The News and Observer, John Rottet

Winner of the 2021 Annual Advocacy Award from the Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences

2019 Frederick Ness Book Prize Recipient

Cathy N. Davidson is Distinguished Professor of English and in the MA in Digital Humanities and MS in Data Analysis and Visualization at the Graduate Center, CUNY. She is Founding Director of the Futures Initiative, a program dedicated to advancing equity and innovation in higher education. She is also the R. F. DeVarney Professor Emerita of Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke University, where she served as Duke’s, and the nation’s, first Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies.

Davidson has published some twenty books including Revolution and the Word: The Rise of the Novel in America (Oxford UP); Closing: The Life and Death of an American Factory (Norton), with documentary photographer Bill Bamberger; The Future of Thinking: Learning Institutions in a Digital Age (MIT Press), with David Theo Goldberg; and Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn (Viking). Her most recent book, The New Education: How to Revolutionize Higher Education to Prepare Students for a World in Flux (Basic Books), was the recipient of the 2019 Frederick W. Ness Annual Book Prize awarded by the Association of American Colleges and Universities. She is also the winner of the 2021 Annual Advocacy Award from the Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences.

Davidson co-founded and co-directs HASTAC (“Haystack”), Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory, the world’s first and oldest academic social network (2002-present). The HASTAC community hosts nearly 18,000 members. She served on the Board of Directors of Mozilla (2012-2018) and on the National Council of the Humanities as an appointee of President Barack Obama (2011-2017). She co-directed the Digital Media and Learning Competitions sponsored by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (2006-2017). She is co-recipient of the 2012 Educator of the Year Award from the World Technology Network and the 2016 recipient of the Ernest J. Boyer Award for Significant Contributions to Higher Education. She is the recipient of the 2021 Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences Annual Advocacy Award.

Davidson travels extensively in the U.S. and abroad, lecturing and consulting on higher education transformation with students, faculty, chairs, deans, boards of trustees, and ministers of education on the effective ways to make education more equitable and relevant for today’s students. She is committed to higher education reform in support of a more just society. In 2019, she served as keynote speaker and panelist at the Nobel Prize Committee’s Forum on the Future of Learning in Santiago, Chile and will serve on the 2020 Nobel Prize Forum on The Challenges of Learning. Her current project, with Christina Katopodis, is “Transforming Every Classroom: A Practical Guide to Revolutionary Teaching and Learning” (Harvard University Press, ca. 2022).

About The Futures Initiative

In 2014, Davidson moved to the Graduate Center, The City University of New York, where she is a Distinguished Professor and Founding Director of the Futures Initiative. Dedicated to advancing innovation and equity in higher education, the Futures Initiative champions public re-investment in higher education as a social good necessary for a progressive, democratic society. Graduate Center President Chase F. Robinson has noted that Davidson’s move to CUNY, the largest public urban university system in the nation, “provides the ideal incubator for her visionary ideas about twenty-first-century learning and teaching.”

The iPod Experiment and Other Innovations at Duke University

As Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies (the first at Duke or at any university), Davidson was charged with creating innovative programs across all of the boundaries of the university’s undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools and in partnership with other universities and the community. She worked with faculty and students to design over seventy collaborative cutting-edge programs, including the Program in Information Science and Studies and the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience as well as the University Scholars Program (in partnership with and supported by Duke alumna and former trustee, Melinda French Gates).  

At Duke, these innovations included the famous “iPod experiment.” In 2004. incoming Duke students were given free iPods and challenged to design an array of new learning applications for what, at the time, was billed solely as a popular “music listening device.” Duke students invented dozens of educational uses for the iPod, held the world’s first academic “podcasting” conference, and beta-developed bi-directional broadcasting (what would become iTunes U) and video capacities.  She has written about this experiment as “Project Classroom Makeover” in her influential Now You See It, which was named a “top 10 science book” of the year by Publisher’s Weekly.  


Davidson is the co-founder and director (2002-2017; now co-director) of the world’s first and oldest academic social network, the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory ( or “haystack”). Since 2002, HASTAC has grown to over 16,500 members dedicated to “Changing the Way We Teach and Learn” under the motto “Difference is our operating system.”  She is a frequent speaker at academic, public, and corporate events around the world, including in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Hong Kong, Italy, Kuala Lumpur, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, Thailand, and the UK.

With HASTAC co-founder David Theo Goldberg, Davidson is co-PI of the Digital Media and Learning Competitions, administered by HASTAC and supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. These competitions have awarded more than $13 million in grant funding to support 100 innovative projects around the world. She and Goldberg were recipients of the 2012 Educator of the Year Award from the World Technology Network for “Visionary Contribution to Science and Technology in Education.”  


Davidson blogs regularly as Cat in the Stack on You can follow @CathyNDavidson on Twitter.

For speaking engagements, Cathy Davidson is represented by Leigh Bureau.

For publishing and book rights, Cathy Davidson is represented by Mullane Literary Associates.

In honor of the publication of The New Education, the author contributes to a scholarship fund established at the Graduate Center, CUNY.