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For education leadership, Bensimon wins McGraw Prize

September 22, 2020

The prize recognizes scholars for higher education, pre-K-12 education and learning science achievement

By Kat Stein and Ross Brenneman

Estela Mara Bensimon, Dean’s Professor in Educational Equity at USC Rossier, has been awarded the 2020 McGraw Prize in Higher Education.

The Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize recognizes a select group of scholars each year for their achievements, innovation and impact across education disciplines.

Estela Mara Bensimon

Other winners this year include Michelene Chi (Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College) and Joseph Krajcik (Michigan State University). Each winner will be honored in a ceremony next month; each will also receive an award of $50,000 and a prize sculpture.

Started in 1988, the Harold W. McGraw Jr. Family Foundation announced earlier this year that the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education (Penn GSE) would be the new home for the Prize.

The partnership will include a yearlong programming series, in which the winners will share ideas that can expand their impact.

“This year’s Prize winners are outstanding leaders who have devoted their careers to closing gaps and accelerating educational opportunity to all students,” said Harold McGraw III, former chairman, CEO and president of The McGraw Hill Companies. “Dr. Bensimon’s groundbreaking work to advance equity in higher education, Dr. Krajcik’s innovations to improve science and math education, and Dr. Chi’s pioneering research to promote active and engaged student learning represent profound and lasting achievements.”

Bensimon is the founder and former director of the Center for Urban Education. Under her leadership, CUE developed the Equity Scorecard, a process and tool designed to drive equitable outcomes for students of color. Since CUE’s founding in 1999, the center has helped thousands of faculty, administrators and other higher education staff implement equity-minded procedures. Bensimon was elected into the National Academy of Education in 2017. Earlier this year, Bensimon announced her intention to retire; in July, CUE merged into the USC Race and Equity Center.

The Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education nominees are selected through a public nomination process, with winners chosen over three rounds of judging and ultimately by an independent panel of esteemed judges who are leaders in the field. Recent winners include Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code; Alberto Carvalho, Superintendent of Miami-Dade Public Schools; and Sal Kahn, the founder of Khan Academy.

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