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Fall 2019 Askwith Forums Announced

Guest speakers include writer and sociologist Eve L. Ewing, Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson, and the LEGO Foundation’s Bo Stjerne Thomsen.

Photo by Iman Rastegari

What does it mean to write, live, and act through a lens of black feminism?

How did Chicago Public Schools earn a reputation as a model of what’s possible in urban education — and is the praise deserved?  

If play is central to learning, why are schools cutting unstructured, creative time?

How are universities responding to the deep challenges that confront higher education — including barriers to access and graduation, burdensome student debt, and gaps in career readiness?

The fall season of the Askwith Forums invites you to explore these questions in the company of compelling leaders who are shaping education today.  The Askwith Forums are HGSE’s signature public lecture series, bringing educators, scholars, policymakers, artists, and activists to campus to share insights, knowledge, and opinions about the issues facing the field.

Fall dates below, with more to be added. To receive the Askwith Forums e-newsletter, and for up-to-date information, please sign up at

September 10 – Into a Daybreak
Eve L. Ewing and Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot on thinking and writing through black feminism

Writer and sociologist Eve L. Ewing, Ed.M.’13, Ed.D.’16, creates work in multiple genres and forms: academic writing and scholarship, teaching, cultural organizing, poetry, comic books, and fiction. But one thing that unites all of her works is the underlying thread of black feminism. In this forum, Ewing and her former dissertation adviser, Professor Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, discuss the influence of black feminist ideas on Ewing’s work in multiple arenas and consider the ways all of us might learn, grow, care for ourselves and each other, and challenge systems of power through the radical potential of these ideas. 5:30 – 7 p.m.

September 26 – Chicago Public Schools: A Transformation Story
A conversation with Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson on life after 30 years of education reform

In 1987, former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett said he wasn’t sure if there was a school system worse than Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Today, thanks to the deliberate work of educators, community leaders, parents, universities, and partners, CPS is receiving national acclaim and the district has emerged as a model for accelerating academic growth. This session will discuss the transformation of CPS, focusing on major reform efforts, including accountability, school choice, and data-driven student intervention. And it will dive deeply into the district’s strategy for recruiting, developing, and retaining high-quality and empowered school principals to continue this transformation. 5:30 – 7 p.m.

October 1 – Humanitarianism and Mass Migration: Confronting the World Crisis
An Askwith Forum to celebrate the launch of the Immigration Initiative at Harvard
This special event celebrating the launch of the Immigration Initiative at Harvard — a university-wide effort to promote intellectual exchange, community support, and action on immigration policy and with immigrant communities — will feature Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, a worldwide expert on urgent questions of globalization, immigration, and education. He offers a compelling, interdisciplinary lens on the mass migrations of the 21st century, with an emphasis on heath, mental health, and educational and legal protections for displaced children and families. 5:30 – 7 p.m.

October 11 – Leadership for Student Success
How colleges and universities can close critical gaps in access, equity, and outcomes

Held in conjunction with Reflecting on the Past, Transforming the Future: A 50th Anniversary Symposium with the Institute for Educational Management (IEM), this forum will mark the history and continuing impact of IEM, the nation’s oldest and preeminent program for professional development of college and university leaders. Today, IEM is helping leaders directly confront our nation’s critical challenges: access to a high-quality college education; inclusive opportunities within the college curriculum; and equitable outcomes and career readiness. This forum will discuss all of those challenges — and how to lead for student success. 4:30 – 5:45 p.m.

October 21 – The Power of Playful Learning
Creating educational settings that bring “school” and “play” together

We learn through play. In play, we learn how to collaborate and negotiate rules and relationships. In play, we imagine, create, think flexibly and critically, and solve problems. Play provides important pathways for social, intellectual, physical, and emotional growth. Yet informal play and formal schooling are not always an easy combination. A panel including researchers from Project Zero, as well as experts from the Lego Foundation, Portland Children’s Museum, and the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard will discuss creating formal educational settings (pre-K through high school) where playful learning thrives. 5:30 – 7 p.m.

Seating for Askwith Forums is first come, first seated.