Cathy Davidson Named Senior Adviser on Transformation to Chancellor

June 7, 2022

Davidson, the founding director of the Futures Initiative and an expert on higher education, will help drive key changes across CUNY.

Cathy Davidson
Distinguished Professor Cathy N. Davidson (Photo credit: Chris Hildreth, Duke Photography)

CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez has appointed Distinguished Professor Cathy N. Davidson (English, Digital Humanities, Data Analysis and Visualization,) as his senior adviser on transformation in the newly created CUNY Office of Transformation. Davidson will assume this role on a part-time basis while remaining a Graduate Center faculty member.

The chancellor announced the establishment of the Office of Transformation last month. The new office will “shape a unifying framework for CUNY’s most urgent priorities, such as building upon the final work of the strategic roadmap that has involved hundreds of stakeholders across CUNY this year, and will ultimately drive implementation of key priorities that emerged from this process,” the Office of the Chancellor said. The new office will be led by newly appointed Chief Transformation Officer Rachel Stephenson. Stephenson was previously assistant vice chancellor for academic strategy and operations and chief of staff to the executive vice chancellor and university provost.

Davidson, one of the foremost visionaries on higher education in the United States, will continue in her role as the founding director of the Futures Initiative and as the co-director of Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory (, or Haystack), an 18,000-member international network she co-founded in 2002 that is often called the world’s first academic social network. She will also remain a member of the CUNY Graduate Education Task Force, which is co-chaired by Graduate Center President Robin L. Garrell.

“Cathy Davidson is a futurist: a visionary scholar who is committed to transformative, student-centered public higher education,” said Garrell. “She is a passionate advocate for CUNY, working tirelessly to amplify the university’s impact and reach and leading innovative initiatives that are preparing our diverse, ambitious, tech-savvy students for extraordinary careers. We will all benefit from Davidson’s contributions in this exciting new role.” 

Davidson is author or editor of more than 20 books, including, most recently The New Education: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World in Flux. The third book in her “How We Know” trilogy, The New College Classroom, co-authored with Christina Katopodis, postdoctoral research associate and assistant director of Transformative Learning in the Humanities, will be published in August.

Before coming to the Graduate Center, Davidson was a distinguished professor at Duke University, where she also served as that university’s first vice provost for interdisciplinary studies. 

“I’m deeply honored that the chancellor has asked me to take on this incredibly creative and important role at this tumultuous time for our city, state, and for all of higher education,” said Davidson. “CUNY is already the national leader in social mobility for our students, and I have no doubt that we can chart a future for all of higher education through our powerful commitment to equity and excellence. Our new Office of Transformation will build on the work of hundreds of our faculty, administrators, and students who have spent the past year crafting strategic roadmaps and working on visionary interdisciplinary, cross-campus committees like BRESI (Black, Race, and Ethnic Studies Initiative) and the Graduate Education Task Force. If we do our job well, we’ll be translating bold ideas into even bolder realities.”