NAC&U to Honor Cathy Davidson with Ernest L. Boyer Award

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Photograph, Artie Dixon

The New American Colleges and Universities (NAC&U) will present its 6th annual Ernest L. Boyer Award to Cathy N. Davidson, a leading interdisciplinary and technology scholar, at the AAC&U Annual Meeting opening night forum on Wednesday, January 20, 2016, in Washington, D.C. The Ernest L. Boyer Award pays tribute to Boyer’s legacy by honoring others who are making significant contributions to American higher education.

“I am deeply honored to receive the Boyer Award from NAC&U.  All of higher education demands a new form of liberal arts that integrates interdisciplinary thinking throughout the curriculum, in order to insure the most expansive, diverse, multicultural education for the complex and changing world our students face today.  The Boyer Award exemplifies that deep commitment to learning that lasts a lifetime,” said Davidson, Distinguished Professor in the City University of New York (CUNY)’s Graduate Center’s English Ph.D. program and director of the Futures Initiative, a CUNY-wide program that promotes greater equity and innovation in higher education.

With an emphasis on student-centered practices, the Futures Initiative redefines graduate preparation to include translation of specialized research into the best undergraduate teaching. The Futures Initiative also fosters greater understanding of the complexities of the higher education landscape by spearheading data-driven research in areas critical to institutional change. Through HASTAC@CUNY (a hub of the online network Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory that Davidson co-founded in 2002), the Futures Initiative extends its collaborative peer-to-peer practices across institutions, disciplines, national boundaries, and economic and social disparities, promoting reinvestment in higher education as a public good.

Prior to her work at CUNY which began in July 2014, Davidson taught for more than two decades at Duke University where she co-founded the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute. While serving as co-director of the Institute, she held two distinguished chairs, the Ruth F. DeVarney Professor of English and the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies.  She continues as the Ruth F. DeVarney Distinguished Professor Emerita of Interdisciplinary Studies.  She is the co-PI of the Digital Media and Learning Competitions administered by HASTAC and supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

From 1998-2006, Davidson served as Duke’s (and the nation’s) first vice provost of Interdisciplinary Studies, working with faculty and students to design some seventy new cross-campus programs and technologies, including the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience and the Program in Information Science and Information Studies. She has published more than 20 books and was appointed to the National Council on the Humanities in 2011.

At the AAC&U meeting, Davidson’s plenary –“Educating Higher: Toward an Equitable Innovative Future for Higher Education” – will show why there can be no true innovation in higher education without addressing the full range of issues around equity. She will discuss the need to think strategically about how to best restructure higher education for current world conditions. Davidson will demonstrate how to take immediate action to transform classrooms into egalitarian spaces designed to support student success. She will also persuade policymakers and educators to re-evaluate inherited Taylorist assumptions about the purpose of higher education in order to change institutional structures and public policies for a new model of higher education, transforming credentialing, labor practices, rankings, assessment, costs, accreditation, technology, graduate training, social justice, public support, and much more.

“Cathy Davidson’s significant accomplishments certainly qualify her as an outstanding recipient of the Ernest L. Boyer Award, and I know we are to benefit much more from her visionary ideas on how to shape teaching and learning in the 21st century,” said Nancy Hensel, president of NAC&U.

About the Ernest L. Boyer Award

Ernest L. Boyer’s impact on how we understand undergraduate education—as teachers, scholars, and learners —gave rise to NAC&U when like-minded private, comprehensive colleges, grounded in the liberal arts tradition, came together to define their distinctive mission and contribution to higher education in the early 1990s. Boyer spoke of the New American College as “integrative institutions”—ones that intentionally draw connections across the disciplines, between general education and the major, between faculty and students, between the classroom and campus life, between traditional education and the life-long learning, and between the campus and the larger world.

About The New American Colleges and Universities

Founded in 1995, The New American Colleges and Universities is a national consortium of selective, small to mid-size (2,000-7,500 students) independent colleges and universities dedicated to the purposeful integration of liberal education, professional studies, and civic engagement. To improve the quality and effectiveness of teaching and learning among its members, The New American Colleges and Universities sponsors projects and conferences, administrator and faculty affinity groups, surveys and data benchmarking, and international study programs. The New American Colleges and Universities collectively and individually are often cited as models of the intentional integration of teaching and learning, scholarship, and service. Follow them on Twitter @NACandU.

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