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Larry Hedges, the Yidan Prize and a growing collaboration with Hong Kong

Northwestern celebrates the world-renowned scholar who changed education research

Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro and a delegation of Northwestern’s leadership traveled to Hong Kong last week to celebrate Professor Larry Hedges, recipient of the 2018 Yidan Prize for Education Research, and set the stage for a new era of expanded collaboration with “Asia’s world city.”

Hedges, chair of the department of statistics in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and professor in the School of Education and Social Policy (SESP), is a world-renowned scholar whose early, dogged exploration of metadata as a way to synthesize the results of many studies permanently changed the field of education research. Hedges also is a first-generation college student who has dedicated much of his life to making education more inclusive and accessible.

His innovation in meta-analysis and commitment to evidence-based education policy as a tool for social good made Hedges stand out among more than 1,000 nominees from 90 countries all seeking the honor and reward of being named the 2018 Yidan Education Research Laureate. 

Related: Finding coherence in the chaos, an interview with Larry Hedges

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor presented the award to Hedges and fellow laureate Anant Agarwal, the founder of edX, on Sunday, Dec. 9, before an assembled audience of more than 300, including some of Hedges most devoted supporters at Northwestern. 

“It was a thrill to be there to watch Larry receive such an unsurpassed honor,” said President Schapiro, who was joined by several Northwestern scholars and senior staff. “The ceremony was a wonderful tribute to a scholar who has had a phenomenal impact on society.”

A Hong Kong-based initiative that recognizes research and development in education to help improve education around the world, the Yidan Prize Foundation honors two laureates each year — one for research and one for development. The prize comes with approximately $3.9 million, the largest monetary award for education research in the world.

hedges640Renowned scholar Larry Hedges has dedicated much of his life to making education more inclusive.

Hedges has pledged to use the cash prize and funding to keep science at the forefront of global policy decisions.

“I’m going to use whatever I gain from this prize to try and increase the profile of evidence in education for the purposes of improving education,” said Hedges, Board of Trustees Professor of Statistics and faculty fellow at the Institute for Policy Research (IPR). 

“Evidence and even science are under attack these days, not just in the U.S., but worldwide,” he continued. “It’s important that we avoid any mistakes that can be used to discredit education and evidence in education science.” 

Following the ceremony, a “who’s who” of education leaders from across the globe gathered to explore the future of education at the Yidan Prize Summit on Dec. 10.

Hedges was part of an impressive lineup of speakers. Among them were former Mozambican education minister, Graça Machel, who delivered a keynote address advocating for girls’ education and describing the devastating effect of food insecurity on learning during her keynote address, and former prime minister of the United Kingdom and United Nations Special Envoy Gordon Brown, who spoke about global action to ensure education for all.

With new partnerships on the horizon, the connection between Northwestern and Hong Kong has never been stronger.

“We have very robust institutional partnerships in Hong Kong and continue to expand our academic ties through research collaborations and student opportunities,” said Vice President of International Relations Devora Grynspan, who also attended the Yidan ceremony. “In fact, right now, we have a record high number of undergraduate students studying abroad on exchange in Hong Kong.”

Also central to Northwestern’s global future is the thriving community of Hong Kong-based alumni that now numbers 1,000 strong.

“A number of us had the opportunity to meet with an active and dedicated network of alumni and friends in Hong Kong, which is a key part of our efforts to connect Northwestern to the world,” said President Schapiro, who was joined at the Dec. 8 celebration by Vice President for Alumni Relations and Development Bob McQuinn, among others.

IPR Director Diane Schanzenbach, Hedges and SESP Dean David Figlio — also an IPR fellow — participated in a panel discussion with alumnus Robert Chiu, president of Shanda Group Ltd., a global investment firm and a 1998 graduate of the Kellogg School of Management.

Alumna Cynthia Meng, who was among the first to graduate from the top-ranked Kellogg School of Management executive joint degree MBA program at Hong Kong University of Science Technology in 1998, welcomed fellow alumni to the luncheon. Meng is an active volunteer for Northwestern, serving as a member of the international committee supporting We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern. 

“I’ve been actively helping out and staying connected with the Northwestern and Kellogg alumni community because since graduating from NU’s Kellogg School of Management 20 years ago, every step of the way in my career, from living and working in the US, HK, Beijing and now back to HK, I personally experienced the positive changes this connection has brought to me socially, professionally and intellectually,” said Meng, who is Asia managing partner for Brunswick, a global advisory firm. “I’ve benefited so much from being part of this global community, and would do everything I can to give back and help make it even better for other members in our community.”