Higher Ground: My American Dreams and Nightmares in the Hidden Halls of Academia

Amplify. Aug. 2023. 288p. ISBN 9781684017232. $28. ED
Katehi’s (engineering, Texas A&M Univ.) unusual and engaging memoir tells the improbable story of how a Greek woman, born in impoverished conditions and in the shadow of war, became chancellor of a United States university. It relates her account of the road to a tumultuous chancellorship at the University of California, Davis, that ended with her resignation in 2016. It is written in poignant and emotionally powerful language that is religiously evocative, perhaps unexpected from an electrical engineer. Arriving in the United States in the late 1970s with little money but much talent and drive, she becomes a successful faculty member and then administrator. The perils of administration loom large in times of declining finances, rising expectations, and the inevitable political fallout of decisions interpreted as failures on various levels. Invoking the metaphor of a silkworm’s transformation into a butterfly, the book describes how she endured this time to reach a better place. A cautionary tale to be sure, and one that tells one person’s perspective at a time of campus controversy.
VERDICT This book serves as a powerful statement on modern U.S. higher education from the inside. For all higher education collections.
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