Confessions of a Pracademic: Searching for a Virtuous Cycle of Theory Building, Teaching, and Action Research


  • Lawrence Susskind

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    • Lawrence Susskind is the Ford Professor of Urban and Environmental Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is also the founder of the Consensus Building Institute in Cambridge. His e-mail address is


In this article, I describe my career as a pracademic. Over several decades, I have been able to maintain a substantial private practice in public dispute resolution and also meet the teaching, advising, and research demands of an academic career. I have achieved this by engaging primarily in action research: I begin with “problems” in the field and work collaboratively with stakeholders to generate “solutions” that meet their interests. I then document and analyze these interventions to build prescriptive theory through systematic reflection on my own involvement.

In this article, I discuss how I have been able to achieve success as a “pracademic,” but also consider the challenges that young scholars who seek to engage in practice confront today. I further describe some possible strategies for successfully integrating a substantial practice component into an academic career in conflict resolution.