Duke English Ph.D. Students Share Summer Internship Experiences

During the summer of 2021, several English Ph.D. students are gaining work experience through internships. Five of these students shared insight into their experiences:

Shirley Li.Shirley Li, ’23, is interning at RTI International (RTI). She began her internship working on the East Africa Energy Program Impact project in early June. Li is designing and conducting a “most significant change” (MSC) study of the influence the East Africa Energy Program had on the enabling environment around the grid-based energy sector in Kenya. She expects the study to blend government consulting, international development and social science research. Li learned about this internship opportunity through Duke’s Provost Experiential Fellowships program, which offers summer research internships to continuing Ph.D. students.

Duke University Press.Two students are interning for Duke University Press this summer. Carolin Benack, ’23, is interning as a journal platform creator. In her role, Benack assists the business systems and IT teams in creating the Scholarly Publishing Collective, a set of services ranging from journal subscription management to web hosting for university presses beyond Duke University Press. Benack builds and reviews journal sites and provides data analysis and management for them. She learned about this Provost Internship through Duke’s Office of Interdisciplinary Studies’ website.

“Working at the Press is reminding me of my professional identity outside of academia. I realize that the skills I gained during my Ph.D. training are much more useful in the nonprofit/business world than I thought. I’m learning the appropriate language to make these skills legible to nonacademic employers.” – Carolin Benack

Jessica Covil-Manset, ’23, is also interning with Duke University Press in the books marketing sector. She started working with Duke University Press during the fall of 2020 and has continued into the summer of 2021 with additional hours. When asked about her responsibilities, Covil-Manset noted that they are diverse. She orders books for reviewers, processes book reviews to share with authors, researches awards, writes nomination cover letters, writes descriptions of books for catalogs, schedules tweets to advertise books and events, formulates questions for Q&As with authors, and creates posts for the Duke University Press blog.

Covil-Manset shared that she is learning a lot about the behind-the-scenes elements of the publishing industry and how various staff positions collaborate to assure a book’s success. She now knows how acquisitions editors acquire and develop content that the publisher can utilize to market a book.

Covil-Manset added, “I’ve benefited greatly from the mentorship program that Duke University Press recently started. I was paired with Elizabeth Ault, an editor at DUP whom I’ve enjoyed video conferencing with and whose perspective/advice I truly value.”

Story+.Ellie Vilakazi, ’25, is interning locally as a graduate student project manager for Story+.

The Franklin Humanities Institute and Bass Connections offer Story+ as a 6-week paid summer research experience for Duke undergraduate and graduate students interested in exploring interdisciplinary humanities research topics and methodologies. Vilakazi began her internship in May overseeing international undergraduate students conducting research. Her team interviews international students who resided in Durham during the summer of 2020.

Vilakazi is responsible for guiding her team through the interview process and the development of a creative, visually compelling website. The website features stories organized around the themes, challenges, shows of resilience, and records of institutional solutions that emerge from the project’s interviews. She is leading an interview training session to prepare her students to write these stories, and she meets with them four times a week for an hour to discuss their progress.

“I am an English student. IRB (Institutional Review Board) and human research is not something I have to deal with in my studies, but it has been eye-opening to see the whole application process and how to deal with human beings as data. This internship has taught me more about the nuances of scholarly interviews as opposed to journalistic interviews. I have tremendous respect for the work that social scientists do now that I have had a small view into the process of researching human beings.” – Ellie Vilakazi

Catherine Lee.Catherine Lee, ’23, is completing an internship at Durham Technical Community College. Her internship is one of the Provost’s internships for Ph.D. students without summer funding. Lee is working with Durham Tech’s Creative and Liberal Arts faculty to diversify the curriculum for general education courses (British Literature I and II) so that they are more inclusive of groups historically left out of the Western canon. During her internship, she will be researching work from underrepresented communities in British literature and developing course content for future instructors.

“I can’t say I have learned much about the industry or professionalization yet, but the research that I have been doing has been fun and informative.” – Catherine Lee

The students featured in this article found their internships through Duke University resources that provide information about internship opportunities sponsored by the university or partners. Each student took advantage of the internship to gain insight into an industry they may pursue upon completing their studies. Opportunities like these provide real-life experience and allow our doctoral students to learn about alternative potential careers and professions.

