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An Accidental Triumph: The Improbable History of American Higher Education, with Dr. Sol Gittleman

In this episode, Diverse welcomes Dr. Sol Gittleman, the renowned Alice and Nathan Gantcher University Professor Emeritus at Tufts University. Gittleman joins podcast host Dr. Jamal Watson to share his unique perspective, gained over decades, into the dynamic nature of American higher education. He and Watson delve into how the trajectory of higher education has shaped academia as well as the cultural and political fabric of the nation.

Gittleman brings forward historical context explaining the critical role higher education has played in shaping American culture, diversity, and individual freedom. As with his latest book, "An Accidental Triumph: The Improbable History of American Higher Education,” he highlights the evolution of the American higher education system, the diverse nature of colleges and universities in the U.S., and the profound impact of key events such as World War II on the development of education. Gittleman's insights challenge conventional narratives and highlight the uniqueness of collegiate America. This episode provides a richer understanding of higher education's pivotal role in shaping America's past, present, and future.


  • The diverse history of American higher education and its evolution from its early faith-based origins
  • The prevalence of race-based curricula in American history teachings 
  • Understanding the significance of World War II and the GI Bill in transforming the higher education landscape in the U.S.
  • Challenges of managing a vast and diverse system in universities
  • The pivotal role of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts in higher education
  • The potential for international students to study abroad in the U.S.
  • Impacts of technology and AI on the future of education


"The mere fact that we are so diverse now β€”. there's going to be contention for the rest of our lives, because there'll always be somebody trying to get it back in the envelope." – Dr. Sol Gittleman

β€œIt's such a complex and different and varied American system. And the rest of the world knows that. And we don't know much about our system at all; we're interested in football and gambling." – Dr. Sol Gittleman


β€œAn Accidental Triumph: The Improbable History of American Higher Education”: Gittleman, Sol: 9781959000044: Books



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Closed captioning and live show transcription are available in the video for this episode.

In The Margins is produced by Diverse: Issues In Higher Education and edited by Instapodcasts (visit at

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