George D. Kuh has won so many higher-education awards that he can’t convincingly feign the modesty expected of prize winners. In Philadelphia last month, he got a big laugh when he said, upon being handed his latest honor: “I’m just going to accept as fact that I’m deserving of this award.”
The honor was the 2013 Robert Zemsky Medal for Innovation in Higher Education, named for a leading figure in higher-education management and policy who was the award’s inaugural recipient last year. Each year’s winner is chosen by alumni of the University of Pennsylvania’s executive-doctorate program in higher-education management.
One good indicator of Mr. Kuh’s influence and esteem is that even colleagues with reservations about some of his best-known work describe him as a “towering figure” who “really launched the field of assessment of institutional quality.”
Mr. Kuh, a longtime researcher at Indiana University at Bloomington who is now an emeritus professor of higher education, has persistently focused on how students learn and grow, and how colleges and universities can best help them to do that.
Colleagues say the awards he has received acknowledge such feats as encouraging institutions to focus less on rankings—those issued by U.S. News & World Report, for example—and more on assessing how conducive their programs and campuses are to learning. “We’ve needed more evidence that what goes on inside colleges and universities actually makes a difference,” Mr. Kuh says by phone. “That’s what really matters to the quality of undergraduate education.” <Read more.>