To James Soto Antony, higher education is a “life-long passion.” A new member of the faculty in the Higher Education Program, his research and teaching focus on the preparation of forward-thinking leaders in college and university settings. The author of five books, and more than 50 other publications, his research focuses on issues of higher education leadership and management.
This summer, Antony answered some questions about why he chose higher education, what excites him about HGSE, and the impact he hopes to have on Appian Way and beyond.
Why have you chosen the field of higher education as research topic?
My interest in higher education began during my undergraduate years at UCLA. I like to say that I majored in “The College Experience.” I say this because, in addition to my academic work, I participated in just about every activity imaginable. In addition to various clubs, I was a student athlete, a member of the marching band, a photographer for the student newspaper, a resident assistant in the dormitories, a new student orientation counselor, a summer staff member in the financial aid office, and an admissions office tour guide.
Needless to say, this gave me a glimpse into the exciting and complex array of challenges faced by administrators and students in a college or university environment. I decided I wanted to learn more about higher education, and was fortunate to work with Professor Alexander Astin, arguably one of the most noted scholars who has ever studied higher education. Working with Dr. Astin opened up a whole new world for me. I knew, from that point on, that I would pursue advanced graduate study in the field and dedicate the rest of my career to making college and university environments work better for students, faculty, and staff.
Describe a case in which you are particularly proud of the impact your research/involvement had on a group or organization.
For the past 20 years, my research has focused on illuminating issues central to the preparation of forward-thinking leaders in college or university settings. Toward this end, I have written about higher education faculty, the socialization and development of future faculty, and the preparation of senior leaders in higher education. Like my research, the key belief that drives my teaching is that institutional structures profoundly impact faculty members and students, and successfully optimizing structures requires effective leadership. Therefore, my portfolio of courses aims to prepare forward-thinking leaders in higher education who understand institutional policies, practices, and structures and the ways in which leadership decisions influence an institution’s ability to change and improve.
For the past 25 years I have had the pleasure of working as a faculty member and senior administrator at Yale University and the University of Washington. Both universities are world-class, one private the other public. In my time at each institution I have been able to mentor students and develop new initiatives and programs. I am most proud of the times in which I was able to build interdisciplinary teams of faculty and students to accomplish major goals. Whether it be the development of a new research agenda, the creation of a new graduate program, or the tackling of a seemingly intractable administrative challenge, working with a team of diverse individuals toward a common solution or goal has always brought me my greatest joy.
What excites you about joining HGSE?
The HGSE community is a vibrant one, possessing some of the greatest thinkers in the broad fields of education assembled anywhere. The faculty are amazing. The students are simply among the most capable of any in the world. Together, these elements lend themselves to an environment in which the impossible can suddenly be made possible. There is simply no other place that can confidently claim the same potential. To be a part of that potential, that raw intellectual horsepower, and the infectious energy of possibility that accompanies it all — well, that is truly a dream come true for me.
I look forward to working with HGSE students, teaching courses across the spectrum of higher education. This includes developing courses that challenge students with real higher education leadership cases derived from sitting presidents, provosts, and deans; creating opportunities for students to interact with the most noted senior leaders in higher education; developing course structures that allow HGSE students to interact with higher education students at other universities around the nation, in order to compare ideas; and developing opportunities for our students to visit different colleges and universities, exposing them to places and viewpoints otherwise not accessible by simply sitting in the classroom.
In one tweet (140 characters or fewer), how would you describe yourself, outside of what’s on your CV?
Student-oriented teacher; challenging, fun, and practical classes. Dedicated father who likes to cook, loves music, and lives for the beach.