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Paul Gowder and Bryna Kra awarded Ver Steeg Fellowship

Award recognizes tenured faculty who have made major research contributions
ver steeg fellowship

Northwestern University professors Paul Gowder and Bryna Kra have received the 17th annual Dorothy Ann and Clarence L. Ver Steeg Distinguished Research Fellowship Award.

The Ver Steeg Fellowship supports scholarship and research by tenured Northwestern faculty whose work enhances the national and international reputation of the University. The honor includes a $40,000 award for each recipient. 

Gowder, of Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, is one of the nation’s leading legal scholars in numerous areas, including critical race theory. Kra, of the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, is a leading expert in ergodic theory and dynamical systems, working at the intersection of dynamics, combinatorics and number theory.

“Through groundbreaking efforts in their respective fields, Professor Gowder and Professor Kra strengthen Northwestern’s international status as a hub for research that has lasting and meaningful impacts in society,” said Provost Kathleen Hagerty, whose office bestows the Ver Steeg Fellowship annually. “I am proud to honor these professors for their contributions to the scholarship and to Northwestern.” 

Paul Gowder

Gowder is professor of law at Northwestern Pritzker Law.

In his career, Gowder has made tremendous contributions to the rule of law, social and racial equality, democratic theory, institutional and organizational governance, law and technology, and classical Athenian law and political thought. His pioneering work inspires scholars to rethink how the rule of law operates in contemporary society, especially in the context of the current debates surrounding critical race theory.

Paul Gowder
Paul Gowder

“I’m incredibly honored to have been chosen for the Ver Steeg Fellowship,” Gowder said. “The fellowship will help me pursue major writing projects in developing a new critical race account of constitutional law.”

A graduate of Harvard Law School with a Ph.D. from Stanford University, Gowder publishes widely in leading law reviews and peer-reviewed journals. An elected member of the prestigious American Law Institute, Gowder served as a consultant to Facebook, advising the company’s “civic integrity” team on the normative boundaries around protecting elections and other democratic institutions. He is a former civil rights and legal aid lawyer. 

Gowder’s groundbreaking first book, “The Rule of Law in the Real World” (CUP 2016), winner of the Montreal Political Theory Manuscript Award, provides a comprehensive theory of the political and legal ideal known as “the rule of law,” which draws on both normative theory from political philosophy and strategic analysis from political science. His second book, “The Rule of Law in the United States: An Unfinished Project of Black Liberation” (Hart 2021) explores the distinctive role of Black liberation movements in developing the American rule of law. Gowder’s forthcoming book, “The Networked Leviathan,” under contract with Cambridge University Press, will apply institutional political science and constitutional theory to the problem of platform governance.

Bryna Kra

Kra is the Sarah Rebecca Roland Professor of Mathematics at Weinberg College.

Her work in ergodic theory on multiple ergodic averages settled a decades-old problem and uncovered the key role played by certain algebraic objects in understanding configurations in large sets of integers. This opened the way for novel developments, including structure theorems in ergodic theory and in topological dynamics, convergence results for numerous other averages and recurrence phenomena in other settings. Kra’s work in symbolic dynamics has focused on systems with low complexity, uncovering algebraic and geometric structures in such systems and developing connections to combinatorial problems.

Bryna Kra
Bryna Kra

“I am honored to join my outstanding colleagues with this recognition,” Kra said. “I look forward to the visits and collaborations these funds will support and to continuing research at the intersection of dynamics and combinatorics.”

Through her research, teaching and service, Kra has been a leader in her field and a forceful advocate for diversity in STEM. She founded the Women in Mathematics group at Northwestern and the award-winning Graduate Research Opportunities for Women (GROW), an annual conference designed to encourage women to pursue graduate studies in the mathematical sciences.

Kra was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2019 and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2016. She has been a fellow of the American Mathematical Society (AMS) since 2012 and was recently elected president of the society with her term beginning next year. Kra has maintained a prolific publication record, has co-organized more than 30 conferences and is the recipient of multiple awards, including the Levi L. Conant Prize and the AMS Centennial Fellowship. At Northwestern, Kra has served as the chair of the mathematics department and is one of the recipients of the 2022 Provost Award for Exemplary Faculty Service.

She serves on numerous editorial committees, including the Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society, Ergodic Theory and Dynamical Systems, the Core Series in Mathematics at the Cambridge University Press and the Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society.

The Ver Steeg Fellowship was established and endowed by the late Clarence L. Ver Steeg and his wife, Dorothy. Clarence Ver Steeg was a Northwestern faculty member for many years in the department of history and served as dean of The Graduate School from 1975 to 1986. The complete list of award recipients can be found on the Office of the Provost website.