San Diego Business Journal

One bright spot on the educational horizon is an organization called HASTAC.

Founded at Duke University and The California Institute for the Humanities – and by some of the best and brightest faculty in other universities across the U.S. – HASTAC stands for the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Collaboratory.

Borne of the anxiety about the future of the humanities in a technological age, Cathy Davidson, then vice provost at Duke University, and David Goldberg, director of the University of California Humanities Research Institute and a handful of like-minded academics, argued for “a new alliance of humanists, artists, social scientists, natural scientists and engineers, 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, multimedia exhibits, research papers and conferences that are compelling in themselves, but importantly underscore the vital importance of rethinking not only post-secondary education, but all our systems of education.

Thanks to a grant from the

MacArthur Foundation, HASTAC is now reimagining learning, encouraging faculty and students to cross disciplines to produce initiatives in competition for the MacArthur prizes.

Radical Solutions

Globalization, the worldwide spread of the Internet, and university stagnation have all combined to spell disaster for our institutions of higher learning and America’s future. We need to re-evaluate the way people think and reimagine 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.

Like C.P. Snow’s “The Two Cultures,” HASTAC is and has been blurring the lines between the disciplines of art and science. That divide, Natalie Angier of The New York Times said earlier last year, “continues to this day, particularly in the United States, as educators, policymakers and other observers bemoan the Balkanization of knowledge, the scientific illiteracy of the general public and the chronic academic turf wars that are all too easily lampooned.”

The IIT Institute of Design in Chicago reportedly has found a way to “bridge the chasm between business and design.” It defines design as “a core methodology of innovation” and as such, it argues, represents the key to new inventions and innovation itself. Business schools across America are rethinking their curricula, too, as the Master of Fine Arts is as valued to business as the revered M.B.A.

Fusion Thinking

Dartmouth College is exploring “Mathematics Across the Curriculum,” linking mathematics with a humanistic discipline in more than 16 disciplines; and the University of Michigan is merging humanities courses into its engineering curriculum.

Angier reported “the most ambitious of these exercises in fusion thinking is a program under development at Binghamton University in New York called their New Humanities Initiative,” which bring the arts and humanities faculty together with faculty from all the sciences to offer interdisciplinary seminars with the hope of creating whole-brain, creative thinking.

HASTAC does all that – and is now poised to turn education upside down, to renew and reinvent 21st century education.

Now it is time to move HASTAC initiatives from concept to reality, from a unique collaboration to a vital force for change. By creating HASTAC Centers of Excellence at every university, large and small; attracting more students and increasing faculty participation from every school, department and college; and offering course credit for what is certain to be the basis for new curricula to meet the need of what is now a global, knowledge based world we can begin the process.

For more information go to

John M. Eger is Van Deerlin Endowed Chair of Communications and Public policy in the School of Journalism and Media Studies at San Diego State University and Director of The Creative Economy Initiative.