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Three Stanford education professors appointed to endowed chairs

Jo Boaler, Hilda Borko, Woody Powell

Three Stanford education professors appointed to endowed chairs

Jo Boaler, Hilda Borko and Woody Powell are honored with the distinguished academic titles.

Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE) Professors Jo Boaler, Hilda Borko and Walter (Woody) Powell have been appointed to endowed chairs, the highest honor the university can bestow on faculty.

Dean Dan Schwartz announced the appointments at a GSE faculty meeting on June 11. 

Jo Boaler, whose work focuses on the teaching of mathematics, was named the Nomellini & Olivier Professor of Education. Boaler teaches in the Curriculum Teacher Education (CTE) program at the GSE and serves as faculty director of, an organization she co-founded to provide teachers, parents and students with ideas, inspiration and resources for math learning.

Boaler is the author of 14 books and many articles on teaching and learning mathematics. She also produced “How to Learn Math,” the first massive open online course (MOOC) on mathematics education. She also leads workshops and leadership summits for teachers and administrators, and her summer camp has been shown to improve test scores for middle school girls from low-income, underrepresented backgrounds by an average of 50 percent, progress that is equivalent to 2.7 years of school. Her online lessons have reached more than 140 countries. 

“Professor Boaler is an incredibly effective communicator and educator,” Schwartz wrote in nominating her for the honor, adding that her work has consistently challenged preconceived notions about who can do math. “She has shown that educational settings can reinforce those preconceptions—or, through effective instruction, they can dissolve those preconceptions so that all students thrive.”

She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Liverpool University, and her MA and PhD from King’s College London. Prior to joining the faculty at Stanford in 1998, she was the Marie Curie Professor of Mathematics Education in England, a lecturer and researcher at King’s College and a high school math teacher in London.

The professorship was established by Angela Nomellini, AB ’75, and Kenneth Olivier, AB ’74, to integrate innovative teaching practices into everyday classrooms. Previous chair holders include Pam Grossman and Claude Goldenberg.  

Hilda Borko, whose work focuses on the theory and practice of professional development for teachers, was named the Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education. Borko teaches in the CTE program at the GSE and is a researcher with the school’s Center to Support Excellence in Teaching (CSET). 

An educational psychologist, Borko explores teacher cognition and the process of learning to teach, with an emphasis on changes in teachers’ knowledge and beliefs about teaching, learning, subject matter, and their classroom practices. She directs the Problem-Solving Cycle (PSC) Project at CSET, which works with middle-school math leaders at the San Francisco Unified School District, using video analysis to capture the complexity of classroom life and help teachers reflect on their experiences.

In nominating Borko for the honor, Schwartz noted Ducommun’s commitment to supporting a faculty member whose work aims to improve teaching in the United States and attract young people to the profession. Borko is well suited to the professorship, he wrote, citing her “tremendousstature in the field of teacher education as both a scholar and a leader.” 

Borko received her BA, MA and PhD from the University of California at Los Angeles. Prior to coming to Stanford in 2007, she served on the faculty of schools of education at the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of Maryland at College Park and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

The professorship was established in 1989 by Ducommun, a Stanford alumnus and former trustee, and is to be held by a faculty member whose specialty is teaching and teacher education. Previous chair holders include Lee Shulman, Linda Darling-Hammond and Arnetha Ball.

Woody Powell, whose work focuses on organizational behavior and the role of networks in facilitating or hindering innovation, was named the Jacks Family Professor of Education. Powell teaches in the Social Sciences, Humanities and Interdisciplinary Policy Studies (SHIPS) program at the GSE. He is a professor by courtesy at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, School of Humanities and Sciences, and School of Engineering, as well as faculty co-director (with Rob Reich) of the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society.  

Powell has written or co-authored a number of books and more than 100 articles. He is co-editor, with Stanford GSE Assistant Professor Patricia Bromley, of the third edition of The Nonprofit Sector, a research handbook on the state of the field, scheduled for publication in April 2020. 

A “highly effective teacher and mentor” whose articles are among the most cited ever in the social sciences, he is long overdue for a named chair, Schwartz wrote in nominating Powell for the honor. “He has produced countless PhDs who have gone on to have illustrious careers of their own.”

Powell received a BA from Florida State University and his MA and PhD from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook. Prior to joining the Stanford faculty in 1999, Powell taught at SUNY Stony Brook, MIT, Yale, and the University of Arizona.

The professorship was established in 2007 and was previously held by Ed Haertel and Prudence Carter.

(L-R) Jo Boaler (photo by Robert Houser), Hilda Borko, Woody Powell (photo by Nancy Rothstein)

Faculty mentioned in this article: Jo Boaler, Hilda Borko, Woody Powell

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