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Apply Now: Mapping the Futures of Higher Education with Professors Cathy Davidson and Bill Kelly

Apply Now: Mapping the Futures of Higher Education with Professors Cathy Davidson and Bill Kelly




“Mapping the Futures of Higher Education”

The Graduate Center, CUNY (IDS 70200);* crosslisted in 8 departments**

Tuesday 4:15-6:15

Professors Cathy Davidson and William Kelly


The 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) who will be teaching during S 2015 at one of CUNY’s colleges or community colleges. The assumption is that much of the apparatus of modern higher education was developed roughly between 1865 and 1925,  in and for the Taylorized Industrial Age.  We need to be thinking together about content and methods better suited to the world we live in now.  


As is the case with the larger Futures Initiative, this course looks in two directions at once. First, it examines and then puts into practice a range of peer-driven and collaborative pedagogies across disciplines. Second, it focuses on the role and requirements of 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 of public education? 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, in this course?)


Graduate students in the course will be implementing the learning innovations we research and discuss in their own classrooms.  Students in those classrooms will be working on a public, open website in which they can discuss their own learning styles, the innovative methods we are exploring together, and the contribution their learning makes to soceity.  We will be creating a learning network across all the courses and sponsoring one collective, interdisciplinary online project, the “CUNY Map of New York” that is a cartography of the university's contribution to the community--and vice versa.   All of this will be driven by a student-designed syllabus that embodies the course’s core peer-learning collaborative methods.


*All graduate students 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.


**3 or 4 credits (depending on the crosslisting department)

Crosslisted: Anthropology (ANTH 80600), Art History (ART 80010), Comparative Literature (CL 80100), Critical Social/Personality Psychology (PSY  80103), Earth and Environmental Sciences (EA 79903), English (ENGL 89010), Music (MUS 8260), Urban Education (UED 75200)

Permission form: Please submit by December 1, 2014

Admission by Permission of the Instructor:  Only 12-15 students maximum will be admitted in this first course offering.  The goal is to have as diverse a cohort as possible, with students coming from as many crosslisting departments as possible and also teaching at the widest possible range of CUNY colleges or community colleges during the Spring 2015 semester.  To that end, students interested in taking the course will need to complete a simple survey with this information.  Students seeking admission should apply online by December 1, 2014:


Please contact Ms. Lauren Melendez (, Administrative Specialist for the Futures Initiative, if you have any additional questions.

Students will be notified that they have been admitted to the course by December 10, 2014.

Students not admitted to the course will be invited to take part in a non-credit series of public peer-learning workshops hosted by the course participants.



Because this is a peer-driven, student-led, cross-disciplinary course, the syllabus will be created by the class participants.  During the Fall 2014, a collaborative “syllabus” has been generated at a number of public events and will serve as a resource for the course:


All students in the course will be required to:

  • Work with a partner and, in tandem, be responsible for all aspects of one unit (presumably one class meeting) in the course. This might include (but is not restricted to):

    • Selecting and assigning a field-specific reading and one or two pedagogical readings (theoretical, practical, or both) applicable to innovative teaching in that field.

    • Designing one active, experiential, interactive, or other learning experience to help the students in IDS 70200 understand some aspect of their research

    • Serving as a guide and an adviser to all the graduate students in the class who will be adapting a version of this learning exercise in their own classes taught in one of the CUNY colleges or community colleges

    • Being the lead contributor to a full online lesson plan (with resources), assessment (qualitative or quantitative), discussion, analysis, or other public document that guides others beyond our course who may want to learn from this pedagogical experiment.


In addition, in lieu of a final research paper or a final exam, students will:

  • Write a syllabus for their own peer-led, collaborative course in their field and post it to our public website as a resource for others.

  • Contribute biweekly public blogs about how learning theory is working out in practice in their courses and how the pedagogy is or is not contributing to a fuller, richer model of higher education and knowledge for the benefit of society.

  • Guide their students in their own course in one of the CUNY colleges or community colleges through all the innovative experiments proposed by the other students in the class, including their participation in a public blog on which they offer constructive feedback on this collaborative learning effort.

  • Guide their students in participating in our joint project populating the portfolio of mapping and data visualization projects that we are calling the “CUNY Map of New York.”  We are aiming high: The purpose of this project is to make a public contribution to knowledge and to society.

  • Work with their students on a year-end final, project featuring their contribution to a CUNY Map of New York

For students taking the course for four credits, there is an additional assignment (optional for those taking the class for three credits):

  • Work with their students and colleagues in IDS 70200 for some final, collaborative, public presentation of the whole “Mapping the Futures of Higher Education” project in an onsite exhibit at the Graduate Center.




We are working on assessment methods as complex and varied as the course. We will be adding a section on assessment after our Dec 8 workshop with Dr. Anthony Picciano.


*   *   * 

Facts and figures about CUNY:

  • Over 80% of CUNY graduates complete their degrees with no tuition debt
  • 65 percent of full-time CUNY undergraduates pay no tuition
  • 45% of CUNY undergraduates are the first generation in their family to attend college
  • 40% were born outside the US mainland
  • 42% have a native language other than English
  • CUNY students hail from 205 countries and speak over 190 languages
  • 54% are Pell grant recipients
  • 39% have household incomes less than $20,000
  • Three quarters of CUNY freshmen come from New York City high schools

Important aspects of the Graduate Center that make it the perfect site for the Futures Initiative:  

  • Almost 60% of the Graduate Center’s doctoral alumni remain and work in the New York City area, three-quarters of whom are employed in education
  • As many as 1,700 doctoral graduates from the past ten years alone work at the hundreds of educational institutions in the New York City area
  • After CUNY, the educational institutions in the New York area employing the most GC alumni are New York University, Columbia University, Adelphi University, Fordham University, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Marymount Manhattan College, Montclair State University, St. John’s University, William Patterson University, and Yeshiva University (Source: 2014 GC alumni search)
  • An estimated 7,000 of the Graduate Center’s doctoral graduates are employed in the New York City area, with 5000 employed by postsecondary institutions.

Doctoral students and alumni teaching within the CUNY system:

  • The Graduate Center's doctoral students teach approximately 7,700 courses (with enrollment of about 200,000 students) annually in the CUNY system
  • 75% of those courses are at the CUNY senior colleges
  • GC students spend 28,759 hours in the classroom each week with CUNY students across the five bouroughs
  • An estimated 1,600 GC alumni have been hired as faculty in the CUNY system

Data courtesty of the CUNY Office of Policy Research unless otherwise specified.


ABOUT the Cost of Higher Education

  • Public funding of higher education is one of the best investments governments can make:  In June 26, 2013 New York Times piece on the cost of higher education, Eduardo Porter noted: "According to the O.E.C.D., [federal, state, and municipal governments] make a profit of $231,000 on each American who graduates from college--mostly through higher income taxes and lower unemployment benefits."
  • "For all the cost of higher education, on any level, the investment by students is still worth the price:  In the same New York Times article Porter writes:  "According to the OECD's report, a college degree is worth $365,000 for the average American man after subtracting all its direct and indirect costs over a lifetime.  For women--who still tend to earn less than men--it's worth $185,000."
  • For a fuller discussion, see "Why Does College Cost So Much--And Why Do So Many Pundits Get It Wrong?"





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