WOMEN SHAPING HISTORY 2011
President Susan Fuhrman, Teachers College, Columbia University
What inspired you to pursue your current career? As a researcher I realized that I had a knack for organizing and running research projects and eventually a large-scale research center. That led to my interest in academic administration, which is basically giving others — faculty, students, staff — the opportunities, incentives and rewards to do their best work and make their best contributions.
Challenges & Resolutions: I’ve had some tough decisions — for example, closing an academic program. Generally I take a lot of advice but make a decision on principle — one that I can feel good about regardless of others’ feelings. I try to be fair and consistent while aiming for the highest standards for our college.
Accomplishments You’re Proudest Of: The Consortium for Policy Research in Education, which I co-founded and then directed for 25 years, has been the most influential source of policy research in K-12 education. Standards-based reform emerged from our work. The Penn Graduate School of Education was transformed from a quiet, well-kept secret into a leading source of innovation and improvement. None of these could have happened without the leadership of numerous colleagues — I feel like I just gave them a chance to do their best — which is what I’m trying to do now at my own alma mater, Teachers College. I am also enormously proud to be President of the National Academy of Education.
Most Influential Mentors: My mother, who was a famous fashion executive, and my dissertation adviser, Donna Shalala. Need I say more about being guided by influential women?
Turning Points: When I was an undergrad I thought about going into law, I met my future husband who would be going to medical school and realized I had to work upon graduation — putting law school off. So I became a teacher and I fell in love with education.
Future Goals: To enable TC to live up to its amazing legacy in a way that positions it for a new century. #