Cathy Davidson—a leader in digital humanities who has held various positions at Duke over 25 years—has announced that she will join the faculty of the Graduate Center at the City University of New York in order to pursue her interest in public education.
Davidson, the Ruth F. DeVarney Professor of English and the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies, received national media attention for her decision. Beginning in July, she will direct the Futures Initiative—a CUNY-wide program promoting collaborative innovation in higher education—and hold an academic appointment in the Graduate Center’s English Ph.D. program.
“Even though I will always be a Blue Devil at heart, I am incredibly excited about this opportunity,” Davidson said. “I chose this new position because of one word: scale. CUNY is the largest public university in America, and working there will allow me to reach over 200,000 undergraduates.”
Davidson, who has written or edited more than 20 books and was recently appointed to the National Council on the Humanities by President Barack Obama, noted that she has always had a strong interest in public education.
“Funding for public education has been decreasing for the last 50 years,” Davidson said. “I am passionately committed to refunding public education. I firmly believe that you cannot have a strong democracy or civil society without a strong public education system. The podium from which you speak matters, and I will be a better advocate for public education from my position at CUNY than I could have been at Duke.”
Davidson dedicated much of her time at Duke to promoting innovative teaching and integrating technology into education, serving as the University’s first vice provost for interdisciplinary studies from 1998 to 2006 and co-founding the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute in 1999. Her new position will allow her to carry her work with educational technology to the public sphere.
“Her expertise in teaching innovation, technology and interdisciplinary scholarship dovetails with our strengths, particularly as a graduate school focused on Ph.D. education,” said Chase Robinson, interim president of the Graduate School at CUNY.
Long interested in technology and collaborative learning, Davidson helped develop more than 70 new collaborative programs in her time as vice provost.
“She was always interested in exploring new frontiers in academia, across a wide array of subject areas,” said David Sparks, Graduate School ‘13 and one of Davidson’s postdoctoral students. “She really believed in creating a world where different approaches to teaching and learning were valued, and where interdisciplinarity wasn’t just permitted, but encouraged.”
Davidson is also a co-director of the Ph.D Lab in Digital Knowledge and a co-founding director of the Humanities, Arts, Technology and Science Alliance and Collaboratory, an international digital learning network with more than 11,000 members. The HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competitions that she helps direct every year have awarded more than $10 million in funding to 100 innovation projects worldwide.
“Through her work with HASTAC, including the scholars program that brings together graduate students across disciplines, she was able to connect the Duke community with many other scholars in the digital humanities, new media studies and related fields,” said Patrick Jagoda, Graduate School ‘10 and a postdoctoral student under Davidson.
Although Davidson has held a variety of positions on campus, she noted that her favorite role is that of a teacher.
“My first love is and always will be for teaching, and particularly student-designed teaching,” Davidson said.
Her husband, Ken Wissoker, is the editorial director of Duke University Press and will also be moving to CUNY. He will take the position of Director of Intellectual Publics at the Graduate Center. He will continue in his position at the Duke University Press from New York.
Davidson will remain involved with Duke after her transition to CUNY, hosting six workshops as a visiting professor and continuing to direct the portion of the HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning group that will remain at Duke.