Dean Diana Hess

Diana Hess became dean of UW-Madison’s School of Education on August 1, 2015.

Hess, only the ninth dean of the School of Education since its founding in 1930, comes to this post after serving as senior vice president of the Spencer Foundation in Chicago since September 2011. The Spencer Foundation funds research to improve education policy and practice.

ACroppedDiana_Hess-1484Hess, however, is no stranger to UW-Madison. She first arrived on campus in 1999 to join the School’s No. 1-ranked Department of Curriculum and Instruction as an assistant professor. She climbed the ranks, becoming an associate professor in 2005 and a full professor in 2009 before taking a leave from the university to work at Spencer.

In 2015, Hess co-authored with Paula McAvoy, “The Political Classroom: Evidence and Ethics in Democratic Education.” This book received the American Educational Research Association’s 2016 Outstanding Book Award. Hess and McAvoy then received the prestigious 2017 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Education. Also in 2017, Hess was honored with the Jean Dresden Grambs Distinguished Career Research Award from the National Council for the Social Studies.

In 2019, Hess was elected to the National Academy of Education.

Hess' research interests include the impact of school-based civic education programs on youth, political and civic engagement, and how students experience and learn from discussions of highly controversial political issues. A previous book, “Controversy in the Classroom: The Democratic Power of Discussion,” won the National Council for the Social Studies Exemplary Research Award in 2009.

Hess today also holds the Karen A. Falk Distinguished Chair of Education.

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 before working as the associate director of the Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago from 1987-95. Hess next headed to the University of Washington-Seattle, where she earned her Ph.D. in 1998 from the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, with extensive coursework in educational policy and law.

Hess also holds a master’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois University.

View Dean Hess's curriculum vitae.