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Tom James is TC's New Provost


Tom James

Tom James

After a months-long national search for a new academic dean, Teachers College has named Thomas James, currently Dean of the School of Education at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as its new Provost, with the accompanying titles of Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs.

During James' four years at UNC Chapel Hill, the School of Education increased its research funding, generated more faculty research that was field-based in community and school settings, placed more of its teacher education programs in public schools, forged new ties with policymakers at the state and federal levels, and developed strong collaborations with other areas of the University. Previously James was Vice Dean and Professor of Educational History at New York University's Steinhardt School of Education, and prior to that, a tenured professor at Brown University.

James, who will teach in TC's Department of Arts and Humanities, is the author of Exile Within: the Schooling of Japanese Americans 1942--45, viewed as a seminal text on the internment of Japanese-American children during World War II. He also has written on law and the history of education, and on educational governance and control.

"Among a group of truly superb candidates, Tom James has the best of all backgrounds, particularly in terms of his prior experience in New York City and as a dean at one of the nation's rising schools of education," said TC President Susan Fuhrman. "He brings a combination of strength and gentleness to this position that will be of great benefit to Teachers College, and we're confident that he will set the very highest academic standards."
James also drew praise from Robert Shelton, former Provost at UNC Chapel Hill and now President of the University of Arizona, who hired James as Dean at Chapel Hill.

"This is a wonderful appointment for Teachers College," Shelton said. "Tom has an astonishing grasp of the challenges in education, from the detailed level, how you better prepare teachers, how you convey curriculum-'"all the way up to the role played by the state and federal government. He literally revitalized and reenergized our school of education, connecting an already superlative faculty with heads of state and demonstrating our relevance to their needs. Because of his scholarship, he had, from the beginning, the great respect of our faculty, not only in education, but across the university."

And Bernadette Gray-Little, current Provost at UNC Chapel Hill, called James "a dynamic leader who reinvigorated the School and who gave the faculty a new vision for how they may serve the state and the national education community."

TC's President Fuhrman said that the College had re-titled James' new position as "Provost" to signal "the priority and importance we're giving to our academic side of the house." She praised the search process that resulted in James' hiring, including the series of town meetings at which James and two other finalists presented themselves to TC faculty, students and staff.

"We saw candid, forthright presentations by three excellent candidates, who also fielded, at times courageously, questions about everything from their academic backgrounds to how they would promote ethnic and racial diversity in faculty searches."

James, who will start his new job on July 1, said he is "deeply delighted" by his appointment.
"I'm looking forward to working with the faculty and the entire community of Teachers College," he said. "TC is a great institution and even greater things lie ahead. I am also greatly honored to be able to work with Susan Fuhrman in her role as President of the College. I believe she is the ideal person to lead TC into the future."
In his appearance at the TC town meetings, James said he envisioned TC becoming even more active in fostering educational improvement.

"I think of when Teachers College started, back in the great migration at the end of the 19th century, with the tenement houses and the economic upheavals, and how much work there was to do. I feel that we're again at a beginning.

"I believe New York City reflects the opportunities and also the problems of our civilization in their most concentrated and intense form. If we can engage that human prospect through education in New York, our work truly can be of national and worldwide significance. There is nothing more important than that challenge, and Teachers College is right in the middle of it."

As a child, James attended the famous Laboratory School at the University of Chicago, founded by the iconic TC philosopher and educator John Dewey. A memoir he has written about that experience will appear later this month in A Life in Classrooms: Philip W. Jackson and the Practice of Education, published by Teachers College Press. In it, James recalls:

"We had a garden nearby on campus. I carried my hoe and worked the soil with my classmates. We cooked and sawed, painted and braided, worked in small groups as well as one-on-one with our teacher and other adults, then circled all together for recitation. With the help of our German teacher, it seemed hilarious to us that Herr Heine had no hair, we composed letters describing our activities to invisible pals across the ocean. We took field trips to the lumberyard and the Museum of Science and Industry. We congregated on the squared stone blocks along Lake Michigan's shore to ask a fisherman how to catch smelt."
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