My Letter to the Futures Initiative

November 22, 2021


Dear Colleagues:


In the last few months, starting in August, I have made the incredible transition of being a Futures Initiative Fellow and HASTAC Scholars Director to the Interim Associate Director of the Futures Initiative. While I have only been in this position for a few months, I have been training for this position with my education and experience for many years. The Futures Initiative’s commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion in higher education also mirror my own values and lived-experience. I am confident that this alignment has also been key to my success over the last few months. My prior years of experience with the Futures Initiative and my 10+ years of working in director-level positions for various non-profits in NYC have also provided me with substantial preparation to lead the Futures Initiative.


In August, I had the opportunity to display my preparation and commitment. In the face of a sudden change in leadership over the summer, and the addition of new doctoral fellows, the Futures Initiative has thrived. Despite being in the middle of a COVID-19 pandemic, I led the direction of two public-facing University Worth Fighting For (UWFF) events: The Lennihan Grant Showcase in November with 85+ RSVPs and Dissertation to First Book Discussion in October with 300+ RSVPs. I have also spearheaded efforts to increase the Futures Initiative’s reach within and beyond CUNY.


In addition to increased engagement with our public-facing events, the Futures Initiative has seen tremendous growth in our monthly newsletter subscriptions. I have also worked to increase collaboration and awareness about the Futures Initiative within the Graduate Center among our students, faculty, and administrators. After an invite from me, Provost Steve Everett joined one of our Futures Initiative team meetings in October, and expressed fantastic interest in further collaboration with our team. With my suggestion, starting in Spring 2022, the Doctoral and Graduate Student Council (DGSC) of the Graduate Center will begin to welcome information sessions at monthly plenary meetings from Initiatives & Committees, including the Futures Initiative.


I have also been working closely with Dr. David Olan, Associate Provost and Dean for Academic Affairs, and Dr. Luke Waltzer, TLC Director, on CUNY Humanities Alliance. The three of us meet bi-weekly for our team meeting to discuss progress, challenges and solutions to moving items forward related Humanities Alliance fellows, our partners at the community colleges, the CUNY Peer Leaders and the post-doc research of Dr. Sujung Kim. I have been asked to lead the charge of recruiting, interviewing and selecting a new cohort of Humanities Alliance doctoral fellows for next year. Recently, I have also been appointed to collaborate with the PublicsLab and serve on the selection committee for the Doctoral Curriculum Enhancement Grants (DCEG) for graduate students. These opportunities to collaborate with initiatives outside of the Futures Initiative have served as an excellent learning opportunity. Discussions during these meetings and collaborations have reminded me of how we are are all working together to ensure CUNY continues to thrive.


That sentiment is personally important to me since CUNY has been such a vital part of my own life. I am not new to CUNY, in any way. My grandmother worked at City College during the 1960s until she retired, and my mother is a graduate of City College, Class of 1974. My husband, a current PhD student in Computer Science at the Graduate Center, also received all of his degrees from CUNY like me. I absolutely love the education that I received at CUNY starting in 2001 to present, sincerely. If it was my decision, I would want my two young sons to be fourth-generation college students at CUNY. My past and present experiences with CUNY, including working at 7 different CUNY schools, my positionality, and my deep commitment to the Futures Initiative’s work will only serve as an asset. I am as confident of this as I am of the bold decision that I made back in 2016. I left a comfortable, six-figure salary position to apply to PhD programs. It was one of the best decisions that I ever made! When I applied to the Futures Initiative to be a doctoral fellow, that was also one of my best decisions to date.


Working behind the scenes with the Futures Initiative as a fellow, and more recently as the Interim Associate Director, has allowed me to see how challenges unexpectedly arise and how to grow from those experiences. For example, with discretion and great care, I have worked with supporting members of our team who are managing high levels of stress, anxiety and isolation. With administrative guidance, I have also worked through the early steps of managing a conflict resolution incident and identifying resources within the Graduate Center to help resolve matters that are outside of my professional training. I have also worked late into the night to ensure smooth functioning of all attributes of our program, including strategizing on how to effectively manage a reduced budget and thinking further about best practices for managing distance-based or hybrid models for program management.


Through all of the successes and challenges of these last few months, I have been incredibly grateful to the Futures Initiative’s Founding Director, Distinguished Professor Cathy Davidson. Working more closely with her has been an absolute joy! She is compassionate, reasonable and approachable. Like any supervisory relationship, we have scheduled meeting times. We text, email, meet in-person, and talk on the phone outside of our regular meeting times, too. During our meetings, we discuss day-to-day activities, but we also spend time brainstorming strategic planning ideas about how to grow the Futures Initiative within and beyond CUNY. My experiences with Cathy have demonstrated how meaningful it is to guide others, but to also step back and allow others to have space to lead. I try to mirror this thoughtful skill when I work with others on our team, including our doctoral fellows.


The Futures Initiative could not thrive without our doctoral fellows, and we couldn’t thrive without also having a competent and compassionate leader. I am confident that I am the best person for this role. In addition to supervising the current cohort of doctoral fellows, I oversaw all administrative matters and the application process for a funding call to recruit 4 additional Futures Initiative fellows, including two brand-new positions that will increase our longevity and impact. With concerted outreach efforts, a significant number of Graduate Center students have applied to join our team for 2022/2023. For example, in prior years, there have been 6 applications for one of our key positions, HASTAC Scholars Director. For this cycle, due to heavy promotion and increased student awareness about the Futures Initiative, we received 17 applications for the HASTAC Scholars Director opening.


Currently, I am also developing and overseeing the selection process related to the CFP for the Futures Initiative’s Team-Taught interdisciplinary courses for Fall 2022/Spring 2023. During this semester, I have been actively working with 8 Futures Initiative Faculty Fellows, 4 who are slated to teach courses in Spring 2022, and 4 who are teaching courses this semester at the Graduate Center. During these collaborations, I have managed course scheduling and other needs for in-person and hybrid courses that will be offered in Spring 2022. For our Fall 2021 courses, I have successfully encouraged public-facing activities from our Futures Initiative faculty. With my nudging, some have already published blog posts on our HASTAC website discussing their research and Team-Taught courses.


My work with HASTAC has also flourished. I’ve been leading the partnership with Pratt University to organize the annual HASTAC Conference. In the near future, I will partner with the HASTAC team at Dartmouth College and HASTAC’s Steering Committee to ensure a smooth process of archiving the HASTAC website and transitioning to Humanities Commons. As well, I am working on updating our bylaws and convening regular Steering Committee meetings for HASTAC and the Futures Initiative.


Unquestionably, the Futures Initiative is a leader in higher education. However, the Futures Initiative must also embrace a culture and practice of continuous evaluation to measure its impact. Before pursuing a PhD, I led evaluation for several non-profit organizations in NYC. My deep knowledge and experience with all levels of program evaluation (process, outcome and impact) will benefit the Futures Initiative. My earliest professional work experiences are in higher education and CUNY-centered. I would welcome the opportunity to continue serving CUNY and advancing the impact of the Futures Initiative at the nation’s largest urban public university as the Deputy Director of the Futures Initiative. Under my leadership, and with the support of an outstanding team, the Futures Initiative has had incredible success in a short period of time, and we are poised for much more growth.


My dissertation defense is scheduled for Spring 2022.


Best regards,

Adashima Oyo