By Quantá Holden, Digital Communication Specialist; originally posted on the Duke English Department website

New Fellowship in Computational Humanities for Ph.D. Students in English

The Rhodes iiD Doctoral Fellowship in the Computational Humanities is an opportunity for English doctoral students at Duke University to receive training in the methodology and theory of computational and digital literary studies. The fellowship program will introduce students to both research and pedagogical practices using computational methods. Fellows will also gain an understanding of the quickly-developing critical questions and methodologies that drive scholarship in the digital humanities.

Through workshops and mentoring, the fellowship creates a collaborative environment where English PhD students can acquire the necessary skills to translate their teaching and research interests into a digital or computational project. The projects undertaken as part of the fellowship aim to advance and complement the students’ dissertation research and their teaching within the English department. Because of this, the students will be required to design and create projects that reflect their core areas of research. Fellows are encouraged, though not required, to work towards a conference presentation or a publication for their project. At the end of each year of the program, they will share their completed projects on a public-facing website as well as present their work in a public panel.

Structure of Fellowship Program

  • Applications are due at the end of the third year of doctoral studies (see the application information page for details)
  • Fellowship starts at the beginning of the fall semester of the student’s fourth year and ends at the end of the summer following the student’s fifth year:
    • Students are expected to continue work on their digital project during the summers. If the fellow graduates at the end of year 5 of their program, they will be asked to use that summer’s award to complete the project’s website and move towards publication or conference presentation of the project where possible.
    • The first year will focus on designing a project and, if the option is selected, carrying out the project within the student’s English 90S course (see projects page for details).
    • Students in their second year of the fellowship will focus on completing their project, working towards the website, panel, and, if possible, conference presentation and/or publication.
    • If they participate in Data+ in the first summer of the fellowship, the fellows will be expected to mentor new fellows participating in Data+ during the second summer.
    • Students in their second year of the fellowship will be required to provide feedback and mentoring to the students in their first year.

What the Fellowship Gives to Students

  • $5,000 annual stipend for two years distributed as follows: $1,500 fall term; $1,500 spring term; and $2,000 summer term. Award for the second year of the fellowship is depended on satisfactory progress (both in computational/digital project and in degree requirements as determined by dissertation director).
  • Opportunity to seek feedback on work from faculty and other fellows, and the opportunity to mentor new fellows during your second year in the fellowship.
  • Workshops and learning opportunities around digital research, pedagogy, and presentation. During the school year, fellows will participate in a regular workshop (every three weeks) that will guide them through the process of designing a digital project, learning the relevant critical and methodological scholarship, and receive help and feedback on the implementation of their work.
  • Networking opportunities with invited scholars.
  • Where applicable, the Faculty Coordinator, Astrid Giugni, will visit the classroom for each fellow’s pedagogical project to provide support and to generate material for a teaching letter.
  • Feedback and instruction on how to develop their projects towards a conference presentation or a publication.

Application Information

To be eligible for the fellowships, students need to:

  • Be a doctoral student in the English department at Duke University
  • Have completed preliminary exams by the start date of the fellowship
  • Receive a letter from dissertation director testifying to satisfactory progress in the requirements for the degree at the time of application and at review time after the first year of the fellowship

Two fellowships will be awarded each year by the Rhodes Information Initiative at Duke.

Please note: no background in digital or computational methods is necessary. Students of all levels of digital experience (including no experience) are encouraged to apply! The workshops during the first year of the fellowship will guide you in developing a project and learning what skills you will need to develop in order to finish the project.

To apply, please email the Faculty Coordinator, Astrid Giugni, to schedule a preapplication meeting. The purpose of the meeting is to help students navigate the application process.

Migration’s Many Forms: Finding Creative Ways to Examine the Movement of Populations

Migration Lab faculty and student photos.
Directors, teaching and graduate assistants, and fellows of the Representing Migration Humanities Lab (top row: Charlotte Sussman, Tsitsi Jaji, Domenika Baran, Jarvis McInnis, Corina Stan; second row: Sasha Panaram, Karen Little, Sonia Nayak, Catherine Lee, Isabella Arbelaez; third row: Jessica Covill, Kelsey Desir, Nicole Higgins, Jared Junkin, Dana Johnson; bottom row: Andrew Kim, Trisha Remetir, Hannah Borenstein, Grant Glass, Anna Tybinko)

A few years ago, two associate professors in Duke’s English Department started a reading group to explore their shared interest in human mobility and its cultural expressions. Building on their discussions, Charlotte Sussman and Tsitsi Jaji teamed up with fellow faculty members Dominika Baran, Jarvis McInnis, and Corina Stan to direct the Representing Migration Humanities Lab.

