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Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach to Step Down as IPR Director

IPR economist and fellow will take up senior role at the University of Florida in August

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[Diane] has inspired me to think more broadly about the value of the work we do and to take our findings the extra mile by translating them for policymakers and the private sector.”

Sera Young
Anthropologist and IPR fellow

Diane Schanzenbach introduces Raj Chetty at his 2023 ipr distinguished lecture
Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach introduces Harvard economist Raj Chetty in February 2023. Under her leadership, IPR became a nexus for policy discussion and debate at Northwestern.

Economist Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach will step down as director of Northwestern University’s Institute for Policy Research (IPR) on July 31. On August 8, she will become Senior Advisor to the President for Academic Excellence and Associate Provost at the University of Florida, reporting to its recently appointed President Ben Sasse.

Schanzenbach, who is a national expert on education, anti-poverty programs, and food insecurity, has directed IPR since September 2017. She is currently the Margaret Walker Alexander Professor of Human Development and Social Policy. She is taking a leave of absence to serve in her new role in Florida and will remain an IPR fellow and Northwestern faculty member.

In addition to being a "superb scholar," Northwestern's Vice President for Research Milan Mrksich shared n an email to the IPR community that she has been "an extremely effective 'ambassador' who has frequently shared her expertise with the media and with government officials."

She recently created IPR's newest research initiative, the Early Childhood Research Alliance of Chicago, or EC-REACH, with IPR developmental psychologist Terri Sabol and will continue to help lead it and its research.

Schanzenbach is IPR's seventh director. She joined Northwestern in 2010 and served as director of the Beltway-based Hamilton Project from 2015–17. She deployed her unique policy research background, which includes testifying before both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, to propel IPR and its faculty towards more engagement and outreach with policymakers at all levels of government. She also regularly speaks with journalists and media outlets about her research and policy issues and is one of IPR's and the University's top-cited faculty members in the press.

"Diane's directorship has been transformative for me personally—and for this University as a whole, both for its institutes and its scholars and staff," said IPR anthropologist Sera Young, who serves on IPR's Executive Committee. "She has inspired me to think more broadly about the value of the work we do and to take our findings the extra mile by translating them for policymakers and the private sector."

Schanzenbach's many accomplishments as IPR's seventh director include the following:

  • She strengthened partnerships across the University to bring the best and brightest social scientists to Northwestern—with 17 fellows from seven disciplines having joined since 2017—to bridge disciplinary silos and to create a more cooperative and resilient policy research network within the University.
  • She made IPR a valuable nexus of policy debate and discussion on campus and beyond, in part by inviting nine distinguished public policy lecturers to campus—including Atlanta Federal Reserve CEO Raphael Bostic, Harvard economist Raj Chetty, and Yale social psychologist Jennifer Richeson. She also headed organization of IPR's 50th anniversary conference in May 2019.
  • She spearheaded a fundraising effort that has led to significant new gifts for IPR in the past four years.
  • Under her tenure, IPR increased the number of proposals and grants awarded to its fellows and grew its research labs and teams.
  • She modernized and enriched IPR administration, hiring IPR's first senior director of operations and outreach and adding staff to IPR's administrative core.
  • During COVID, she piloted the creation of successful new communications tools, such as IPR's rapid research reports, to disseminate useful knowledge in a timely manner during the pandemic emergency and beyond.
  • She directed Northwestern University's Multidisciplinary Program in Education Sciences (MPES), supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, to train doctoral students from different disciplines in education research methods from 2014–19. She led the establishment of a unique research partnership between Evanston Township High School and MPES students.

Schanzenbach is an elected member of the National Academy of Education and the National Academy of Social Insurance and sits on the boards of several organizations such as the Greater Chicago Food Depository and the Hamilton Project's Advisory Council. She received her BA from Wellesley in economics and religion and her PhD in economics from Princeton.

IPR Associate Director James Druckman, a political scientist, praised Schanzenbach for continuing her own highly influential research as director that came to shape policy decisions—as well as helping IPR and the University navigate the social, economic, and political challenges of the COVID era that overlapped with much of her tenure.

"Diane leaves an everlasting legacy at IPR," Druckman said. "Under her leadership, IPR affiliates produced more policy-relevant research than ever before, and she institutionalized practices that will ensure the Institute’s continued impact."

Mrksich will be working with Northwestern Provost Kathleen Hagerty and IPR faculty to develop the process for identifying the next IPR director, together with any interim leadership decisions.

Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach is the Margaret Walker Alexander Professor of Human Development and Social Policy and IPR director and fellow. Milan Mrksich is the Henry Wade Rogers Professor of Biomedical Engineering, professor of chemistry and cell and developmental biology, and vice president for research. James Druckman is the Payson S. Wild Professor of Political Science and IPR associate director and fellow. Sera Young is associate professor of anthropology and global heath and an IPR fellow. Kathleen Hagerty holds the First Chicago Professorship in Finance and is Northwestern's Provost.

Published: June 26, 2023.