About Mapping the Futures of Higher Education (Spring 2015)


Taught by Futures Initiative Director Cathy Davidson and Graduate Center President Emeritus William Kelly, Mapping the Futures of Higher Education was a radically interdisciplinary graduate class and network of undergraduate classes involving more than 365 students across ten CUNY colleges. Though the subject matter varied from one class to another, all used peer pedagogy to achieve the best student outcomes while also building a strong community. This Spring 2015 course was the first course offered by the Futures Initiative. In the 2015-2016 academic year, we will offer five team-taught courses in a number of different disciplines.

One final project from the course was a series of student-created maps and a video “flyover” tour of NYC and CUNY. Explore the CUNY Maps of NYC. Each student also designed a syllabus applying the principles they learned in the course. We hosted a year-end celebration with graduate students and their undergraduate students from across the CUNY colleges.

To assess the program’s effectiveness, the Futures Initiative engaged two Urban Education doctoral students, Deborah Greenblatt and Janey Flanagan, to conduct an evaluation. Their analysis shows that both undergraduate and graduate students considered the course and teaching methods to be highly effective. Read the full report (PDF).

To learn more about the Spring 2015 course, read the class recaps from each week:

Class Schedule

Week Date Blog
Jan. 22 Syllabus-Building Workshop
1 Feb. 3 First Class
2 Feb. 10 Discussion and Intro to Mapping
3 Feb. 17 Assessment, Part 1
4 Feb. 24 Assessment, Part 2
Mar. 6 NYPL Field Trip
5 Mar. 3 Visit to the Chancellery
6 Mar. 10 Student-Centered Pedagogy, Part 1
7 Mar. 17 Student-Centered Pedagogy, Part 2
8 Mar. 24 Professors and Persistence, Part 1
9 Mar. 31 Professors and Persistence, Part 2
10 Apr. 14 Discussion with Dean John Mogulescu
11 Apr. 21 Embodiment and (Meta)Movement, Part 1
12 Apr. 28 Embodiment and (Meta)Movement, Part 2
13 May 5 Works in Progress
14 May 12 Works in Progress
May 22 Celebration and Reception

Our work was deeply collaborative, student-driven, and often looked a little messy along the way.

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Course Description

The Futures Initiative’s inaugural Spring 2015 course is designed for doctoral students across the humanities, social sciences, and STEM disciplines who are relatively new to undergraduate teaching (typically second, third, and fourth year students) and who will be teaching during S 2015 at one of CUNY’s colleges or community colleges.

As is the case with the larger Futures Initiative, this course looks in two directions at once, at innovation and equity. First, we will explore new methods of peer learning and teaching, interdisciplinary research collaborations, experiential learning, new digital tools, and public (online) contributions to knowledge. Second, we will consider the role of the university in society, especially public education in the U.S. in a stressed time where, nationally, we have seen declining support for public education, leading both to a student debt crisis and a professorial crisis of adjunct or contingent labor practices. What are the costs? Who bears them? What are the collective investments society makes in public education and what are the rewards? How do college students themselves contribute to society? And what will our contribution be?

Because much of the apparatus of modern higher education was developed roughly between 1865 and 1925, in and for the Taylorized Industrial Age, we will be proposing new pedagogical and institutional designs for the world we live in now. Doctoral students will be putting those ideas into practice in their own teaching in S 2015 on the CUNY campuses. Their undergraduates will be included as co-learners in this project, contributing their own ideas and feedback via course websites that will connect them to one another, across the campuses. As a final project across all the courses (and embodying both aspects of the class), we will design and populate a collaborative, online, public “CUNY Map of New York,” designed to visualize what college offers the community–and vice versa.

All graduate students enrolled in “Mapping the Futures of Higher Education” will turn in a final ePortfolio of their work, including links to their students’ contributions. NB: Graduate students taking the course for four credits will, in addition, lead a public presentation of this collaborative learning project at the Graduate Center and across the CUNY network.

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Learn More


The Futures Initiative
The Graduate Center, CUNY
365 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10016-4309