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November/December 2006




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5 Minutes with ... Sunil Gulati

Sunil Gulati

Economics lecturer Sunil Gulati ’83 GSAS, ’86 GSAS works double-time. In addition to being among Columbia’s most popular teachers, he serves as president of the U.S. Soccer Federation, the sport’s national governing body. Gulati immigrated to the United States with his family when he was 5. Raised in Connecticut, he earned his bachelor’s at Bucknell in 1981 and his M.A. and M.Phil. in economics from Columbia. CCT caught up with him during the fall semester to find out more.

Q: Where did you work before Columbia?

A: I was at the World Bank, the World Cup and Major League Soccer. I also taught at Columbia until 1990; I was in Washington, D.C., and L.A. I moved back to NYC in 1995 and taught at Columbia every few semesters until rejoining the faculty on a full-time basis in 2002.

Q: What are you teaching this semester?

A: “Principles of Economics” and “Applied Seminar in Microeconomics,” both for undergrads. In the spring, I’ll teach “Principles” again and “The Global Economy,” which is a course I developed three years ago.

Q: You’re known for always wearing a jacket and tie in the classroom.

A: Yes, it’s something I’ve always done since I started teaching many years ago.

Q: You’re also known for mingling with students outside the classroom. Could you give us an example?

A: We have Faculty-Student Interaction Dinners; we offer students the chance to sign up and I join them at a restaurant. We talk about anything they want.

Q: Tell me about your family.

A: My wife and I have an 8-year-old son and a 22-month-old daughter. We live near campus, which is great because we’re about 200 meters from everything we need — work, school, restaurants, culture, Dodge gym. My son goes to the Columbia School.

Q: What is the last movie you saw?

A: We’ll probably watch National Treasure tonight on-demand. My son wants to see it.

Q: What’s on your iPod?

A: Oh, no, my students are going to read this … everything from U2 to Bruce Springsteen to Elton John to the Three Tenors.

Q: Speaking of students, do you work with graduate students?

A: No, but I am supervising several honors theses for undergrads, and I have 11 TAs, one of whom also is an honors thesis advisee.

Q: What are you reading?

A: I recently read The Market and Structure of Sports and How Soccer Explains the World.

Q: What’s new in the economics department?

A: Enrollment is up, and the department is growing. It’s a vibrant place to be.

Q: What are some of your responsibilities as U.S. Soccer Federation president?

A: As the national governing body for soccer, the federation is responsible for many different aspects of the game: coaching and refereeing programs, player development and especially the national teams. Further, the professional teams all are members.

Q: Columbia has some big soccer fans, I hear.

A: Yes, Dean Austin Quigley and Dean of Academic Affairs Kathryn Yatrakis are keen fans, and we often chat about soccer when we pass each other on campus. Associate Athletics Director Jacqueline Blackett is a big fan, and my colleague, Xavier Sali-i-Martin, was interim president of FC Barcelona, one of the world’s great teams.

Q: Do you play soccer?

A: Rarely, a game now and then. My favorite soccer games are my son’s.

Q: Do you have time for vacations?

A: My family and I spent six weeks in Germany this past summer, which was wonderful. Before my children were born, my wife and I went to South Africa. And we’ve been to India and taken a Mediterranean cruise. Those are some memorable trips. Now, Disney is a frequent destination!

Interview: Lisa Palladino





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