Celebrating the Conclusion of the Mellon “Crossing Boundaries” Grant

Emily Sherwood is the Director of the Digital Scholarship Lab at University of Rochester

Emily Sherwood is the Director of the Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Rochester.

October 17, 2018

In the spring of 2012, the Mellon Foundation awarded St. Lawrence University $700,000 to fund the project entitled “Crossing Boundaries: Re-envisioning the Humanities for the 21st Century.” Eighteen months earlier, then Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs Val Lehr had convened a group of faculty from the humanities and arts to respond to the call from Mellon to explore ways to revive the humanities on college campuses. After a year of discussion, the proposal submitted outlined an ambitious project to engage faculty and students in explorations of interdisciplinary approaches to the humanities and the entire curriculum through increased collaboration and through both digital and analog projects. Since the award, faculty and staff continued the discussion, debates, and innovations envisioned in those initial meetings. Many projects from interdisciplinary and intercultural enhancement of off-campus study to integrating student learning across disciplinary boundaries to an exploration of the digital humanities have been supported by this grant and the hard work of many colleagues. In the past four years, the focus has increasingly been on digital scholarship, both as pedagogy and research. On 4 May 2018, project partners and guests gathered to celebrate the conclusion of the grant funding, but not of the projects fostered by the grants.

Judith DeGroat, Associate Professor of History and current Director of the project opened the event by noting the many ways that the work of digital scholarship will continue: in courses, in discussions, in a working group “The Digital Scholarship Lab” open to all, as well as in the soon to be completed Digital Projects Lab in ODY 125A. In addition, she reminded those gathered that the faculty had recently passed a tenth learning goal that requires students to develop “a capacity to examine critically the relationship between humans and technologies” and the digital scholarship will be central of achieving that goal. Finally, DeGroat offered thanks to the many participants and contributors to the work of the “Crossing Boundaries” project:

"The first directors, Marina Llorente, Mark McWilliams, and Richard Jenseth. Brush Art Gallery Director, Cathy Tedford, Project assistants past and current: Matt Lavin, Leila Walker, and Natalie Cainaru. Support from the administration has been essential: thanks to Val Lehr, Karl Schonberg and Justin Sipher – vice presidents and deans with vision. Carol Smith of Corporations and Foundations has been indispensable with her timely assistance, great advice. Last, but most importantly, I want to thank the colleague who has taught me and many others so much about the digital world. Without his innovation, commitment to collaboration, and infinite patience, we would not have digital scholarship at St. Lawrence University. My deepest gratitude to the Director of Digital Initiatives, Eric Williams-Bergen."

Karl Schonberg, Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs then placed the project in the wider context of SLU’s mission for education in the twenty-first century. Colleagues who received support from the grant funds – David Henderson, Associate Professor of Music, Eloise Brezault, Assistant Professor of African and Francophone Studies, Jeff Maynes, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, and Emlyn Crocker, “Nature Up North” Project Manager – shared the projects that they developed for their own scholarship and teaching.

Next, alumni Matt Gardzina, ‘95 Director of Digital Pedogogy and Scholarship at Bucknell University introduced the day’s guest speaker, Dr. Emily Sherwood, Director of the Digital Scholarship Lab at the Library of the University of Rochester. In a talk entitled “Digital Scholarship: Advancing the Liberal Arts,” Dr. Sherwood offered a close reading of SLU’s learning goals and strategic mission illustrated by examples of digital projects that she has fostered in her work. She then identified the many ways that digital projects supported those goals:

If we think for a moment about the projects we’ve seen discussed today—the work your colleagues are doing, the work the students are doing—we begin to see how digital scholarship doesn’t just encourage students to examine “the relationship between humans and technology,” as seen in your new learning goal, but it helps fulfill a range of St. Lawrence learning goals.

In writing for a public audience, students must learn to “speak and write clearly, articulately, and persuasively”

Engaging with and creating new resources helps students “evaluate and communicate information

For example, students working on “Nature up North” “integrate knowledge from multiple perspectives” in order to understand “the complexity and diversity of the natural world.”

Of necessity, digital scholarship requires students to work “independently and collaboratively” bringing their individual expertise of a field to strengthen a project that draws on a range of perspectives.

Comparing the impact of digital scholarship on students and faculty to the configuration of a rhizome, Sherwood concluded that “by drawing on our common values and our range of strengths to provide support for digital scholarship, for advancing innovative teaching and learning, we can help our students realize their ‘purpose and intellectual promise.’”

A lively reception followed.

Last updated
October 17, 2018

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