History and Education
Teachers College, Columbia University
Teachers College
Columbia University

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Alumni Profiles

Zev Eleff
Zev Eleff completed his Master of Arts in the History and Education program. Currently a doctoral candidate at Brandeis University in the field of American Jewish history, Eleff’s work at Teachers College served as a major step toward further his scholarly work. He chose the History and Education program for his M.A. because of the great course offerings that allowed him to study his interests in higher education and American history. In addition to his historical interests, Zev appreciated the uniqueness of TC, where he was able to also devote time to courses on pedagogy in an effort to improve himself as an educator. Zev explains that his experience in the program was a “wonderful opportunity” and appreciated how the program was “sensitive to different forms of education in American history.”

Eleff worked with Professor Cally Waite, who helped him transform a course final paper into an article published in Modern Judaism in 2011. He also produced another scholarly article during that time, this one appearing in Tradition. The faculty’s trust in him to “produce high quality term papers raised my level of scholarship in Jewish scholarship and the history of education” to be of publishable quality. In addition, during his time at TC, Eleff was able to enroll as a rabbinical student at Yeshiva University, noting how the “scholarly and pedagogical sensitivity that was inculcated at TC improved me as a rabbinical intern and teacher.” He completed both programs in 2011. 

Upon reflecting on his current work as a doctoral candidate at Brandeis, Eleff explains how “TC catapulted me in the study of American history”—his primary research topic at Brandeis. Not only did he benefit from academic courses at Columbia-affiliate  Jewish Theological Seminary, his work in the History and Education program prepared him “to understand and compare different groups of people as they migrated to the United States,” attempting to “mobilize themselves through the means of education.” As Eleff continues his scholarship as a doctoral student, he credits Teachers College and the History and Education program for leading him to think deeply about education on a variety of levels. 

George Levesque, Ph.D.

George Levesque, currently Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs and a lecturer in the History Department at Yale University, was drawn to the History and Education program at Teachers College because the program allowed him to combine his professional interests in university teaching and administration. Unlike most graduate programs in history, which usually focus primarily on preparing students for traditional faculty positions, Levesque observed that the program at Teachers College attracted students from a wide range of backgrounds and career paths. He was also attracted by the unique relationship between Teachers College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Columbia, which provided an opportunity for him to unite the research training of a graduate program in the arts and sciences with the applicability of a professional school.

In reflecting back on his specific experiences in the program, Levesque appreciated the ability to take courses in the history and philosophy of education at TC, as well as courses “across the street” in the history and religion departments at Columbia and Barnard. In addition to several survey courses and many seminars on a range of topics, Levesque also valued the doctoral seminars on historical method, which gave students an opportunity to refine their research questions and discuss drafts of dissertation chapters.

Levesque wrote his dissertation on Noah Porter, longtime Professor of Moral Philosophy at Yale, General Editor of Webster’s Dictionary, and president of Yale from 1871 to 1886.  He says he used the study of Porter to investigate and illustrate the transformation of higher education in the nineteenth century from the antebellum college to the research university. In his current work as an academic administrator, Levesque comments that he often sees how the work he did for his dissertation connects directly to contemporary issues: “Many of the questions that come up all the time in my work—tensions between teaching and research, the comparative needs of undergraduate and graduate students, the evolving role of faculty, the changing expectations and backgrounds of students, the competition for scarce resources, the appropriate use of new technology—are strikingly similar to the ones that Noah Porter faced in the 1870s.” Levesque adds, “My studies at TC also prepared me to teach undergraduate courses on the history of education, which is very rewarding.”

Levesque summarizes, “The History and Education program at TC, and the larger network of resources at Columbia, provided an ideal setting for me to develop as a researcher and to prepare for a career in teaching and academic administration. I am grateful for what I learned and for the faculty who taught and guided me along the way."