Cathy Davidson Spotlights Futures Initiative in Chronicle of Higher Education

April 23, 2015

Distinguished Professor Cathy Davidson (English), director of the Futures Initiative (FI), published an op-ed this week in The Chronicle of Higher Education about how the FI is enhancing success in the classroom, and beyond.

Distinguished Professor Cathy Davidson (English), director of the Futures Initiative (FI), published a Chronicle of Higher Education op-ed this week about how the FI is enhancing success in the classroom and beyond.

Titled "Futures Initiative at CUNY Inspires New Teaching Styles," the piece describes the program's inaugural course, "Mapping the Futures of Higher Education," taught by Davidson and President Emeritus William Kelly

"Proposed educational reforms are too often motivated by ideology or shareholder profits, not by a concern with preparing successful future citizens of a complex, interactive, interconnected world," Davidson wrote in the op-ed. "The 40-year assault on higher education is the unmaking of the middle class. The Futures Initiative represents our part in working to reverse that spiral."

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Davidson - a renowned scholar who serves on the National Humanities Council and is the cofounding director of HASTAC, a 14,000-member digital learning network - launched the Futures Initiative last fall. The ambitious project draws on CUNY's resources to develop new methods of teaching and research, with a goal of inspiring public investment in higher education.

The dozen Graduate Center doctoral students, M.A. in Liberal Studies (MALS) students, and teaching fellows in the Mapping..." course are teaching courses or directing programs at nine different CUNY campuses this semester and across as many unique disciplines.

All apply the pedagogical research and innovative teaching techniques they study in the graduate class to their undergraduate courses each week. 

To connect the hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students collaborating across the CUNY colleges, the FI team developed a collaborative learning network using Commons In A Box. 

As Davidson notes, the online network allows CUNY students "to communicate with one another across classes" - and with the public - "in a way that they could not before."

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The 365 students are also using the tool to collaborate on a final project together, "The CUNY Maps of NYC" (pictured at right).

The results will be showcased on Friday, May 22, at a reception celebrating the work of all the graduate and undergraduate students.

This summer, up to 40 undergraduates who have successfully completed the Futures Initiative courses will be offered a chance to take a two-day intensive peer-mentoring workshop. They will then serve as mentors to next year's cohort of approximately 1500 students CUNY-wide who will be taught by Graduate Center participants in the program.

Davidson has championed the FI's power and potential at several major speaking engagements in the past month, among them the American Council on Education (ACE) plenary with U.S. Undersecretary of Education Ted Mitchell and the NERCOMP annual conference in Providence.

"The Futures Initiative takes next-generation graduate training beyond the cutting edge," she said. "And in an affordable fashion."