Dr. Gumport’s academic publications include six books. Her most recent books include: Academic Fault Lines (2019), Sociology of Higher Education (2007), Academic Pathfinders (2002) and the fifth edition of the co-edited volume, American Higher Education in the Twenty-first Century: Social, Political, and Economic Challenges (2023). She has also published 60 peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and commissioned reports.

As a sociologist of higher education, Dr. Gumport has focused her research and teaching on key changes in the academic landscape and organizational character of American higher education. She has studied the dynamics of academic change in several arenas – illuminating what facilitates change and what impedes it – across and within different types of colleges and universities. Driven by an abiding interest in knowledge change, Dr. Gumport has analyzed how organizational, intellectual, political, economic, and professional interests redefine the content, structure, and relative legitimacy of academic fields. Specific studies include: the emergence and institutionalization of interdisciplinary fields; professional socialization across academic disciplines; organizational restructuring and selective investment; the ascendance of industry logic in public higher education; forces that promote and inhibit academic collaboration; decision-making about appropriate organizational forms to support new ideas; and leading organizational change for optimal effectiveness with internal and external stakeholders. Her research within the United States and Europe examines how universities that are ostensibly competitors determine when and how to collaborate. Her analyses provide insights for faculty and administrators who lead change, pursue strategic initiatives, manage environmental pressures and stakeholder interests, and seek leadership development resources.

Launched in 2023, Dr. Gumport is leading a project to provide much-needed insight into what is commonly referred to as “public impact research.” The study examines how university leaders and faculty shape their research priorities, including whether and how to focus on societal problems and involve collaborators beyond higher education. A comparative case study design anchors two levels of analysis—university and faculty—primarily through semi-structured interviews and document analysis. The project is receiving generous support from the Doris Duke Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Recent Books

Academic Fault Lines (2019) analyzes the ascendance of industry logic over the last quarter of the 20th century: the explicit expectations throughout public higher education to become more efficient and accountable, to demonstrate contributions to state economies, and to develop more and deeper ties with industry. These expectations contrast with longstanding imperatives to prioritize the societal functions of expanding access and diversity, maintaining comprehensive educational offerings, and fostering democratic civic responsibilities. Framed in sociological theory, the findings in the study are grounded in case studies of research universities, comprehensive state universities, and community colleges, illuminating their transformation during the last quarter of the 20th century. The book analyzes how organizational restructuring aligned with political, economic, and technological changes to yield some notable gains, yet also profoundly intensified tensions among divergent beliefs as to what a public college or university should be and do, as well as how it should be organized and managed for legitimacy. In this comprehensive historical study, rich qualitative data from campus archives and over 200 interviews generate conclusions that deepen our understanding of perennial challenges throughout higher education as well as those faced by contemporary decision-makers in a wide range of institutional settings. The study seeks to inform and inspire reflection among administrators and faculty as well as public system and state policymakers. The book, including its supplementary online materials, will also be of interest to scholars of higher education for its theoretical framing, empirical grounding, and profound implications.

Sociology of Higher Education (2007) stands as the first book to trace the development of this vibrant field of study, identifying the professional, institutional, and societal factors that have contributed to the evolution of this field along major lines of inquiry. The essays concurrently honor and amplify the early insights of Burton Clark while also identifying promising new lines of inquiry and specialization.

Academic Pathfinders (2002) examines the emergence of feminist scholarship to identify the conditions in which new knowledge is created, gains legitimacy, and becomes institutionalized. Grounded in intellectual biographies and career histories of faculty, this work brings to light how individuals took different approaches to integrating their personal experiences and political interests with their teaching and research. The analysis provides insight into how colleges and universities deliberate over appropriate organizational forms for new and cross-disciplinary ideas.

American Higher Education in the Twenty-first Century: Social, Political, and Economic Challenges (2023) offers a comprehensive introduction to the complex realities of American higher education, including its history, curriculum, faculty, financing, governance, and relationships with states and the federal government. The chapters cover a wide range of current issues under the broader theme of higher education’s relationship to society, ranging from access and opportunity, inequality and racism, the influence of organized social movements, to significant changes in technology, teaching and learning. In its fifth edition, the volume is highly regarded as an indispensable reference. As the authors grapple with growing concerns about the responsiveness and future of American colleges and universities, each chapter has been substantially revised to incorporate new research and currents in social, political, and economic contexts.