The lab received support from Humanities Unbounded, a five-year initiative funded by an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant.

“We were lucky to have some great graduate students as part of the group convening the lab,” Sussman says. “They made me really enjoy working collaboratively.”

Sussman is the author of Consuming Anxieties: Consumer Protest, Gender, and British Slavery, 1713–1833 and Eighteenth-Century English Literature. Based on her positive experience with the lab, she says she “started looking for different kinds of pedagogies and also opportunities for graduate students.”

Fifteen students have served as Representing Migration fellows, teaching assistants, or graduate lab assistants. Others have taken part in courses and research with faculty.

One of the lab’s projects explored Migration Memorials. Around the same time, over at the Duke Marine Lab, Cindy Van Dover’s lab was studying the impact of seabed mining. “It occurred to them that [mining] grants from the International Seabed Authority were close to the path of the Middle Passage,” Sussman says. Van Dover’s lab became interested in proposing a memorial to victims of the trans-Atlantic voyages that brought enslaved Africans to the New World.

Phillip Turner, a Ph.D. student in Marine Science and Conservation, convened a meeting with a wide range of experts, including Sussman. “They knew about the geography but were curious how the Middle Passage was recorded or memorialized,” she says.

Phillip Turner (second from left) with Aline Jaeckel, Diva Amon, and Jessica Perelman at the 25th Session of the International Seabed Authority in Kingston, Jamaica.
Phillip Turner (second from left) with Aline Jaeckel, Diva Amon, and Jessica Perelman at the 25th Session of the International Seabed Authority in Kingston, Jamaica

Turner organized a coauthored article on ways to commemorate the enslaved people who came to rest on the Atlantic seabed. In 2018, he received a Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grant to attend a meeting of the International Seabed Authority, where he networked and discussed the Middle Passage project. “The project was positively received,” he reported, “and it will hopefully be discussed in more detail at subsequent ISA sessions once the manuscript has been published.”

Kaylee Alexander.
Kaylee Alexander

Sussman had an idea to explore the Middle Passage from a new angle and involve more students through a Data+ summer research project. To help prepare the project, doctoral student Kaylee Alexander (Art, Art History & Visual Studies) worked with Duke Libraries’ Data and Visualization Services as a Humanities Unbounded Graduate Assistant.

“One of the original goals of the project was to use data representing nearly 36,000 transatlantic slave voyages to see if it would be possible to map a reasonable location for a deep-sea memorial to the transatlantic slave trade,” Alexander reflected. “The promises of these data were great; we just had to figure out how to use them.”

Sussman’s Data+ team set out to locate where and why enslaved Africans died during the sea voyage and analyze patterns of these mortality rates.

Chudi Zong, Ethan Czerniecki, Daisy Zhan, Charlotte Sussman, and Emma Davenport at the Data+ poster session.
Chudi Zong, Ethan Czerniecki, Daisy Zhan, Charlotte Sussman, and Emma Davenport at the Data+ poster session

“It’s been really interesting to fill in the gaps of the Middle Passage and search for patterns,” said Chudi Zhong, a master’s student in Statistical Science. “There is a lot of missing data, and we’ve used current technology to fill gaps. For example, using the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, we can find records on how many enslaved people died. The Climatological Database for the World’s Oceans has other kinds of data for ships. We merged the two databases and found 35 matching voyages. Then we used our own model to make predictions.”

Dutch Slaving Voyages (1751-1795): The height of each bar corresponds to the average number of deaths per 150km2 grid. The color of the bar corresponds to the number of ship locations recorded in each grid. [From the Data+ team’s executive summary].
Dutch Slaving Voyages (1751-1795): The height of each bar corresponds to the average number of deaths per 150km2 grid. The color of the bar corresponds to the number of ship locations recorded in each grid. [From the Data+ team’s executive summary]
As an undergraduate majoring in Philosophy and Global Cultural Studies, Ethan Czerniecki said the Data+ project “gave me a different way of approaching these topics outside the humanities that proved to be expansive,” he said. “I wouldn’t have thought to treat these individuals as data points, but [the data science approach] opens up new areas like data visualization. Combining a humanities project with data science is really interesting, and the methodologies interact well.”

