Futures Initiative Spring 2016 Courses – Enrollment Opens December 4!

In the 2015-2016 academic year, the Futures Initiative is offering five team-taught courses in a number of different disciplines, reaching as many as 90 graduate students and 1,800 undergraduates. The courses will be taught by CUNY faculty based at the Graduate Center as well as Brooklyn College, City College, LaGuardia Community College, Lehman College, and Queens College. The focus across all of the courses is Diversity, Access, and Equity Across the Curriculum. The courses complement our year-long workshop and discussion series, The University Worth Fighting For. We are delighted that the faculty members listed below have joined the program as Faculty Fellows.

The courses will have a strong public component, so even if you are not a CUNY student we hope you will follow along and participate on the Futures Initiative and HASTAC websites.

For the most up-to-date information, please see

Agency and Social Transformation: Increasing Equity in Education and Beyond

Anna Stetsenko (Graduate Center, Psychology/Urban Education) and Eduardo Vianna (Social Sciences, LaGuardia Community College) 

PSYC 80103, Spring 2016, The Graduate Center, CUNY

Crosslisted as: IDS 81630 and Urban Education 75200

Tuesdays, 4:15-6:15PM, 3 credits


The role of agency and agentive positioning in knowledge production and teaching-learning processes remains highly contested across major frameworks at the intersection of education and human development.

This course will examine a broad spectrum of approaches – from critical pedagogy and constructivism to learning-as-participation and activist learning – in terms of how they address agency at both individual and collective levels of social dynamics. One of the angles will be to critically address how conceptions about agency in the context of culture and society find their way into the practices of teaching and learning.The goal is to set the stage for teaching-learning in ways that overcome the ethos of adaptation and transmission models to instead provide the tools for learners’ agentive positioning as creators and co-contributors to knowledge production and learning within the dynamics of social transformation in classrooms and beyond. In capitalizing on social transformation and activist agency, this exploration will interrogate responsibilities that various models and epistemologies embody and target templates for overcoming taken-for-granted norms, biases, power differentials, and inequalities.

See this article that Professors Stetsenko and Vianna co-authored titled “Research with a Transformative Activist Agenda: Creating the Future Through Education for Social Change” as it may provide a glimpse of what is to come in their 2016 Futures Initiative course!

Mindfulness and STEM Education

David Forbes (Brooklyn College, School Psychology, Counseling, and Leadership) and Gillian Bayne (Lehman College, STEM Education)

U ED 72200, Spring 2016, The Graduate Center, CUNY

Crosslisted as: IDS 81650

Tuesdays, 4:15-6:15PM, 3 credits


This course will examine novel, contemporary and foundational methodological approaches and the application of mindfulness into STEM education, and more broadly into the learning sciences (i.e., the science of teaching and learning in formal and informal contexts).  An overarching goal of the course is to understand, develop and contribute to a nexus of theories, ideas, research activities and practices that can be used to improve teaching and learning experiences at the student, teacher, teacher education and policy levels via drawing from a sociocultural framework and the Integral Model.  Students can look forward to growing as scholars, researchers, global citizens and reform minded education leaders, while they come away from the course experience with an awareness of a) the psychological, social, cultural, and political context of STEM and the learning sciences b) their own values, thoughts, and feelings about teaching urban youth STEM content that is synergistically aligned to mindfulness practices, and c) the psychological, social, cultural, and political context of the lifeworlds of urban youth and their relationships to STEM.

We will teach and use the mindfully infused STEM practices with the intention to share best possible outcomes for urban youth and for society in a holistic way.

Through the Integral model students will (a) be exposed generally to mindfulness, (b) learn about the recent controversies around the use of mindfulness in education and in other institutions, and as a component of this, mindfulness will be examined in relation to science – both the science of mindfulness, and the controversy over why mindfulness proponents believe there is a need turn to the sciences in order to be taken seriously, and (c) examine mindfulness and meditation in integral terms, so as to find a conscious, integrally informed way to use it.  The integration will be considered in the context of both being educators and people interested in  personally and socially promoting optimal human development, and in working with urban youth, while bringing in mindfulness as a critical, socially conscious force for personal and social change, not just as a technology.   We will examine the use mindfulness in dialogue in the classroom, and use it to look at and/practice dialogue around difficult issues like white privilege and Black Lives Matter, and challenging sources of power in society.

In a recent Salon piece on mindfulness in the classroom, Prof. David Forbes writes about neoliberal education and how it uses mindfulness for purposes that run counter to its own principles. (Prof. Forbes would like to note that he did not select either the title or sub-title for this piece.)

American Literature, American Learning

Cathy N. Davidson (Graduate Center, Futures Initiative and English) and William Kelly (Graduate Center, President Emeritus and University Distinguished Professor)

ENGL 89010, Spring 2016, The Graduate Center, CUNY
Open to all doctoral and Master’s students. Any field. 

Crosslisted as:  Urban Education 75200 and IDS 81620 (The scope and time commitment necessary to complete final research projects will vary depending on the number of credit hours for which students are enrolled.)

Wednesdays 6:30PM-8:30PM. 2, 3, or 4 credits. [CRN 30303] 


This course has three primary intentions; First, we will consider some foundational texts of American educational and cultural history, investigating the strategies of inclusion and exclusion they deploy. Possible topics include: the seventeenth and eighteenth-century establishment of religiously-affiliated institutions designed to educate clergy, schools which in time became bastions of privilege; the yoking of education and republican principle in antebellum America, particularly as that impulse is registered in Thomas Jefferson’s founding of the University of Virginia; the expansion of educational opportunity through the public school movement, as documented in Horace Mann’s reports to the Massachusetts Board of Education (1837-48); the rise of politically and ideologically-fraught institutions to serve women, African-Americans, and Native Americans; the expansion of educational franchise marked by the opening in 1847 of CUNY’s forerunner, the Free Academy, and by the passage of the First Morrill Act in 1862; and the emergence and consequence of liberal education theory at the end of the nineteenth-century. 

Second, we will read contemporary critiques/accounts of American education. 

Third, we will experiment with a variety of pedagogical practices that model different relationships between power and knowledge. 

The range of texts we might read is very wide indeed; writers under current consideration include: Increase and Cotton Mather, Thomas Shepard, Charles Chauncey, John Witherspoon, Jonathan Edwards, Olaudah Equiano, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Bronson Alcott, Susanna Rowson, Catherine Beecher, Margaret Fuller, Lucy Larcom, Emma Willard, Horace Mann, Townsend Harris, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, Zitkala-Sa, Henry Adams, John Dewey, Ralph Ellison, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Lani Guinier, Christopher Newfield, and Craig Steven Wilder. 


Our method is simple: we will have a traditional syllabus for the first half of the course. It will be posted in a public group on HASTAC. For the midterm, each student will create a syllabus for the second half of the course—also posted on HASTAC. Then, during the scheduled midterm class, the professors will leave the room, and the students, having read one another’s syllabi, will use a Google Doc and create the rest of the course—the syllabus, final project (which will entail some public contribution to knowledge), any other requirements.

For more on how this course will work and why it matters, see Prof. Cathy Davidson’s recent HASTAC post: “How To Move from History and Theory of Higher Education to More Equitable Classroom Practices.”


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