Press Release

AAC&U Announces the Frederic W. Ness Book Award Winner: The New College Classroom by Cathy N. Davidson and Christina Katopodis

AAC&U announced today the winner of the Frederic W. Ness Book Award, The New College Classroom, published by Harvard University Press. The Ness award is given annually to the book that best illuminates the goals and practices of a contemporary liberal education, and will be formally presented to the authors, Cathy N. Davidson and Christina Katopodis, at AAC&U’s annual meeting, on January 18, 2024, in Washington, DC. Davidson is a distinguished professor and founder of the Futures Initiative at the Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY), and senior advisor to the CUNY chancellor on transformation. Katopodis is senior postdoctoral research associate of the CUNY Humanities Alliance.

The New College Classroom helps instructors in all disciplines create an environment that is truly conducive to learning. Davidson and Katopodis translate cutting-edge research in learning science and pedagogy into ready-to-use strategies to incorporate into any course. These empirically driven, classroom-tested techniques of active learning―from the participatory syllabus and ungrading to grab-and-go activities for every day of the term―have achieved impressive results at community colleges and research universities, on campus, online, and in hybrid settings.

“This distinguished prize will certainly amplify our message in The New College Classroom,” said Davidson. “We must all take responsibility for rethinking the classroom as a space where we can model a more equitable way to learn and interact, a site of empowerment for our students, and preparation, on every level, for the challenges they face in the workplace and in society at large. Writing this book along with Christina Katopodis, a brilliant writer, thinker, and prize-winning instructor, has also meant that we are talking about pedagogy and change not just for tenured professors but for our most precarious instructors, adjunct professors, and graduate students. Our students—including this generation of graduate students—have inherited a world and a system of higher education in desperate need of repair and solutions. I am confident this Ness award will throw light on the possibilities for transformation.”

“I’m deeply honored that this book has been seen and recognized by AAC&U, an association I respect and admire,” said Katopodis. “The research and writing of the book with Cathy N. Davidson have been a collaboration of a lifetime. Being able to share it with the world has been so gratifying, and now, it is a dream come true. I am fortunate to be a part of CUNY, where I have learned, experimented with, and practiced so much of what is in this book.”

This year’s Ness award winner was selected by a committee of higher education leaders: Kathleen Woodward (committee chair), Lockwood Professor in the Humanities, professor of English, and director of the Simpson Center for the Humanities at the University of Washington; Adam Bush, co-founder and president of College Unbound; Jessica Riddell, Stephen A. Jarislowsky Chair of Undergraduate Teaching Excellence at Bishop’s University; and Lynn Pasquerella, president of AAC&U.

“Among a very strong pool of nominees, The New College Classroom stood out for its optimism, intended audience, and broad claims,” said Pasquerella. “The book combines deep theory and thoughtful critique with an eminent practicality and an appeal to ‘radical hope’—an important message at this moment in time.”

Established in 1979 to honor AAC&U’s ninth president, the Frederic W. Ness Book Award recognizes outstanding contributions to the understanding and improvement of liberal education. Recent award winners include Fugitive Pedagogy: Carter G. Woodson and the Art of Black Teaching by Jarvis R. Givens; The Campus Color Line: College Presidents and the Struggle for Black Freedom by Eddie R. Cole; Jim Crow Campus: Higher Education and the Struggle for a New Southern Social Order by Joy Ann Williamson-Lott; and The New Education: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World in Flux by Cathy N. Davidson. Davidson is the only person to have authored more than one Ness Award–winning book in the forty-four-year history of the award.

About AAC&U

The American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) is a global membership organization dedicated to advancing the democratic purposes of higher education by promoting equity, innovation, and excellence in liberal education. Through our programs and events, publications and research, public advocacy, and campus-based projects, AAC&U serves as a catalyst and facilitator for innovations that improve educational quality and equity and that support the success of all students. In addition to accredited public and private, two-year, and four-year colleges and universities and state higher education systems and agencies throughout the United States, our membership includes degree-granting higher education institutions in more than twenty-five countries as well as other organizations and individuals. To learn more, visit