Pages Menu

Course Description (S 15): Mapping the Futures of Higher Education

Here are some early ideas describing the method of the first course to be offered by the Futures Initiative at the Graduate Center CUNY.   There will be a large interactive public component to which anyone who wishes will be invited. The course will be team-taught by myself (Cathy N. Davidson, Director of the Futures Initiative) and William Kelly (former President of the Graduate Center).   Participation and feedback welcome!


Mapping the Futures of Higher Education

Professors Cathy Davidson and William Kelly

IDS 70200

Spring 2015, Tuesday 4-6 PM

The Graduate Center, CUNY


Departments Crosslisting IDS 70200 (to date; course numbers will come soon):

  • Comparative Literature
  • Critical, Social and Personality Psychology
  • Earth and Environmental Sciences & Environmental Psychology
  • English
  • Urban Education


Enrollment by Permission of the Instructors




Overview: “Mapping the Futures of Higher Education” is the first course being offered as part of the Graduate Center and CUNY’s new Futures Initiative, designed to prepare the next generation of college professors.  The class will be student-led and one aim is to experiment with a range of pedagogical forms while also engaging in thoughtful conversation about the nature, purpose, and state of higher education today.


This course will be team-taught by Professor Cathy Davidson, director of the Futures Initiative, and former GC President William Kelly.  The course is designed especially for second, third, or fourth year students who are teaching during S 2015 at one of CUNY’s colleges or community colleges.  Our focus will be on working together to design innovative peer-to-peer pedagogies that engage students, spark creativity, span disciplines and technologies, and offer meaningful public engagement.


Method:  The ideal “Mapping the Futures of Higher Education” course would be made up of 12-15 graduate students, each from a different field, each teaching at a different one of the colleges.  Of course we won’t achieve that exact mix but the point is that, in “open source learning,” collaboration across differences is essential.  Each week a pair of graduate students from different disciplines will decide upon a topic relevant to both their discipline and to the state of higher education today.  Topics might include: “Equity and the Digital Divide,” “Trust,” “Data,” “Security,” “Educational Inequality,” “Access,” “Digital Environmental Impact,” “Creativity,” “Arts and Technology,” “The Internet and Activism,” “Storytelling,” “Interoperability,” “Visual Literacy,” “Learning Online and Onsite,” “Data and Society,” “Entrepreneurship and Innovation,” “Hypertext,” “History of Technology,” etc..  The students will propose readings, and engage the class in some kind of innovative pedagogy for coming to terms with that topic.  Part of each class will be devoted to thinking through how the topic applies to the different disciplines in which the graduate students are working and the different introductory courses they are teaching, and how a relevant version of the pedagogical experiment might be employed in those classes.  The undergraduates will be encouraged to give productive feedback on the process so that, collectively, we are all contributing to a meaningful learning toolkit that should have application well beyond the class.


Theory:  Central to the design of peer-driven, connected learning are Paolo Freire’s ideas of teachers as learners and learners as teachers, John Dewey’s attention to experiential learning, and Stuart Hall’s championing of social engagement as the central ingredient of intellectual life.  Also central is new work being done on digital literacy, digital tools, collaboration, data analysis, project management, new understandings of cognition and attention, and the forms of trust and resistance demanded by informal and formal online learning.


Public and Digital Component:   Some portion of each class will take place on a public, editable Google Doc as well as on the website of the international network learning network HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory).  HASTAC now has some 14,000 members across disciplines dedicated to “Changing the Way We Teach and Learn.”  We will be populating the new HASTAC@CUNY Drupal site as part of the course, with opportunities for students in the undergraduate class to contribute as well.   Many others internationally will be learning along with us in this experiment and we will work to engage that larger public in a number of collaborative documents, exercises, and crowdsourced “concept sprints” that we work on together with our undergraduate students.


Final Collaborative Project:  As a collective class project, and the first contribution to the Futures Initiative online, throughout the term we will be building and populating a “CUNY Map of New York,” visualizing the efforts of our class, creating both concept and geographical maps, and in other ways thinking about the role of a public university in a city–and vice versa. The map itself will be interactive and an object of beauty, engineering excellence, and state-of-the-art data visualization.  We will be looking at such areas as CUNY as a site for intellectual activity, the arts, scientific innovation, social activism, human rights, civic responsibility, and entrepreneurship.


CUNY2020:  Participating in CUNY 2020, “Mapping the Futures of Higher Education” will also tie innovation, critical thinking, creativity to economic development, job creation, and job possibility.  In the nation’s most expensive city, with the most extreme income inequality, CUNY offers affordable education and access. That is a phenomenal economic asset that allows young people, creative people, immigrants, and others not part of the economic “1%” to have educational opportunity.  The map will attempt to visualize CUNY as an incalculable economic asset to the city, visualizing how society’s collective investment in higher education has immediate dividends for the community, including for New York’s role as the nation’s cultural as well as financial capital.


Art and Data: The course will a public exhibition, online and in some public gallery space, with an interactive, public presentation by our class and the contributing/participating undergraduate classes on the partnering campuses, of the CUNY Map of New York.  Our aim is a beautiful, cutting-edge display that invites participation.


Mentors:  All participants in this course will become future mentors in subsequent years.



In order to ensure the most diverse cohort of students in the first Futures Initiative class, we will be creating a survey application form.

, , , ,


  1. Fall 2014 Newsletter | Futures Initiative, 1.1 | Futures Initiative - September 19, 2014

    […] Mapping the Futures of Higher Education (Spring 2015) Professors Cathy Davidson and William Kelly IDS 70200 Spring 2015, Tuesday 4-6 PM The Graduate Center, CUNY Departments Crosslisting IDS 70200 (to date; course numbers will come soon): […]

Skip to toolbar