A New University Collaboration called HASTAC

11/10/2010 04:21 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • John M. Eger Van Deerlin Endowed Chair of Communications and Public Policy at San Diego State University (SDSU), was principal adviser to the President for telecommunications policy

It's really not that new. But the Collaboration can renew and reinvent the University.

HASTAC (for Humanities, Art, Science, Technology, Advanced Collaboratory) was actually founded in 2002 by Cathy Davidson, then Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke University and David Theo Goldberg, Director of the University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI).

After a meeting where educators were expressing anxiety about the diminished role of humanistic learning in the Information Age, Davidson and Goldberg wrote an influential essay, that argued that "today's new, global forms of communication and online learning are so complex and potentially so revolutionary that they demand a new alliance of humanists, artists, social scientists, natural scientists, and engineers, working collaboratively."

The changes in our Information Age, they said, require us to think and act collectively to envision new ways of learning that can serve the goals of a global society. Thus, "a new alliance
of humanists, artists, social scientists, natural scientists, and engineers," was formed 'working collaboratively to envision new ways of learning that can serve the goals of a global society."

HASTAC has been attracting the best and the brightest from universities across the country, and in the process, producing cutting edge documentaries, multi-media exhibits, research papers and conferences that are compelling in themselves, but importantly underscore the vital importance of re-thinking not only post secondary education, but all our systems of education.

Thanks to a grant from the MacArthur Foundation, HASTAC is now re-imagining learning, encouraging faculty and students to cross disciplines to produce initiatives in competition for the MacArthur prizes.

Given the painful cuts in education our systems face, only radical solutions will meet the challenges before us. Globalization, the worldwide spread of the Internet, and University stagnation has all combined to spell disaster for our institutions of higher learning and America's future.

We need to rethink the way people think and re-imagine learning.

And we need to bridge the "two cultures" of art and science that have separated our educational systems and the potential of the human mind.

Now it is time however to move HASTAC initiatives from concept to reality, from a unique collaboration to a vital force for change.

Can other Universities create their own HASTAC; and importantly, can these interdisciplinary projects become courses that can be offered as electives?

In this way maybe we can help change the core curriculum and in the process, help Universities reinvent themselves for the creative and innovative age.