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Jeffrey Sun, Ph.D., J.D.

Professor and Chair, University of Louisville

Focus Area: Accountability

Louisville, Kentucky
Office Representing: Faculty

Jeffrey Sun is a professor of higher education, department chair, and project director and principal investigator for projects sponsored by the Department of Education's Perkins Grant—in cooperation with the Kentucky Department of Education—on Career and Technical Education, and the Department of the Army to advance its cadre development program. In total, Sun has received more than $8 million in external funding. Sun teaches and conducts research primarily in the areas of higher education law and policy with a secondary focus on professional and career education. He has taught previously at the University of North Dakota, Teachers College, Columbia University, and New York University. While at Teachers College, he served as the director of academic administration. Sun received a bachelor's and master's degree from Loyola Marymount University, a Juris Doctor from the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University, and a master's degree and doctorate from Columbia University.  

How did you first get interested in or involved in higher education issues?

"While in law school, I started to examine the special legal protections for education as an institution. Among my areas of inquiry, I explored how colleges and universities, which as a collective represented a rather unique social institution, were awarded some level of deferential treatment by the courts," Sun said. "For instance, courts tend to stay out of academic decisions made by college faculty. At the same, I noticed the evolving state of education, especially higher education, as some court cases and legislation demonstrated the great influences of market forces. For me, that signaled an initial concern about our social system and the functions of higher education. In light of these potential clashes and my desire to empirically test concepts and find more useful ways of supporting higher education, I entered a doctoral program at the Teachers College, Columbia University digging deeper and examining how policy instruments or other legal actions, (such as government mandates, judicial decisions, and legally binding, negotiated agreements,) advance or inhibit the academic operations through college teaching, learning, and knowledge creation. Drawing heavily on concepts of civil rights and civil liberties, I have tried to investigate these matters to see how market pressures or innovation have played some role. Eventually, this type of inquiry led me to my career as a professor."

Why did you apply to be a part of the Forward50? What drew you to this opportunity?

"I was drawn to this opportunity based on the charge of 'finding innovative, forward-thinking policy solutions related to access, affordability, transparency, and accountability.' During my 19 years working in higher education, I have, on many occasions, employed different approaches to resolving long-term problems, explored new opportunities to advance an organizational unit, and adopted innovative solutions to present alternatives to existing policies and practices. This charge sparked my interest," Sun said. "Specifically, this setting would afford me a chance to investigate similar forms of inquiry in a team setting of action-oriented leaders, who could provide useful policy recommendations at a much larger scale. I find this opportunity challenging and intriguing. Further, I was drawn to this group based on its learning agile design. I wish to learn new lessons and insights from others, which in turn will enhance my role as a professor and department chair. The Forward50 group will have an opportunity to interact with individuals from across institution types and functional areas. This group design feature will likely lead to meaningful interactions and debates that will further my understanding of higher education and the system within which it operates. Simply put, I want to learn from the other 49 participants, who would be thought-leaders for this initiative."  

Leadership roles with professional associations:

  • Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE): Executive Committee Member for the Board of Directors
  • American Educational Research Association (AERA) Law & Education SIG: Past President/Chair, Past Secretary/Treasurer
  • Education Law Association (ELA): Past Member of Board of Directors

Membership(s) held with other professional associations:

  • Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN)
  • Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA)