Associate Professor of Higher Education

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Curriculum Vitae (174.6 KB)

Tim Cain has been an associate professor at the Institute of Higher Education since 2013.  Prior to that he was on the faculty of the College of Education at the University of Illinois, including coordinating the higher education program in the Department of Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership.  He earned his A.B. from Duke University, his M.A. from The Ohio State University, and his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.

Professor Cain’s research on academic freedom and tenure includes articles and chapters on the purges of faculty during World War I, anti-communism in the 1930s, contingency as the normal state of the faculty, and the efforts of competing national associations to define and defend academic freedom.  His 2012 book Establishing Academic Freedom explored the development of academic freedom in the early 20th century, a period during which faculty organizations were founded, procedural protections were formalized, and the modern tenure system was established. 

The efforts of the American Federation of Teachers on behalf of academic freedom led Professor Cain to examine the causes of, effects of, and debates around faculty and graduate student unionization. In a series of publications, he has explored the long history of faculty unions, arguing that they played significant roles in higher education even before they were able to collectively bargain and that studying them provides insight into the nature and conditions of faculty work.  In Campus Unions: Organized Faculty and Graduate Students in U.S. Higher Education, he examined what is known about the effects of faculty and graduate student collective bargaining in the modern era.

Professor Cain’s interest in higher education stakeholder activism has also included studies of student protest, including publications on attempts to censor the student press and the interactions between students and organized labor. Forthcoming and in-process work considers student protests over gender inequities, LGBTQ rights, and parietal rules in the Deep South. 

A final strand of Professor Cain’s work involves teaching, learning, and assessment.  Among his publications in these areas is the book Using Evidence of Student Learning to Improve Higher Education, co-written with his colleagues at the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment.

Professor Cain is on the editorial boards of the Journal of Higher Education, the Journal of Higher Education Outreach and EngagementPerspectives on the History of Higher Education, and the Review of Educational Research. He is also on the Council of Scholars of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions, and was formerly an associate editor and the book review editor of the History of Education Quarterly. In 2017-2018, he was a Special Collection Libraries Faculty Teaching Fellow.

  • Ph.D., Education, University of Michigan
  • M.A., Higher Education and Student Affairs, The Ohio State University
  • A.B., History, Duke University

Cain, Timothy Reese, and Philip Wilkinson. “Influence Without Bargaining: Unionization at the University of Wisconsin, 1930–1957.” Labor: Studies in Working-Class History 16, no. 2 (2019): 99–122.

Cain, Timothy Reese. “‘Friendly Public Sentiment’ and the Threats to Academic Freedom." History of Education Quarterly 58, no. 3 (2018): 428–435.

Cain, Timothy Reese. “Adjuncts and Graduate Students in the Union: A Long History of Activism and Organizing.” In Professors in the Gig Economy: The Unionization of Adjunct Faculty in America, edited by Kim Tolley, 46–68. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018.

Cain, Timothy Reese. “Student Activists and Organized Labor.” In Rethinking Campus Life: New Perspectives on the History of College Students in the United States, edited by Christine A. Ogren and Marc A. VanOverbeke, 165–190. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.

Cain, Timothy Reese, and James C. Hearn. “Documenting and Improving Collegiate Learning in the USA.” In Assessment of Learning Outcomes in Higher Education—Cross-national Comparisons and Perspectives, edited by Olga Zlatin-Troitschanskaia, Hans Anand Pant, Miriam Topper, Corinna Lautenbach, and Christiane Kuhn, 19–41. New York: Springer, 2018.

Cain, Timothy Reese. Campus Unions: Organized Faculty and Graduate Students in US Higher Education. ASHE Higher Education Report Series, Vol. 43, No. 3. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2017.

Kuh, George D., Stanley O. Ikenberry, Natasha A. Jankowski, Timothy Reese Cain, Peter Ewell, Pat Hutchings, and Jillian Kinzie. Using Evidence of Student Learning to Improve Higher Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2015.

Cain, Timothy Reese. Establishing Academic Freedom: Politics, Principles, and the Development of Core Values. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

Research Interests:

Tim Cain’s research includes examinations of both modern and historic issues involving college students, faculty, and academic administrators. He has published works on academic freedom and tenure, graduate student and faculty unionization, student activism, the rise of academic administration, learning outcomes assessment, and teaching and learning. Current projects include considerations college student protests in the long 1960s and the history of faculty unionization.


Timothy Reese Cain (PI), An Organizing Professoriate: Post-War Unionization in American Higher Education, Spencer Foundation, 2012-2013.

Brian Deal (PI), Nancy Ablemann (Co-PI), Gina Hunter (Co-PI), and Timothy Cain (Co-PI), Sustainable Campus Buildings and Grounds: Creating a  Research and Teaching Program through Ethnography of the University,  Provost Initiative on Teaching Advancement, UIUC, 2010-2011.

Nancy Abelmann, Rakesh Bhatt, Nick Burbules, Timothy Cain, and others, The Internationalization of U of I Undergraduates: Conceptualizing a  Transforming University, Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities Collaborative Research Projects Initiative, 2010-2011. 

Timothy Reese Cain (PI), “The Second Wave of Faculty Unionization: College Faculty and the American Federation of Teachers, 1928–1941,” Bureau of Educational Research, UIUC, 2009-2010.


Events with Timothy Reese Cain

University of Rijeka
Friday, December 18, 2020 - 3:50pm

Associate Professor Timothy Reese Cain examines two sit-ins at the University of Georgia in a paper published in the November 2020 issue of History of Education Quarterly.

Monday, October 26, 2020 - 7:57am
Chronicle of Higher Education Power of the Professoriate
Thursday, October 22, 2020 - 4:10pm
By Tim Cain, Associate Professor of Higher Education
Tuesday, October 20, 2020 - 11:18am

A research paper by Tim Cain appears in the fall 2020 issue of Review of Higher Education.

Thursday, September 24, 2020 - 1:58pm

Tim Cain provides expert commentary on college student activism in "Graduate Student Unions Push Back against Institutions' COVID-19 Policies, Perceived Unfair Treatment on Campus." The article chronicles higher education student strikes at the University of Michigan