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Building an Undergraduate Curriculum in the Digital Humanities at Seton Hall  

Mary Balkun in a discussionFour years ago, Mary McAleer Balkun, Ph.D., (English Department) and Marta Mestrovic Deyrup, Ph.D.,(University Libraries), aware of the impact that data studies was having on higher education, became convinced that the digital humanities—a discipline that combines computing and the liberal arts—should become part of the undergraduate curriculum at Seton Hall, just as it had at other universities. In this model of education, digital and computing skills, such as data mining, data visualization, geospatial analysis and mapping, and digital publishing, are fused with traditional humanities skills: critical thinking, analysis, synthesis, narrative, and creation/making—a powerful combination for any undergraduate who wants a career that builds on both strengths. 

William Connell headshotIn 2015, with the approval of then provost, Larry Robinson Ph.D., they organized a series of lectures and hands-on workshops on the digital humanities for faculty on the South Orange campus. Over the next three years, approximately 30 faculty members went through the program and several went on to receive outside funding for their work. The most significant grant was received by William Connell, Professor of History, who was named a 2019 Andrew Carnegie Fellow and awarded $200,000 for his DH project, Tracking Migrant Labor in Renaissance Florence. In this same three-year period, Balkun and Deyrup, building on a similar interest shown by other state educational institutions, founded the New Jersey Digital Humanities Consortium, a group of faculty, librarians and instructional designers who meet to share information about digitization efforts at their state institutions. The consortium includes Rutgers University New Brunswick, Rutgers University Newark, Ramapo College, Princeton University, Montclair State University, Drew University, as well as the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton. Balkun and Deyrup also edited and contributed a chapter on these developments to the forthcoming book, Transformative Projects in the Digital Humanities, to be published by Routledge in 2020.

Since fall 2018, digital humanities has been supported by the College of Arts and Sciences. In 2018-19, six faculty members from the Department of History met in monthly workshops with the goal of incorporating digital humanities skills and tools into their courses. Balkun and Deyrup have also developed a certificate program in the digital humanities and data studies for students, which will be submitted for approval this fall. This undergraduate certificate consists of four academic courses plus a 3-credit internship. Of these, two courses must be from computing and data science and two from other disciplines. 

Balkun and Deyrup have received three grants to support digital humanities at Seton Hall: one is from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities and two others—from Bringing Theory to Practice and the Booth Ferris Foundation—are in partnership with Ramapo College. The two latter grants, in addition to continued support from the College of Arts and Sciences, will allow 15 more SHU faculty members to pursue the development of digital humanities skills in their courses. They will work alongside faculty from Ramapo College, sharing ideas, tools, and strategies, throughout the 2019-2020 academic year. 

Finally, August 18-21, 2019, eight students participated in a Great Minds Learning Experience about Digital Tools for the 21st Century Student. Led by Balkun and Prof. Greg Iannarella, the workshop introduced the students to a variety of digital tools and skills that they can use in their course work and beyond Seton Hall. The workshop received excellent reviews from the students, who said they would strongly recommend it to their peers. 

Categories: Education

For more information, please contact:

  • Marta Deyrup
  • (201) 956-2469
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