Summer Recap and Reflection

"Black lives Matter" written with sidewalk chalk

Over the summer, our FI team continued advocating greater equity and innovation in higher education at every level of the university in the pandemic. We joined #BlackLivesMatter protests, we joined trainings in antiracism organized by Academics for Black Survival and Wellness (#Academics4BlackLives), we found ways to support essential workers as well as protesters, and we continued meeting outdoors and remotely to work, write, and celebrate some tremendous accomplishments, including the release of Katina Rogers’ Putting the Humanities PhD to Work (Duke University Press).

Book Cover PhD to WorkThis summer, Katina Rogers engaged in a Q&A with Scott Jaschik at Inside Higher Ed and her book was featured in “Why the World Needs Humanities PhDs Right Now” on the Graduate Center, CUNY, website. If you’d like to hear more, Rogers spoke with Sasha Goldman (Program Manager for PhD Professional Development) on the Vitamin PhD podcast and with Roopika Risam and Mary Churchill on Rocking the Academy. Rogers’ book, Putting the Humanities PhD to Work, came out just in time for a series of reading group discussions led by FI Fellow Siqi Tu, Andrew Viñales (PhD student, Cultural Anthropology, and PublicsLab Fellow), and myself. The discussions, structured as a series of three videochats, helped us all prepare for the 2020-2021 academic year. We discussed career preparation, mentorship, inclusivity, broadening the scope of scholarly products to serve students both in and outside of the academy, and what faculty, advisors, and students can do to make a graduate degree in the humanities translatable to the world outside of the academy.

Cathy N. Davidson and I wrote an op-ed for Times Higher Ed titled, “Trust your students to be active participants in their learning,” on June 26, just ahead of our session, “Trust Your Students” on July 13, at the REMOTE Summit, hosted by Arizona State University. The talk was about co-learning and using active learning tools to support peer-to-peer learning in a community, whether onsite or online. There were over 2,000 attendees from all over the world.

Cathy N. Davidson coauthored “Making Remote Learning Relevant” for Inside Higher Ed with Senior Program Officer at the Andrew Mellon Foundation Dianne Harris, former dean of the College of Humanities at the University of Utah.

My post to the Progresive Pedagogy HASTAC Group, “Every Fall Syllabus Needs an ‘Or’ Option,” was picked up by The Chronicle of Higher Education and featured in their Teaching newsletter on June 11.

Transformative Learning in the Humanities

We have recently been awarded a $2 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, part of the historic $10 million grant to CUNY. Transformative Learning in the Humanities will be codirected by Cathy N. Davidson, Shelly Eversley (Baruch College), and Annemarie Nicols-Grinenko (Hunter College and University Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs), with Executive Vice Chancellor and University Provost José Luis Cruz as PI. Soon, we will be announcing more details of this three-year cross-CUNY program focusing on peer-to-peer faculty development and transformative pedagogy, with opportunities for adjunct, junior, and senior faculty from all CUNY’s two- and four-year campuses. Read the full announcement here.

Congratulations to Our Graduates!

Former FI Fellow (2016-2019) Jessica Murray, PhD in Developmental Psychology, successfully defended her dissertation, “Self-Determination in Transportation: The Route to Social Inclusion for People with Disabilities,” on August 19, 2020. Her digital project, Our Mobility, is a research study designed to learn more about individual differences in mobility in NYC. FI Fellow (2018-2020) Siqi Tu, PhD in Sociology successfully defended “Destination Diploma: How Chinese Upper-Middle Class Families ‘Outsource’ Secondary Education to the United States,” which investigates why and how Chinese upper-middle-class families make decisions to send their children to the United States to attend private high schools. In his dissertation, “The Temporal Dynamics of Ensemble Perception,” FI Fellow (2019-2020) Michael Epstein, PhD in Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience, explores the temporal dynamics of ensemble perception, the ability for the visual system to extract the statistical information from groups of objects. Using behavioral and neuroimaging measures Epstein provides evidence that ensemble perception is an early and continuously updating process within vision. Congratulations to Drs. Murray, Tu, and Epstein!

It has been an honor to work alongside such inspiring and ambitious colleagues at the Futures Initiative. If I could describe them in one word, it would be “fierce.” They are fierce collaborators, mentors, and social justice warriors. Their volunteerism, flexibility and generosity are unmatched. What astonishes me is how we found the strength to continue fighting for positive changes in higher education despite having to reimagine, in short order, how best to do that in a global health crisis. I know we will bring that same joy and ferocity to our work in the 2020-2021 academic year.


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