The Penn GSE Magazine

Fall 2020

This online edition represents the content of the Fall 2020 hard copy issue that went to print on October 22, 2020.

The cover of the Fall 2020 issue of The Penn GSE Magazine. On it a bright blue sphere representing Earth is illuminated, and surrounding the sphere are digital icons including a phone symbol, wi-fi symbol, dollar sign, and camera icon. Headlines read “Education in Times
of Change: Penn GSE’s Leadership and Partnership for an Unprecedented Era,” “Teaching the
Skills of Racial Literacy,” “Alumni Adapting in Times of Crisis,” and “Extraordinary Impact Campaign Update.”

Cover image by Photos by Greg Benson Photography and Ryan Collerd.

Cover Story

Seven tiled images of GSE faculty, Philadelphia students, and teachers in classrooms appear in rectangles.

Education in Times of Change: Penn GSE’s Leadership and Partnership for an Unprecedented Era

Amid a global pandemic and perhaps the largest civil rights movement in U.S. history, Penn GSE is embracing the shift to virtual education, providing resources to educators and leaders in the field at large, and addressing issues of race, equity, and access throughout the School’s work.



The Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania

Board of Overseers

Douglas R. Korn, W’84 
Deborah L. Ancona, C’76, GED’77
Brett H. Barth, W’93
Allison Jane Blitzer, C’91
Wallace Boston, GRD’10
Jolley Bruce Christman, GED’71, GR’87
Beth S. Ertel, W’88, WG’92
Jeffrey L. Goldberg, W’83, WG’89
Joel M. Greenblatt, W’79, WG’80
Wendy Marcus Greenfield, W’78
Andrew Harris Jacobson, WG’93
Marjie G. Katz, GED’90

Lois M. Kohn-Claar, C’88, GED’88
Gustave K. Lipman, W’94
Jeffrey S. McKibben, W’93
Gregory A. Milken, C’95
Matthew Vincent O’Malley, GED’95
Andrea Jill Pollack, C’83, L’87, GED’17
David N. Roberts, W’84
Francisco Jose Rodriguez, W’93
Molly P. Rouse-Terlevich, C’90, GED’00
Michael J. Sorrell, GRD’15
Navin M. Valrani, W’93, GED’18
Steven M. Wagshal, W’94

The Penn GSE Magazine is produced by the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, 3700 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6216. Reproduction of these articles requires written permission from Penn GSE. ©2020 by the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania. Please contact Penn GSE at 215-898-9704 for references. Please contact to update your address.

Pam Grossman

Melissa R. Calvert, GED’00

Juliana Rosati

Editorial Board:

Sara Cantwell
Jane L. Lindahl, GED’18
Jennifer Moore
Vanessa Rutigliano
Kat Stein


Print edition and web graphics by Ten Eleven Design

Web design by Penn GSE IT Web Team

The University of Pennsylvania values diversity and seeks talented students, faculty and staff from diverse backgrounds. The University of Pennsylvania does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, creed, national or ethnic origin, citizenship status, age, disability, veteran status or any other legally protected class status in the administration of its admissions, financial aid, educational or athletic programs, or other University-administered programs or in its employment practices. Questions or complaints regarding this policy should be directed to the Executive Director of the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Programs, Franklin Building, Suite 421, 3451 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206; or 215-898-6993 (Voice).




Letter from the Dean

Headshot of Dean Pam Grossman on Locust Walk

Dear Alumni and Friends,

I’m sure we can agree that 2020 has been a most unusual and challenging year, for education and the world. After massive school closures impacted more than 1.5 billion students around the globe, schools and colleges are navigating new modalities to provide virtual, in-person, and hybrid learning experiences for their students. As I write, our nation faces a presidential election under unprecedented circumstances, as we confront both a global pandemic and a historic movement for racial justice.


