Sigal Ben-Porath and Susan Yoon receive inaugural Presidential Professorships

August 4, 2023

Penn GSE Professors Sigal Ben-Porath and Susan Yoon have been awarded Penn Presidential Professorships. Ben-Porath has been named the MRMJJ Presidential Professor and Yoon, who also serves as Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Affairs, has been named the Graduate School of Education Presidential Professor. Both are the first to hold their respective chairs, which begin with the 2023–2024 academic year.

Presidential Professorships are awarded to exceptional scholars of any rank who will contribute to the diverse experiences, perspectives, and eminence of Penn faculty. They were established in 2011 to strengthen the University’s ability to recruit, retain, and mentor distinguished scholars who are preeminent in their fields and have demonstrated a commitment to sustaining an inclusive and vibrant academic community. The professorships are awarded for a five-year term and are renewable for one additional five-year term.

“Sigal and Susan are internationally recognized scholars at the height of their careers,” said Dean Katharine Strunk. “These professorships are a testament to their commitment to advancing diverse experiences and excellence in education.”

Ben-Porath is an expert in democratic theory and practice and studies the ways institutions like schools and colleges can sustain and advance democracy. Her areas of expertise include philosophy of education and political philosophy. She was also recently named faculty director of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Paideia Program.

“I am so grateful for the recognition and support, and for the opportunities that this chair offers,” Ben-Porath said. “It will enable me to expand my research into civic education and democratic dialogue across difference. I am so lucky to have amazing students who support my research; I look forward to working with them with the support of the MRMJJ Presidential Professorship to develop, apply, and assess tools for civic and democratic engagement in K–12 and college classrooms.”

Yoon specializes in the teaching and learning of complex scientific and technological systems. A notable example is her recent work on developing epistemic practices that enable high school students to evaluate information and disinformation of socio-scientific issues, such as climate change and disease epidemics.

“I am incredibly grateful to receive this honor from the School and University that I cherish and respect,” Yoon said. “Thank you to my wonderful colleagues, mentors, and students at Penn GSE, in high school science classrooms, and in the field of the learning sciences who make research and creating applications in education so rewarding every day.”

The MRMJJ Presidential Professorship was established by Penn GSE Board of Advisors member and former chair Joel M. Greenblatt, W’79, WG’80, and the MRM Foundation. Multiple donors contributed to the Graduate School of Education Presidential Professorship: Board of Advisors Chair Jeffrey S. McKibben, W’93, and Allison Bieber McKibben, C’93; Advisor and former chair David N. Roberts, W’84, and Deborah Roberts; and former Advisor Gustave K. Lipman, W’94, and Karen M. Lipman, W’94, WG’98.

From promoting civic and democratic engagement in schools to equipping students to understand complex science and properly evaluate socio-scientific issues, Ben-Porath and Yoon are tackling some of the biggest issues in education today. These professorships will support the impact their work continues to have on educational theory and practice.