Starting as a Futures Initiative Fellow

Hello everyone! My name is Michael Epstein, and I am excited to be starting this semester as a Futures Initiative Graduate Fellow, where I will be working as a Web Developer and Digital Strategist. I am currently a doctoral candidate in psychology in the Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience subprogram. My dissertation will contain behavioral and neuroimaging experiments into ensemble perception, which is a visual mechanism we use to rapidly perceive the average properties of groups, like the average emotion of a crowd of faces. This research aims to address long-standing issues in vision science, as well as more broadly connect to the philosophy of consciousness—for example how our subjective experiences feel so rich despite the many limitations of human vision.

I look forward to working with the Futures Initiative on the digital frontier to help advance their work towards meaningful institutional change. I aim to bridge my own scientific experience with data analysis and effective presentation of results with the missions of the Futures Initiative. It is my hope that my scientific training can offer a new perspective to aid in this important work. I look forward to thinking of ways to concretely test and show the influence their bold initiatives have on the university system.

One project I am currently collaborating on is building interactive digital maps showing the Futures Initiative’s connections throughout the CUNY system. I look forward to jumping into future projects entailing collecting and analyzing data to better understand the influence FI initiatives have within CUNY. This potentially will involve analysis of website statistics, as well as designing studies to observe courses FI is involved with. With this work we will be able to both verify and improve the positive impact of FI initiatives.

On a more everyday note, I also will be adopting responsibilities managing itself. Besides helping with the day to day site maintenance, I also will be consistently working to improve the website, both on the user side and in the hidden nuts and bolts. This will entail everything from making sure that the site continues to look its best on every page, to improving user access, to making information easy to find and digest. If you ever have any issues or ideas for the site, please feel free to reach out to me!

One of the reasons I fell in love with CUNY is because of its long history providing education to underrepresented students across New York. However, despite the great strides CUNY has made as a public university, there is still much work left to do. Fortunately, CUNY is in one of the best positions possible not only to make these changes but, more importantly, show to the rest of the academic community what public universities can do. I look forward to contributing to the Futures Initiative’s mission to show just what CUNY is capable of.


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