Prediction of 2,164 trans-Atlantic voyage paths that ended in the northern hemisphere based on the LSTM model; inset map:  prediction of 36 trans-Atlantic voyage paths based on the LSTM model, all of which have reasonably smooth lines. [From the Data+ team’s executive summary].
Prediction of 2,164 trans-Atlantic voyage paths that ended in the northern hemisphere based on the LSTM model; inset map:  prediction of 36 trans-Atlantic voyage paths based on the LSTM model, all of which have reasonably smooth lines. [From the Data+ team’s executive summary]
English Ph.D. student Emma Davenport served as project manager for the Data+ team. “This was my first experience in a real mentorship role,” she said. “It’s different than being part of a team doing the research. Being a mentor calls for a different set of skills and a different orientation.” Davenport is going on the job market this year. “Job committees want to see that you have a set of skills for guiding undergraduate research,” she said, “and both academic and nonacademic jobs are looking for candidates with a well-rounded skillset. I couldn’t have gotten this experience from traditional teaching and research.”

This fall, a Bass Connections project team is continuing the work of the Representing Migration lab and the Data+ project. Doctoral students in English and Romance Studies and undergraduates representing at least six majors are collaborating with faculty and librarians. Some students are creating a map showing where the deaths occurred in the Atlantic; their original data will support a proposal for the Middle Passage memorial.

Also in this academic year, six graduate and undergraduate students will serve as Representing Migration Humanities Fellows.

“I think these opportunities are really great,” says Sussman. “Duke is not a heavy teaching school, at least for English, relative to other Ph.D. programs, but I think what Duke can offer grad students is more unique. This kind of work is useful to them professionally, whether they go into academia or not.”

In addition to the opportunities she has found to engage students in research on migration, Sussman has tapped into other Duke programs as well.

Undergraduates Clifford Haley, Eli Kline, and Bailey Bogle present “Pirating Texts” at the 2019 Story+ Research Symposium. Photo: Jennifer R. Zhou.
Undergraduates Clifford Haley, Eli Kline, and Bailey Bogle present “Pirating Texts” at the 2019 Story+ Research Symposium. Photo: Jennifer R. Zhou

Grant Glass used a Data Expeditions grant to create a data visualization module for Sussman’s course, Queens of Antiquity. A doctoral student at UNC Chapel Hill, Glass also served as project manager on Sussman’s 2018 Data+ project, Pirating Texts, and as graduate mentor on the 2019 Story+ summer research project of the same name.

Most recently, English Ph.D. student Kimberley Dimitriadis received an Archival Expeditions grant to create a module for Sussman’s medical humanities course, Doctors’ Stories.

“Using this [kind of approach] in your classroom setting involves letting go of authority, and sometimes that works better than others,” says Sussman. “You have to be willing to let go.”

Learn more at a free lunchtime event on December 4 at the John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies, featuring Charlotte Sussman and colleagues.

Current Opportunities and Deadlines

Eight Doctoral Students Receive Internships through Versatile Humanists

Eight Duke Ph.D. students have been selected for internships in Summer or Fall 2017 through Versatile Humanists at Duke (VH@Duke), an initiative to prepare Duke doctoral students in the humanities and interpretive social sciences for transformative roles in higher education and beyond.

The VH@Duke internship program provides Ph.D. students with exposure to work experiences, organizations and professions relevant to their scholarly interests. The internship experiences are designed to enrich students’ dissertations and further prepare them for both academic and nonacademic jobs. Students can apply for internships at preidentified partner organizations or propose their own internship.

VH@Duke is funded by a three-year Next Generation Ph.D. Implementation Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. In addition to internships, VH@Duke also provides opportunities and resources such as innovation grants for curriculum enhancement, collaborative research experiences and one-to-one advising for Ph.D. students.

The application period for the next cycle of VH@Duke internships will open in Fall 2017. Students who are considering proposing their own internships are encouraged to contact Maria LaMonaca Wisdom (maria.wisdom@duke.edu) for preliminary feedback.

