation
Diana Hess, former College of Education doctoral student, has officially been appointed Senior Vice President of the Spencer Foundation. Hess will serve as a partner to Foundation President Michael McPherson in shaping Spencer's strategic directions, in guiding the organization's and the staff's work, and in representing the Foundation in its interactions with its partners, clients, and friends.
Currently a professor in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin Madison, Hess’s research interests include classroom discourse, democracy education, discussion of controversial issues, and social studies.
"We are thrilled that Diana will be joining us," says McPherson. "She brings many exceptional qualities to Spencer. Of particular importance given our future directions are her open-minded, searching and rigorous approach to inquiry on educational problems and her passionate commitment to working to see to it that research matters for making education better."
Hess received her Ph.D. from the University of Washington College of Education in 1998. Walter Parker served as Hess’s adviser. Parker also served on the advisory board of Hess’s study on controversial issues called Discussing Controversial Issues Study and they co-teach a course each summer called Can We Talk?, at the University of Washington.
“Diana began her work on the PhD with me 14 years ago,” Parker says. “She was a mentee but quickly became a colleague, and I learned a great deal from her. Diana has an incisive mind, is a gifted researcher, and she is deeply committed to understanding how teachers can help young people develop politically--to take their place on the public stage. She is also a gifted at turning conflicts into learning opportunities. All of this will serve her--and all of us--well in her leadership role at Spencer.”
Hess credits her experiences as a doctoral student in the College of Education with broadening and deepening her understanding of education issues writ large, along with shaping her understanding of what constitutes high quality teacher education. “I learned a lot about what good looks like in my graduate courses in the College of Education and from working with Walter in particular. The faculty and my graduate student colleagues were highly skilled, interesting, ethical, and sharp,” Hess says. “Standards were high, as they should have been, but the supports were strong too. Without exception, professors in the College with whom I studied were first-rate scholars and excellent teachers. I am just so glad that I had an opportunity to spend time in such a vibrant and engaging intellectual community.”
Hess recently received major research awards from the National Council for the Social Studies for her book, Controversy in the Classroom: The Democratic Power of Discussion. She is considered a leading expert in teaching about controversy.
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