Fiona Barnett, Director of HASTAC Scholars, receives AAC&U Cross Future Leaders Award

Fiona Barnett, Director of HASTAC Scholars, receives AAC&U Cross Future Leaders Award

Fiona Barnett, Director of the HASTAC Scholars Program and graduate student in Duke University’s Literature Program, has been honored with the K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award, which recognizes graduate students who demonstrate a commitment to developing academic and civic responsibility in themselves and others, and whose work reflects a strong emphasis on teaching and learning.

The K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award, which is bestowed by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), recognizes graduate students who show exemplary promise as future leaders of higher education; who demonstrate a commitment to developing academic and civic responsibility in themselves and others; and whose work reflects a strong emphasis on teaching and learning. Barnett was nominated by Julie Thompson Klein, Professor of Humanities in the English Department and Faculty Fellow for Interdisciplinary Development in the Division of Research at Wayne State University, and Cathy Davidson, John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke University and co-founder of HASTAC. This year, 261 students were nominated for the Cross Award, and seven awards were granted. Read more about this year’s recipients.
Klein highlighted Fiona's innovative coupling of community building and collaborative learning with new forms of scholarly communication and institutional change. “She, and those she mentors, are powerful change agents in realizing a central value of the AAC&U mission in digital environments: fostering 'liberal arts of translation' and a new 'relational pluralism' mediated through dialogue,” Klein said.
Klein highlighted Barnett’s innovative coupling of community building and collaborative learning with new forms of scholarly communication and institutional change. “Her record of achievement demonstrates excellence in two central criteria of the K. Patricia Cross Award: leadership in teaching and learning, and the development of others." She also underscored that "Fiona continues to play an instrumental role in shaping the future change agents of higher education. Indeed, HASTAC Scholars are already forging new pedagogies and formats of learning on their campuses, as graduate teaching assistants and junior faculty. They are making a difference, and that capacity stems in no small part from Fiona’s steadfast devotion to cultivating a genuinely collaborative community."
Since Barnett became the Director of the HASTAC Scholars Program in 2009, she has mentored more than 650 Scholars (80% graduate students), from 120+ institutions and 50 disciplines and departments, in HASTAC’s innovative online learning and professional network. She has helped prepare HASTAC Scholars for their own futures as professors and in alt-ac roles. She has grown them into an engaged community, with more than 500 Scholar-authored blog posts on HASTAC. She has overseen 23 HASTAC Scholars Forums for the public on topics ranging from “Pedagogical Ethics in a Digital Age” to “Race, Ethnicity, and Diaspora in the Digital Age” to “Democratizing Knowledge.” At conferences, she provides opportunities for the distributed HASTAC community to meet face-to-face.
“The HASTAC Scholars are the future of interdisciplinary pedagogy and research—and Fiona charts that cutting edge,” said Cathy Davidson. “She is truly inspirational to all who meet her.  I can think of no one more deserving of the Cross Future Leaders Award, and we at HASTAC are all thrilled by this recognition of her work and her leadership of the student network of our organization.” 
“Fiona Barnett exemplifies mentorship and leadership in our new media age,” said Margaret Rhee, HASTAC Scholar and graduate student in ethnic studies and new media studies at UC-Berkeley. “Fiona's ability to embrace and support 'difference' among a radically diverse group of graduate students has prompted some of the most dynamic learning experiences of my academic career. And like all the leaders at HASTAC, Fiona exemplifies a model of mentorship that is innovative, engaged, and generous. Through her motto, "Difference is Our Operating System," Fiona fosters different intellectual questions that invigorate our fields of new media and digital studies, with rigorous and exciting intellectual directions. Working with Fiona has been a transformative experience which signaled to me not only that feminist and queer new media studies is viable and important, but also that we can work together in an intellectual community to help foster these conversations. Fiona Barnett models for me, and so many others, how mentorship and leadership are alive, dynamic, and yes, different in our digital age.”
Barnett’s scholarly work is at the intersection of science and technology studies, feminist and queer theory, critical theory and visual studies. She is currently writing her dissertation, Turning the Body Inside Out, a critical history of how and why we look inside the body through technologies such as autopsies, x-rays and DNA. Through a series of historical examples and contemporary situations, she argues that what we often take as a scientific investigation is shaped by – and shapes – discourses about identity such as race, gender and sexuality. She also works on other projects in the digital humanities, such as the #transformDH movement.
The awards are named in honor of K. Patricia Cross, David Gardner Professor of Higher Education, Emerita, at the University of California, Berkeley.  From 1996 through 2005, the K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Awards were administered by the American Association for Higher Education, where Professor Cross had served as Chair of AAHE’s Board of Directors. Learn more at

Other responses from HASTAC Scholars (add your own in the comments!):

Fiona's clear vision, tireless effort and warm kindness has been central to making my experience of HASTAC such an amazing experience. Her talk at the recent #transformDH panel at the ASA in Puerto Rico demonstrated how her work with HASTAC is part of an ongoing praxis of thought, hard work and a commitment to social justice that I have a deep respect for. 
--Micha Cardenas, PhD Student in iMAP at USC
Fiona has been a stellar HASTAC Scholars Director. I've known her since before she started the position. From the moment she started working with Cathy Davidson, she has played an absolutely integral part in building and sustaining the HASTAC community. Her energy, knowledge, warmth, and tech savvy have helped transform the organization from a fantastic idea into multi-institutional success. I could not imagine someone who is more deserving of the Future Leaders Award.
--Patrick Jagoda, Assistant Professor and Co-editor of Critical Inquiry, University of Chicago
Fiona has been a generous, thoughtful mentor and community manager. The challenges of coordinating an incredibly-large social effort like HASTAC Scholars cannot be emphasised enough; she rose to them and turned the program into a complete success. Fiona did not come into the scholarly web as an outsider carrying previous or more traditional paradigms, she understands the open, global, diverse, rhyzomatic nature of contemporary scholarly communications. This recognition could not be more deserved!
--Ernesto Priego, Lecturer in Library Science, City University London


Congrats, Fiona! Such wonderful news. I'm glad to see the AAC&U recognizing your innovative research and activism. We've all learned so much from you and your work.  


Congratulations! You deserve all the recognition!


HASTAC is an amazing learning and social opportunity. We can interact and learn with all. For making this chance available, we all know how much of know that you dedicate your own time and energy more than anyone else. The award is more than deserved !! I hope many others follow your passion, dedication and model !! Thank you!


Wonderful news and so well deserved! The amount of work that you have done for HASTAC scholars is tremendous and is such a meaningful contribution to the community. Thank you and congrats again!


Congratulations and well-deserved!


Brilliant news - so well deserved!


Congratulations Fiona, you have more than earned such a great award. You manage to preside over every group of scholars as if we were merely a classroom sized group in the same college instead of a community of hundreds of scholars from a variety of geographic locations. A great feat in and of itself.


Congratulations on this fine recognition. Well done!




Thank you so much everyone! It's truly an honor to work with such amazing people, and I've learned so much from all of you. But really this is a recognition of the amazing community that we've formed together -- there is no such thing as a 'leader' in a collaborative community like this. I love helping to organize behind the scenes, but the strength of the community only comes from the community members -- YOU!

Thank you all for taking a leap and trying to build this new kind of academic and scholarly collaborative community. It's been a crazy few years and it feels like we've turned a corner in terms of strength and visibility. I look forward to continuing to reimagine how we can build academia to be more collaborative, committed to a diversity of voices and ideas, and full of innovative projects. Thanks for all of your energy!