Great American Research Universities
and How They Got That Way
Special from The Record
Jonathan R. Cole came to Columbia 50 years ago this fall, he says, “as a little freshman wearing a beanie, and I’ve never been able to cut the umbilical cord.” Indeed, he went from student to Ph.D. to sociology professor to vice president of Arts and Sciences and ultimately University provost and dean of faculties, a post he held for 14 years, from 1989 to 2003.
Now as the John Mitchell Mason Professor of the University, he has taken his research specialty—the sociology of science—and his intimate knowledge of how higher education operates and has produced a new book on the future of the American research university.
In The Great American University: Its Rise to Preeminence, Its Indispensable National Role, and Why It Must Be Protected (Public Affairs Books) Cole discusses how these institutions became the nation’s leading source of economic growth and social welfare, and why universities face a host of challenges that include budget cuts, political interference and even changing cultural mores that could lead to their loss of true distinction. In short, Cole wanted to describe how “the discoveries, inventions, medical miracles and better mousetraps have changed our lives without us adequately realizing where these discoveries came from and how they were made.”
—by Record Staff
Four Columbia faculty were awarded Sloan Research Fellowships by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. They are Mark Churchland, assistant professor of neuroscience; Wei Min, assistant professor of chemistry; Simha Sethumadhavan, associate professor of computer science; and Wei Zhang, assistant professor of mathematics.
Alondra Nelson, associate professor of sociology, won the 2012 book award from the Association for Humanist Sociology for Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination.