SESP Dean David Figlio to depart Northwestern after 14-year journey


Daily file photo by Evan Robinson-Johnson

SESP Dean David Figlio said Evanston and NU will always hold a special place in his heart.

Joanne Haner, Assistant Photo Editor

After a fourteen-year Northwestern career, SESP Dean David Figlio will conclude his time at NU in May to take on a new position as the University of Rochester’s next provost. 

Figlio began working as dean of the School of Education and Social Policy in 2017 after previously working with the Institute of Policy Research and as a SESP professor. He said his time at NU has been one of growth, allowing him to become more interdisciplinary in his work. 

“Northwestern is really very special,” Figlio said. “I would say in the parts of Northwestern I’ve been engaged with, interdisciplinarity is baked into the culture.”

SESP Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Susan Olson has worked with Figlio throughout his time at NU and witnessed his growth. As assistant dean, she works closely with Figlio regarding undergraduate courses and course programming. 

Olson said part of Figlio’s initiatives at NU were geared towards helping individuals shine and find a place for themselves in SESP. According to Olson, the SESP undergraduate school underwent a curriculum redesign in 2019 that allowed more choice and windows of opportunity for faculty and students alike. 

“He has always been a very generous person,” Olson said. “From all the years I’ve worked with him, he’s always thinking about ways to create opportunities.”

Throughout his time as SESP dean, Figlio said he has emphasized community outreach and partnerships. In this process, he said he wanted to focus on doing this “with” the community, rather than “to” or “for” them. 

Faculty Fellow at the Institute of Policy Research and SESP Prof. Emma Adam worked with Figlio throughout his time at NU. She described him as having “boundless energy” that carried into his work as dean. 

“He really cared about connections with the community around Northwestern and particularly the educational community,” Adam said. “He also created incredibles initiatives that would pair researchers at Northwestern with the local school districts to solve educational problems that were of importance in the local community.”

Olson and Adam emphasized Figlio’s attempts to connect with students on campus and amplify student and faculty voices. 

Figlio opened his doors — physically and remotely — to students during mealtimes to get to know the student population and listen to their thoughts. 

“His warm personality and having fun has been a really nice way to connect with students,” Olson said. 

Although he was not looking to leave NU, Figlio said the opportunity presented at Rochester was one he “couldn’t refuse.” He said he looks forward to taking what he learned at NU and applying it to a universitywide scale in Rochester. 

His departure is effective May 15. 

“I still have a tremendous amount to learn, but I’ve made a lot of progress on my journey towards being capable of running a more equitable, inclusive and just organization as a result of being here,” Figlio said. 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @joanne_n_h

Related Stories:

Dan McAdams named interim dean of SESP

2020 Vision: SESP dean David Figlio emphasizes equity in faculty hiring, practicum

Incoming SESP dean David Figlio enters position after years of teaching, research