Cathy N. Davidson

Cathy Davidson Faculty

Research Interests

  • History of technology
  • history of the book in the U.S.
  • history and future of higher education
  • digital media and learning, digital humanities
  • critical university studies
  • the role of technology in culture, cognition, and learning
  • industrial and postindustrial society
  • American cultural and literary studies


  • Ph.D., SUNY Binghamton

Cathy N. Davidson is Distinguished Professor of English and in the MA in Digital Humanities and MS in Data Analysis and Visualization at the Graduate Center, CUNY. She is Founding Director of the Futures Initiative, a program dedicated to advancing equity and innovation in higher education. She is also the R. F. DeVarney Professor Emerita of Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke University where she served as Duke’s (and the nation’s) first Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies.

Davidson has published some twenty books including Revolution and the Word: The Rise of the Novel in America (Oxford UP); Closing: The Life and Death of an American Factory (Norton), with documentary photographer Bill Bamberger; The Future of Thinking: Learning Institutions in a Digital Age (MIT Press), with David Theo Goldberg; and Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn (Viking) . Her most recent book, The New Education: How to Revolutionize Higher Education to Prepare Students for a World in Flux (Basic Books), is recipient of the 2019 Frederick W. Ness Annual Book Prize awarded by the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Davidson cofounded and codirects HASTAC (“Haystack”), Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory, the world’s first and oldest academic social network (2002-present), with nearly 18,000 members. She served on the Board of Directors of Mozilla (2012-2018) and on the National Council of the Humanities as an appointee of President Barack Obama (2011-2017). She co-directed the Digital Media and Learning Competitions sponsored by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (2006-2017). She is co-recipient of the 2012 Educator of the Year Award from the World Technology Network and the 2016 recipient of the Ernest J. Boyer Award for Significant Contributions to Higher Education.

Davidson travels extensively in the U.S. and abroad, lecturing and consulting on higher education transformation with students, faculty, chairs, deans, boards of trustees, and ministers of education on the effective ways to make education more equitable and relevant for today’s students. She is committed to higher education reform in support of a more just society. In 2019 she served as keynote speaker and panelist at the Nobel Prize Committee’s Forum on the Future of Learning in Santiago, Chile and will serve on the 2020 Nobel Prize Forum on The Challenges of Learning. Her current project, with Christina Katopodis, is “Transforming Every Classroom: A Practical Guide to Revolutionary Teaching and Learning” (Harvard University Press, ca. 2022).

Selected Publications

  • The New Education:  How To Revolutionize the University To Prepare Students for a World in Flux (Basic Books, 2017) 
  • Now You See It:  How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn.  New York:  Viking Press, 2011.   Paperback re-issue (with a new subtitle): Now You See It:  How Technology and Brain Science Will Transform Schools and Business for the 21st Century (Viking Penguin, 2012).
  • The Future of Thinking:  Learning Institutions in a Digital Age, with David Theo Goldberg. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010.
  • Revolution and the Word: The Rise of the Novel in America.  Expanded Edition.  New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.  
  • Closing:  The Life and Death of an American Factory. With photographs by Bill Bamberger. New York:  W. W. Norton, 1998; paperback, 1999.