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Adam R. Nelson is Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of Educational Policy Studies and History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He received his Ph.D. in History from Brown University. His publications include Education and Democracy: The Meaning of Alexander Meiklejohn, 1872-1964 (2001); The Elusive Ideal: Equal Educational Opportunity and the Federal Role in Boston’s Public Schools (2005); Education and the Culture of Print in Modern America, co-edited with John L. Rudolph (2010); and The Global University: Past, Present, and Future Perspectives, co-edited with Ian P. Wei (2012). He is currently writing a pair of books titled Capital of Mind: The Making of an American Knowledge Economy, 1730-1830 and Empire of Knowledge: Nationalism, Internationalism, and American Science, 1780-1830. His research has been funded by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities/American Antiquarian Society, the National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship Program, the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard, the Advanced Studies Fellowship Program at Brown, and the Vilas Associate Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He served as President of the History of Education Society and co-directs the annual University of Wisconsin-Peking University Workshop on Higher Education.
- PhD History, Brown University, 1998
- MA History, Brown University, 1994
- BA History, St. Olaf College, 1993
- Nelson, A. R., (2017). "HES Presidential Address: Citizens or Cosmopolitans? Constructing Scientific Identity in the Early American College". History of Education Quarterly, 57(2), 184-259.
- Nelson, A. R., & Strohl, N. M. (2016). From Helping the Poor to Helping the Middle Class: The Convergence of Federal K-12 and Higher Education Funding Policy Since 1965. In Christopher Loss and Patrick McGuinn (Ed.), History and Policy: The Convergence of Federal K-12 and Higher Education Policy since 1965 (pp. 43-66). Harvard Education Press.
- Nelson, A. R., & Wei, I. P. (2012). The Global University: Past, Present, and Future Perspectives. In Nelson, A. and Ian P. Wei (Ed.), (pp. 284). Bristol, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
- Nelson, A. R., (2012). Woodrow Wilson on Liberal Education for Statesmanship. In John Cooper and James Axtell (Ed.), The Educational Legacy of Woodrow Wilson: From College to Nation (pp. 49-73). University of Virginia Press.
- Nelson, A. R., & Rudolph, J. L. (2010). Education and the Culture of Print in Modern America. In A. R. Nelson & J. L. Rudolph (Eds.), (pp. 233). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
- Nelson, A. R., (2007). Rodriguez, Keyes, Lau, and Milliken Revisited: The Supreme Court and the Meaning of ‘Equal Educational Opportunity,’ 1973-1974. In Carl F. Kaestle and Alyssa Lodewick (Ed.), To Educate a Nation: Federal and National Strategies of School Reform (pp. 202-224). University Press of Kansas.
- Nelson, A. R., (2007). The Federal Role in American Education: An Historiographical Essay. In William J. Reese and John Rury (Ed.), Rethinking the History of American Education (pp. 261-280). Palgrave Macmillan.
- Nelson, A. R., (2005). The Elusive Ideal: Equal Educational Opportunity and the Federal Role in Boston’s Public Schools, 1950-1985. (pp. 352). University of Chicago Press.
- Nelson, A. R., (2005). "Nationalism, Transnationalism, and the American Scholar in the Nineteenth Century: Thoughts on the Career of William Dwight Whitney". The New England Quarterly, 78(3), 339-374.
- Nelson, A. R., (2001). Education and Democracy: The Meaning of Alexander Meiklejohn, 1872-1964. (pp. 416). University of Wisconsin Press.
- Nelson, A. R. (2020, January). The Invention of Liberal Education in America, c. 1910-1950. Lecture presented at the Liberal Education: An Intercultural Dialogue Between China and the West, Beijing, China.
- Nelson, A. R. (2019, May). Tariffs on Textbooks: American Scholars and the International Political Economy of Knowledge, 1816 - 1826. Lecture presented at the Invited lecture, Tsinghua University (Beijing), Zheijiang University (Hangzhou), and South China Normal University (Guangzhou), China.
- Nelson, A. R. (2018, November). Capital of Mind: The United States in a Global Knowledge Economy, c 1730-1830. Oral Presentation presented at the Invited lecture, St. John College, Oxford University, UK.
- Nelson, A. R. (2018, April). The Sciences Are Carried on Here as a Trade": American Students, German Universities, and the Emergence of a Modern Knowledge Economy, 1815-1825. Oral Presentation presented at the Nineteenth Century U.S. History Workshop, Brown University, Providence, RI.
- Nelson, A. R. (2017, November). Importing Ideas, c. 1789-1795. Paper presented at the Invited lecture, Stanford University, Stanford, CA.
- Nelson, A. R. (2017, June). Science, Education, and Trade: New Directions in the History of Ideas. Lecture presented at the Invited lecture, Peking University, Beijing, China.
- Nelson, A. R. (2017, June). Wold War II, the Cold War, and the Military-Industrial-University Complex in the United States. Lecture presented at the Invited lecture, Peking University, Beijing , China.
- Nelson, A. R. (2014, April). Universities 2030: Learning form the Past to Anticipate the Future. Oral Presentation presented at the Global Higher Education and Research Project, Cape Town, South Africa.
- Nelson, A. R. (2013, October). An Episode in Liberal Education: Alexander Meiklejohn and the Experimental College at the University of Wisconsin, 1927-1933. Lecture presented at the Invited lecture, International Christian University, Tokyo, Japan.
- Nelson, A. R., Osterwalder, K., Kontler, L., Bruch, R. v., Verger, J., Kintzinger, M., Pickstone, J., & Stobiecki, R. (2013, April). Empire of Knowledge: Nationalism, Internationalism, and the Origins of the American University, 1780-1830. Lecture presented at the "History of Universities" series, University of Luxembourg, Luxembourg.
Select Awards and Honors
- Guest Professorship, School of Education, Zhejiang University, CHINA, 2020
- Guest Professorship, Graduate School of Education, Peking University, CHINA, 2017
- Fellow, Academic Leadership Program (ALP), Big 10 Academic Alliance, (2018, 2019)
- Outstanding Faculty Recognition Award, First Wave/Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives, 2015
- Fellow, Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, Harvard University, (2011, 2012)
- Long-Term Fellowship, National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts, (2008, 2009)
- Small Grant, Spencer Foundation, (2008, 2009)
- Vilas Associate, University of Wisconsin-Madison, (2007, 2009)
- Advanced Studies Fellowship, Spencer Foundation and William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Brown University, (2002, 2005)
- Postdoctoral Fellowship, National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation, (2002, 2003)