Penn GSE alumna and former faculty member are rising leaders at IES

July 21, 2015

Ruth Neild, a former Penn GSE faculty member, was recently appointed Deputy Director of Policy and Research at the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Joy Lesnick, who earned her doctorate in education policy from Penn GSE in 2006, is the new Commissioner at the National Center on Education Evaluation (NCEE), one of four centers at IES. Though they are no longer at Penn, Neild and Lesnick remain rooted and connected in Philadelphia, commuting daily to Washington D.C. from 30th Street Station. 

After graduating from Penn with a Ph.D. in Sociology, Neild conducted applied research at the School District of Philadelphia and local community centers while teaching various classes at GSE.

“It was a special pleasure to teach basis statistics using hands-on, discovery activities,” said Neild. “I enjoyed watching my students gain confidence and become enthusiastic about what they were learning.”

 In 2010, Neild accompanied former colleague Rebecca Maynard to NCEE as her Associate Commissioner. 

“I found it gratifying to learn how to make the gears of government turn. People at IES play a quiet role in making sure high-quality education data collection, research, and evaluation is supported in our country,” said Neild.

Lesnick spent her time at Penn conducting a wide variety of research, working directly with professors and going on a China study tour.

As a doctoral candidate in Education Policy, Lesnick knew she wanted to be involved in research that would help policymakers improve the experience and education for both teachers and students.

 Lesnick joined IES in 2011, working with Maynard and Neild. “I knew that I would be working with a smart and committed team,” said Lesnick.

Jon Supovitz, professor of Leadership and Public Policy, was Lesnick’s advisor at Penn GSE. He also worked with her at the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE), where he serves as director.

“I am delighted that she has been named Commissioner of NCEE,” Supovitz said. “Joy embodies a rare combination of diverse methodological experiences and high emotional intelligence.”

Lesnick is excited to share the research done at IES with policymakers and practitioners across the country.

“Doing this in an accessible way keeps the focus on supporting and informing the professionals in the schools, districts, and state departments of education who are shaping the educational experiences of children,” said Lesnick.

Their advice to current Penn GSE students?

“Make it a regular practice to think about what you want to be really good at. Follow that path even if it takes you in non-traditional directions,” said Neild.

Added Lesnick, “Constantly challenge yourself to see and approach problems in new ways. Be able to see the big picture.”


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