I’m so grateful for and proud of how our Penn GSE faculty, staff, and students have come together during this tumultuous time. Our cover story describes our work to address a complex landscape of virtual learning, uncertainty, heightened inequities, renewed calls to combat racism, and increased social and emotional needs. For Penn GSE, this has been a time of reaching out to help educators and leaders—through an array of professional development opportunities, two new projects funded by The Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Family Foundation, and our partnership with The School District of Philadelphia.

We have deepened our relationship with the District’s network of K–8 schools in West Philadelphia, led by Assistant Superintendent Rahshene Davis, GED’03, a current student in our Mid-Career Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership, who is highlighted in the feature “Adapting in Times of Crisis.” At her request, Penn GSE recently covered most of the cost to bring the virtual learning platform Nearpod to all thirteen network schools to improve learning, engagement, and equity. We have been delighted to support Davis’s leadership and to hear that her teachers are giving rave reviews of Nearpod.

We have also leveraged our strengths to adapt to our changing circumstances. Our rapid transition to virtual learning in the spring and continued success through the virtual summer and fall have been made possible by the expertise of faculty across the School. This fall, we welcomed the largest incoming class in Penn GSE’s history, 735 students, a tremendous milestone reflecting the dedication of our faculty and staff in a new landscape.

All of our faculty have spent time learning new tools and approaches to help create the kinds of interactive classes we conduct in person—and I am no exception! After four decades of teaching, I am leading my first online class this fall. I have been so grateful for the support and resources our faculty and staff have provided. Thanks to their efforts, I know how best to apply the latest technologies as I get to know our doctoral students, delve into texts, and build a learning community.

 To address the need to confront systemic racial injustice in our country, we have undertaken a School-wide process of reflection among faculty, staff, and students, establishing new goals for our continued work in race, equity, and inclusion. Once again, our faculty and staff stepped up to help lead community meetings and our schoolwide discussions of Ibram X. Kendi’s book, How to Be an Anti-Racist. We are now engaged in a number of efforts that were identified in these community meetings, including preparing antiracist teachers, leaders, counselors, and researchers; ensuring that our community reflects the diversity of our city, our country, and our world; and ensuring that schools become places where students of color, and Black students in particular, can flourish.

These are indeed challenging times, but they are also times of hope. The work of our community and of educators around the globe has never been more urgent, and I draw inspiration from it each day. I hope you will do the same as you read the stories in this issue and explore the virtual resources highlighted in our cover story. Thank you for all that you are doing for education in these times of change.

Pam Grossman signature

Pam Grossman
Dean, Penn Graduate School of Education
George and Diane Weiss Professor of Education

Editor’s note: This issue of The Penn GSE Magazine went to print on October 22, 2020.


Bookshelf Spotlight

How We Talk about Language: Exploring Citizen Sociolinguistics

By Betsy Rymes

Published September 2020 by Cambridge University Press

This book explores everyday forms of language expertise as a way of understanding the relationship between language, culture, and society. Dr. Rymes offers tools to analyze how people talk about language and demonstrates that knowledge about language and its connection to social life is not primarily produced and spread by linguists or sociolinguists, or even language teachers. Rather, it is generated through everyday conversations, online arguments, music, art, memes, tweets, and more. Rymes is a professor in the Educational Linguistics division of Penn GSE.

 Find other recent books by Penn GSE faculty in the Faculty Bookshelf

Betsy Rymes headshot
: How We Talk about Language book cover


Half of a bright blue sphere representing Earth is illuminated, and surrounding the sphere are digital icons including a phone symbol, wi-fi symbol, dollar sign, and camera icon.

Amid a global pandemic and perhaps the largest civil rights movement in U.S. history, Penn GSE is embracing the shift to virtual education, providing resources to educators and leaders in the field at large, and addressing issues of race, equity, and access throughout the School’s work.

Elementary school students sit at round tables in a classroom. Behind them are colorful decorations, classroom projects, and school supplies. A woman stands at the front of the room and a man sits to the left. A headline on the image reads, “Recasting the Moment.”

A nationally sought expert on racial stress and racial trauma, Penn GSE’s Dr. Howard Stevenson discusses the national landscape and how racial literacy can help create a better future.

A logo made of dark blue, light blue, and bright red blocks appears against an ivory background. The logo reads, “Extraordinary Impact: The Campaign for Penn GSE."

The largest fundraising campaign in Penn GSE’s history, Extraordinary Impact supports faculty, staff, and students as they create opportunity through education.

Headshots of David Roberts (left) and Doug Korn (right) appear with a boxed headline that says “Harnessing the Power of Education.”]

Penn GSE’s new Board of Overseers Chair, Doug Korn, W’84, and his predecessor, David Roberts, W’84, support Dean Grossman’s vision and the School’s work creating opportunity through education.

The headline “Celebrating Virtually” and red and blue pennants appear above screenshots of two event videos. The screenshot on the left says. “Join us for a virtual Alumni Weekend Saturday May 16. 2020.” The screenshot on the right shows Dean Grossman smiling above the words “Dean Pam Grossman of the Graduate School of Education.”]

Penn Alumni Weekend and Penn GSE Commencement went virtual for 2020, keeping the University and School communities connected from afar amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Headshots of two alumni, a woman and a man, appear on a dark yellow background with the headline “Adapting in Times of Crisis: Penn GSE Alumni Shape Education’s Future.”

The role of educators and leaders worldwide is more important than ever in today’s landscape. Four Penn GSE alumni share the challenges they have faced as while charting a promising path forward.

Seven colorful thought bubbles, each with a silhouette of a person within it, are connected by a web. Within and outside of the silhouettes are symbols including computers, gears, targets, globes, a brain, and an eye. A headline reads, “Building a Community of Leaders: Penn GSE’s Chief Learning Officer Program Goes Virtual.”

Throughout a successful transition to remote learning, Penn GSE’s Chief Learning Officer program has focused on building community among leaders of workplace learning.


Aerial shot of three people sitting at separate tables in a library, working on laptops

Alumni Notes

Penn GSE alumni notes reveal the many ways our graduates are having an impact as educators and leaders.

Read Alumni Notes


Tips from the Educator's Playbook

A black-and-white illustration of a protest shows silhouettes of hands raised in the air, signs being held, and noise coming out of megaphones.

Teaching History Online Today

Abby Reisman says historical inquiry gives students a space to think deeply about the past and consider how it connects to and shapes the present.


Image by

Read More about Teaching History Online

Extraordinary Impact Starts With You

Laronnda Thompson, wearing glasses and a red blouse, smiles in the courtyard of the 3700 Walnut Street building.

“I aspire toward a vibrant and dynamic scholarly career wherein I can promote healthy child development through the possibilities of education.”

— Laronnda Thompson, Ph.D. student in Interdisciplinary Studies in Human Development, recipient of the Gloria Twine Chisum Scholarship

Named scholarships and fellowships allow Penn GSE to attract the most talented students.

Learn More about Naming & Endowment

Professional Learning

A man in professional attire is speaking in front of a classroom. Behind him is a projector displaying a PowerPoint presentation, and in front of him are several students.

Deepen your knowledge. Build your network. Grow your career.

The Center for Professional Learning at Penn GSE provides professional development and continuing education opportunities for educators, entrepreneurs, leaders, and professionals across disciplines.

Learn More about Professional Learning

Penn GSE Connects

Nathaniel Coffman smiles in front of a school building wearing glasses and a basketball coach shirt.

A Platform for Networking and More

“Today I have my dream job. I see mentoring others on Penn GSE Connects as my way of giving back.” —Nathaniel W. Coffman, GRD’12, Head of School and President, The Prairie School

Professional networking is more important than ever to navigate today’s job market. With Penn GSE Connects, Penn GSE students and alumni have an exclusive new platform to build professional relationships.

Sign Up for Penn GSE Connects

Extraordinary Impact

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