Grinnell College and the University of Iowa have received a $1.6 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to develop humanities-centered collaborations that expand the use of digital technology among faculty and students.
The new partnership is distinctive because it is the first time the Mellon Foundation has supported a collaborative digital project between a private liberal arts college and a public research university — institutions with different missions and strengths.
"The project, titled "Digital Bridges for Humanistic Inquiry," will support increased integration of digital resources into the undergraduate curriculum at Grinnell and the UI over four years. The grant will support creative collaboration between Grinnell and the UI involving faculty, postdocs, graduate students, undergraduate students, library faculty and staff, and IT staff.
"The faculties of Grinnell College and the University of Iowa have different institutional environments but a shared commitment to scholarship, teaching and public engagement," says Erik Simpson, professor of English and principal investigator for the grant at Grinnell.
"This grant will enable us to build on the digital projects already underway at both schools to establish new communities of thought and practice. Teams involving faculty, staff, students, and community partners will be able to use digital tools to produce new forms of analysis, creativity, and critique that are fundamental to our disciplines."
Through this initiative, faculty members in the humanities will build their digital skills, develop innovative new courses, and collaborate with students on ambitious digital projects and research programs. The project also will provide support for UI graduate student instructional technology assistants who will help faculty incorporate digital technology into their courses, and the creation of postdoctoral positions at UI to train future faculty for careers in the digital liberal arts and public humanities.
"This is a tremendous opportunity for faculty to bring new, innovative approaches into their teaching and scholarship. The benefits for students will be transformative as well," says Michael Latham, vice president of academic affairs and dean of Grinnell College. "As they use new technological resources to study the humanities, they will also develop greater digital literacy, gain valuable skills in collaborative writing and research, and create knowledge for broader, public audiences. Those experiences will serve them well throughout their professional lives."
Grinnell students already are developing digital literacy through research projects such as "Mapping the Global Renaissance." Directed by James Lee, assistant professor of English, this project applies "big data" techniques (natural language processing algorithms, data mining, topic modeling, and mapping) to examine 50,000 early modern texts. By using these techniques to analyze early modern England's early representations of different people and their geographical contexts around the world, students acquire a better understanding of how race and racial differences were understood at that time.
UI students also are gaining digital literacy through the university's Public Humanities in a Digital World initiative, the Digital Studio for Public Arts and Humanities and the new graduate Digital Humanities Certificate. Roy J. Carver Professor Ed Folsom is co-founder of one of the nation's earliest and most successful digital projects, The Walt Whitman Archive; students, scholars, and high school teachers from Iowa and around the world have contributed to the project. Assistant professor Blaine Greteman welcomes his students into the study of the Renaissance and book history through his digital project Shakeosphere: Mapping Early Modern Social Networks. He and Lee are already planning ways to collaborate across the two campuses.
Teresa Mangum, director of the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies and professor of gender, women, and sexuality studies, and co-principal investigator Jim Elmborg, associate professor in the School of Library and Information Science, anticipate that faculty and students alike will be inspired by working with art, languages, history, literature, philosophy, and world religions in the "hands on" ways digital work encourages: "Jim and I have already benefited from conversations with our colleagues at Grinnell," Mangum says. "Among the innumerable advantages of this partnership, we look forward to mining the rich potential of shared, project-based learning. We picture professors and students working side-by-side in linked classrooms that connect Grinnell and Iowa, as they archive and visualize their research projects, sharing their discoveries and insights with diverse virtual audiences across the world."
Major activities to be funded by the grant, which begins this month, include:
- Faculty development initiatives, such as summer institutes, collaborative projects between Grinnell and UI faculty, and training in digital liberal arts techniques.
- Undergraduate curricular development initiatives, such as new digital liberal arts courses or course modules, developing courses that bridge the two institutions, and supporting student-faculty collaborations.
- Engagement with the broader digital liberal arts community, including a conference to be held at the UI in 2018, support for conference travel to share exemplary digital projects and learn from the work of others, and a web presence for the project that features an online inventory of digital projects.
- Support for library and instructional technology faculty and staff members who help make digital projects possible, including professional development funds as well as funding for software, digitization, and other research expenses.
About Grinnell College
Since its founding in 1846, Grinnell has become one of the nation's premier liberal arts colleges, enrolling 1,600 students from all 50 states and from as many countries. Grinnell's rigorous academic program emphasizes excellence in education for students in the liberal arts; the college offers the B.A. degree in a range of departments across the humanities, arts, and sciences. The Digital Bridges project will be housed in the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment, and will involve collaboration with Grinnell's Libraries, Center for the Humanities, Data Analysis and Social Inquiry Lab, Faulconer Gallery and Instructional Technology team.
About the University of Iowa
With just over 31,000 students, the University of Iowa is one of the nation's top public research universities, a member of the Big Ten conference since 1899, and an Association of American Universities member since 1909. Iowa is known around the world for its balanced commitment to the arts, sciences, and humanities. It's home to the pioneering Iowa Writers' Workshop, International Writing Program, and Center for the Book, and major art and natural history museums as well as vibrant art and humanities departments. The University of Iowa is located in Iowa City, widely recognized as one of the country's most livable communities and North America's only UNESCO City of Literature.