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 CSHE Director C. Judson King (left) and senior research fellow John Douglass flank Jackie Bass, a poli-sci grad student who is serving as a research assistant for the upcoming "CSHE@50" conference.(Deborah Stalford photo)

Center for Studies in Higher Education marks its half-century milestone
Established 50 years ago to look at higher-ed policy issues, it thrives today as an interdisciplinary center where 'the future is always arriving'

| 21 March 2007

An unassuming one-story structure just a stone's throw from the Campanile has cast a big shadow as the home of Berkeley's Center for Studies in Higher Education (CSHE).

Founded in 1956-57 as the first academic research institution devoted to the study of higher-education policy issues in the United States, CSHE is celebrating its 50th anniversary this month (March 27 and 28) with a symposium that glances back to a distinguished past and gazes ahead toward the future of higher education in an increasingly globalized world.

The 50th-anniversary symposium, "CSHE@50: A Reflection and Prospectus on Globalization and Higher Education," takes place on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 27-28.

Most public events will be in the Lipman Room at the top of Barrows Hall. A full program, including invited speakers and their affiliations, can be found online.

The talks and panel discussions are free, but participants must register online here.

No seats remain for the anniversary dinner, but some seats may be available for the March 28 lunch.

Scholars and policymakers from as far afield as Sweden, Australia, and the University of Kwazulu-Natal (and from such institutional homes as the Ford Foundation, Sun Microsystems, and Boston College) will gather on the Berkeley campus for a series of talks, panel discussions, dinners, and reminiscences.

The "CSHE@50" conference is sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation (which also funded the establishment of CSHE 50 years ago) and organized in association with the Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy and the Institute for International Studies.

Globalization is a primary theme for the conference. "All of the gurus who have written about globalization have not addressed what is going to happen to the university in the future," says current CSHE director C. Judson King. "We're going to bring the people who think about globalization together with the people who think about higher education."

In its early days, CSHE engaged in numerous studies of educational issues, such as who attended community colleges, how they fared after graduation, and how well they made the transfer to four-year institutions. The center was large enough then to occupy full floors in various downtown Berkeley office buildings; in those pre-desktop-computer days, it boasted a data-processing staff and a full-time librarian.

Funding flowed in large grants from the federal government, particularly after 1965, when CSHE was designated as one of nine "R and D centers" nationally by the Department of Education.

"During the 1960s there was quite an uproar in higher education," notes longtime CSHE staffer Janet Ruyle, with struggles over the roles of faculty, students, and administration, and the future of the curriculum. "Several of our studies were concerned with the 'crisis in higher education.'"

In the mid-1970s, when the late Professor Martin Trow became director, the center shifted toward interdisciplinary exchange and "bringing people together to talk about issues," adds Ruyle. She fondly recalls "Thursday lunches that were opportunities for people on the campus to come together with no agenda, to meet others and to learn."

"We have always been in the position of trying to relate to other disciplines on campus," adds King.

During the 1980s and 1990s it was not uncommon to attend an event at CSHE and see graduate students and current faculty chatting with luminaries such as former UC Presidents Clark Kerr and David Gardner, and sundry retired chancellors.

Under Trow, CSHE made an important move to the very heart of the campus, the flat-roofed 1914 annex to South Hall at the top of Campanile Way that had originally served as a physics-department storeroom, then was occupied by the Bureau of Occupations, an early version of the Career Center.

The Annex location - reshaped to include a central conference room and offices for visiting scholars - put CSHE and its activities literally within steps of key faculty and administrators.

Ruyle - a Cal alum who was initially "hired for six weeks as a statistical clerk" - spent most of her career there, retiring in 1993.

CSHE "had lots of effects, lots of outcomes," Ruyle says. "What happens with research centers is like dropping a stone in the water, and the ripples keep on going, and sometimes hit an edge and come back to you."

A distinguished list of individuals - all men, to date -headed the Center, starting with former University of Buffalo Chancellor T.R. McConnell, who was "terribly dignified and very interesting, and rather gruff," Ruyle recalls.

He was followed by several notable Berkeley professors, including sociologist Neil Smelser, historian Sheldon Rothblatt, and psychologist Arnold Leiman.

After 1999 a succession of retired university administrators took charge, including former Chancellor (and Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution) I. Michael Heyman, former UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Karl Pister, and, currently, former UC Vice President and Provost Jud King.

"All of them were members of our seminars long before they were selected to be the directors," Ruyle notes.

CSHE has also provided a niche home on campus for a number of scholars, including higher-education and college-admissions policy expert John Douglass, educational-technology researcher Diane Harley, diversity and careers specialist Anne MacLachlan, and historian Carroll Brentano.

Academics from throughout the world have come to CSHE to learn about American higher education - in particular, California's special public brand - and to share their own experiences.

In earlier years, Ruyle says, the center had close ties to England, Sweden, Australia, and Japan, and a large percentage of visiting scholars came from those countries. Visitors have also hailed from African nations, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Chile, Brazil, and Mexico.

Today, CSHE programs and researchers concentrate on five interlocking themes. Three are manifestly global: "Higher Education in the Digital Age," "Science and Technology Policy and Higher Education," and the nature of the research university.

The other two are closer to home - "Policy Issues in California Higher Education" and the history of the University of California itself - but have broader significance because of the unique heft and history of California, and Californians, in public higher education.

(CSHE has become a de facto home for serious scholarship about the University of California, organizing a massive database of digitized UC-history materials, historical symposia, and a stream of publications under the guidance of Brentano, Douglass, and former CSHE Director Rothblatt.)

The output of the center is expressed in steady, and standard, academic form: symposia, conferences, lecture series, talks about new books, and updates on research in progress.

When asked about the sorts of issues that interest CSHE, King reels off several questions as an example: To what extent will students of the future take part in their education online? Is online education a way "for the State to absorb enrollment increases?" Should there be one, unified UC Extension that "draws on all the campuses for content?" Will individual universities of the future have an "international clientele?" And, conversely, "Will the availability of the Internet for teaching create a situation where much instruction will be 'imported'"?

The future is always arriving at CSHE, in the form of visitors and researchers. King came to an interview about the history of the center fresh from a meeting with several representatives of a Chinese university who were visiting the Berkeley campus.

"The rest of the world has been looking at us for several decades," he says.