Katherine Newman was a panelist for the Forum’s discussions on Life Experiences and Income Inequality in the U.S.
Katherine S. Newman is the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, Student Affairs and International Relations for the University of Massachusetts system office in Boston. She previously served as the Provost of the Amherst campus from 2014-17. Dr. Newman is a native Californian. She completed her undergraduate degree in Philosophy and Sociology at the University of California, San Diego in 1975, where she was elected the salutatorian of her graduating class. In her years as an undergraduate, she became interested in American Sign Language and joined a special research lab investigating the linguistic and psychological properties of this visual language at the Salk Institute in La Jolla. It was this interest in language and culture that led her to the Language-Behavior Research Laboratory in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley. She completed her Ph.D. in 1979 and began her teaching career in then newly-formed PhD program in Jurisprudence and Social Policy in UC Berkeley’s Law School, Boalt Hall. Joining a faculty in one of California’s leading law schools provided an opportunity to learn about the culture of professional training and the importance of research in the public interest. It was during this time that she launched one of her main lines of research on the impact of economic downturns, the subject of her second book, Falling From Grace: The Impact of Downward Mobility on the American Middle Class. In 1981, Dr. Newman moved east to join the Department of Anthropology at Columbia University where she was tenured in 1989. She spent 16 years at Columbia and published a number of books focusing on poverty including No Shame in My Game: The Working Poor in the Inner City, which received the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award and the Sidney Hillman Prize. Her research was supported by the National Science Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, Rockefeller and the WT Grant Foundations. Columbia also provided an opportunity to engage in faculty governance. Dr. Newman was one of the founders of the newly formed Faculty of the Arts and Sciences and served as its Chair. After a year’s fellowship at the Russell Sage Foundation, she moved to Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in 1996 to join a remarkable group of scholars interested in problems of poverty. Together with colleagues in the Departments of Politics, Economics, and Sociology, Newman founded the Multi-Disciplinary Program on Inequality and Social Policy, which was supported for a decade by a the National Science Foundation and hosted a national research network on inequality. In 2000, Dr. Newman became the founding Dean of Social Science of the newly formed Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. During this same period, she launched a project with her doctoral students on rampages shootings, a problem that exploded into national awareness with the tragedy at Columbine. Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings was the volume that resulted from this two year study, begun at the request of Congress. Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School and Department of Sociology was her home from 2004-2010. During this time period, Dr. Newman created a second social policy program, this time including social psychology and decision science as well as political science, economics and sociology. She brought the domestic network on inequality to Princeton and enlarged it to include scholars in Ireland, England, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, India, China, Japan and South Korea. Given her increasing interests in international problems, Dr. Newman became the Director of Princeton’s Institute for International and Regional Studies and expanded its “Global Seminar” program for undergraduates. In 2010, Dr. Newman became the James Knapp Dean of the Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins University, responsible for 22 academic departments and 10 interdisciplinary programs at the doctoral and bachelor’s degree level. She also supervised the Advanced Academic Programs division, 18 master’s degrees with an active online presence all over the world. She increased dramatically the contribution of the Arts and Sciences to undergraduate financial aid, boosted the graduate student stipend to competitive levels, created a new sabbatical system that incentivized additional concentration on undergraduate education while doubling paid leave for the faculty, and created the “Academy at Hopkins,” an institute for advanced study for the retired faculty. Throughout her career, whether as a full time faculty member or an academic leader, she has remained an active scholar, completing fourteen books and five edited volumes dwelling both on issues of poverty and policy (for example, her 2011 book Taxing the Poor: Doing Damage to the Truly Disadvantaged) and international topics (including her 2014 book After Freedom: The Rise of the Post-Apartheid Generation in Democratic South Africa). Her most recent book, Reskilling America, focuses on the importance of technical education and apprenticeship as a pathway to good jobs and was published in 2016. Her next volume, on inequality in retirement, focuses on the dismantling of the American pension system and will be published in January of 2019. Dr. Newman is married to Paul Attewell, Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. They have two grown children, Steven Attewell, a historian at the Murphy Institute for Labor Studies at the City University of New York, and David Attewell, a doctoral student in comparative politics at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.