Mitchell L. Stevens

Director of SCANCOR

Mitchell L. Stevens is Associate Professor of Education and (by courtesy) of Sociology, and of Organizational Behavior in the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University. Mitchell L. Stevens was appointed in April 2013 to a newly created position — Director of Digital Research and Planning — in which he will help bridge research efforts in the Office of the Vice Provost of Online Learning and the Graduate School of Education

Previous appointments include New York University (2003-2009) and Hamilton College (1996-2003).  He received his PhD in Sociology from Northwestern University in 1996. 

Stevens has longstanding interests in the management of individualism in human-service organizations, and in the role of quantification in organizational decision-making.  With Wendy Nelson Espeland, he has written on the evolution of measurement as a peculiarly important social form (2008, 1998).

His first book, Kingdom of Children:  Culture and Controversy in the Homeschooling Movement(Princeton University Press, 2001), is an organizational analysis of the rise of a controversial and now global educational phenomenon. Kingdom of Children traces the origins of home education into the parallel organizational worlds of conservative Protestantism and the remnants of the New Left in the 1980s U.S., noting the movement’s inheritance of pervasive American commitments to individualism in education and skepticism of formal authority.

Over the last decade Stevens has turned his attention to the study of universities, contributing to a renaissance of social-science inquiry into higher education in Europe and North America.   His second book, Creating a Class:  College Admissions and the Education of Elites (Harvard University Press, 2007), assesses the consequences of the quantification of youthful accomplishment for the organization of American culture generally.  Professional recognitions of Creating a Class include the Pierre Bourdieu Award of the American Sociological Association’s Education Section.

Stevens’ current research includes two projects on the organization of higher education.  The first, a collaboration with Cynthia Miller-Idriss (NYU) and Seteney Shami (Social Science Research Council), is a comparative study of how U.S. research universities have formally organized research on world regions since World War II.  The second, supported with funds from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is a collaborative effort to build a more robust supply-side social science of broad-access colleges and universities in the United States.

Stevens has been active in the SCANCOR community since the moment he arrived at Stanford.  His work partakes of several of the central traditions of SCANCOR and Scandinavian organizational social science:  enduring concern with decision making under uncertainty; with the production and management of knowledge in formal organizations; and with the interstices of public and private organizational systems.