Skip to main content

History Professor Named Vice Provost For Interdisciplinary Studies

Ed Balleisen, associate professor of history and public policy whose research has led to collaborations with faculty from law, business, environment and other units, has been named vice provost for interdisciplinary studies, Provost Sally Kornbluth announced Monday.

Balleisen is director of the Kenan Institute of Ethics' "Rethinking Regulation" project and a leading participant in the Tobin Project, a national network of social scientists who examine pressing public policy dilemmas.  Along with law professor Jonathan Wiener and environmental economist Lori Bennear, he has led collaborative, team-based research on regulatory policy-making through two separate Bass Connections grants. He succeeds Susan Roth, who served in the role for eight years.

The appointment came following the recommendations of a search committee chaired by Michael Merson, vice president and vice provost of global strategy and programs and director of the Duke Global Health Institute.

"Ed is an enormously talented scholar and teacher and an energetic participant in many interdisciplinary programs on campus," Kornbluth said. "He has done an outstanding job as chair of the Academic Programs Committee this year, demonstrating an ability to stimulate discussion and listen carefully to multiple viewpoints.  I am sure that he will bring these talents as well as great creativity to his new role."

Balleisen said he was excited for the opportunity to help support research and teaching "that can make a difference, both within and outside of academia."

"I have always gained considerable fulfillment by helping other scholars realize their ambitions, whether through constructive criticism on manuscripts, suggestions for new wrinkles in teaching, or brainstorming sessions on how to advance more complex program development," he said.  

"Indeed, my decision to embark on a scholarly career resulted in no small measure from a perception that academia, at its best, is fueled by a mutualistic economy of shared intellectual endeavor, in which generosity constitutes a valuable currency.”

Balleisen added that interdisciplinary work at Duke is successful when it is based on "strong disciplinary foundations."

“Even though modes of evidence gathering and analysis typically have a disciplinary basis, the questions driving interdisciplinary inquiry often emerge from societal imperatives rather than more narrow academic debates.  By the same token, a focus on knowledge in the service of society tends to generate interdisciplinary teaching and inquiry, while also often driving new fundamental questions within disciplinary confines.” 

A graduate of Princeton University with a Ph.D. in history from Yale University, Balleisen has taught at Duke since 1997.  Before then, he held a postdoctoral fellowship and teaching post at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Author of “Navigating Failure: Bankruptcy and Commercial Society in Antebellum America” (2001) and co-editor with David Moss of “Government and Markets: Toward a New Theory of Regulation” (2009), his research has focused on historical intersections among law, business and policy in the United States, as well as the evolution of American regulatory institutions and contemporary debates on regulatory governance. Balleisen’s next book, “Business Fraud: An American History,” is forthcoming from Princeton University Press.  He is now in the early stages of developing an oral history project on late 20th-century and early 21st-century regulatory governance.

He has received several university awards, including the Graduate School's Dean's Award for Excellence in Mentoring this month. He also was the 2005 recipient of the Howard D. Johnson Award for Excellence in Teaching at Duke.

Balleisen currently chairs the Academic Programs Committee, with his term ending this semester. He also has served as director of graduate studies in the history department and as a member of the Academic Council, the University Priorities Committee and the Academic Affairs subcommittee of the Board of Trustees.