Diana Hess


  • Social studies
  • Teacher workforce

Diana Hess became dean of University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Education in August 2015 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. Hess first arrived on the UW-Madison campus in 1999 as an assistant professor in the school’s No. 1-ranked Department of Curriculum and Instruction. She became 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.” Her 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 earned her doctorate from the University of Washington-Seattle, with extensive coursework in educational policy and law.