The 2017 VH@Duke interns are:

BanellaLaura Banella, Romance Studies (Summer)

Banella is interning with the International Society for the Study of Medieval Culture (SISMEL), a nonprofit research and cultural institute located in Florence, Italy. SISMEL’s mission is to promote and support the study of medieval culture. In her role at SISMEL, Banella will help build research and bibliographic databases and organize programs and events.

GoldsmithWilliam Goldsmith, History (Summer)

Goldsmith will be interning with RTI International, an independent nonprofit institute dedicated to improving the human condition by applying interdisciplinary research to complex scientific and social challenges. In his role, Goldsmith will work with RTI’s Innovation Led Economic Growth team, engaging in research, writing and policy analysis.

LazarYael Lazar, Religion (Fall)

Lazar is interning with the National Humanities Center (NHC), a nonprofit organization dedicated to advanced study in all areas of the humanities. She will be curating a digital online resource for the NHC’s “Humanities Moments” campaign and helping to support local and national outreach components of the initiative.

NunnNora Nunn, English (Summer)

Nunn is also interning with the National Humanities Center.  She will be working with researchers in the NHC’s Trans-Pacific Teacher-Scholars Program to develop interactive, inquiry-based classroom materials to align with the upcoming commemorations and anniversaries of the American Vietnam War.

SmithNathan Smith, Literature (Summer)

Smith is interning with Mono No Aware, a nonprofit community film organization based in Brooklyn, New York. Mono No Aware’s mission is to build community through the experience of the moving image. In his internship, Smith will be setting up and facilitating film workshops, supporting fundraising activities and creating a film of his own.

StadlerJohn Stadler, Literature (Summer)

Stadler will be interning with The Cupboard Pamphlet, a micropublisher of creative prose based in Littleton, Colorado. In his role at The Cupboard Pamphlet, Stadler will cultivate the publication’s expanding catalogue and engage in research of new literary markets and opportunities.

VenturaRafael Ventura, Philosophy (Fall)

Ventura will be interning with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. During his internship, he will work closely with the museum’s Community Engagement team, supporting outreach efforts through event management, program development and public relations.

YoungAshley Rose Young, History (Summer)

Young will be interning with the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. She will be curating an update to one of the museum’s exhibits—Food: Transforming the American Table—and working in the Archives Center.

Originally posted on Versatile Humanists at Duke

Former Duke University Provost’s Legacy Thrives Harmoniously in Langford Lectures

Provost Sally Kornbluth and John Supko at the Langford luncheon on February 21, 2017

Since 2000 when Thomas A. Langford, former Duke University Provost, Dean and Divinity School faculty member passed away, Duke has continued to remember his legacy through the Thomas Langford Lectureship awards.

Each year, several new or newly promoted Duke faculty are chosen to receive the award, based on the appeal of their research to an interdisciplinary audience and their embodiment of Langford’s dedication to teaching, research and service. The goals of the Langford program—to support and honor intellectual life at Duke, and to offer a platform for faculty to engage in interdisciplinary exchange—remain vibrantly alive with this year’s slate of awardees.

Last Tuesday, Langford honoree John Supko shared his work with colleagues and friends who gathered at the Doris Duke Center to hear Supko’s lecture, interspersed with selections from his compositions. Supko recently received tenure with his promotion to Associate Professor in the Music Department, and was chosen by the Duke Appointments, Promotions and Tenure committee as one of three awardees this year.

Supko’s music engages with the process of discovery through novel computational strategies. He works in a relatively unexplored field of generative music produced by algorithms that suggest unexpected combinations of sounds, rhythms and harmonies. The resulting pieces are by turns mysterious, serene, frightening and poetic.

On this spring-like day, sounds created by Supko and his occasional collaborators filled the high wooden-beamed room of the Doris Duke Center. Supko’s music has been described as spell-bindingly beautiful, hypnotic and eerie, and he offered selections that proved each of those descriptions and that ranged from ethereal to jarring.

Bill Seaman, Professor of Art, Art History & Visual Studies, with John Supko

Last semester Erich Jarvis, a former Duke neurobiologist now at The Rockefeller University, delivered his Langford lecture “Dissecting the Molecular Mechanisms for Vocal Learning and Spoken Language: A Personal Journey” at a luncheon in his honor. This year’s third honoree is Tsitsi Jaji, who joined Duke’s faculty in 2015 as Associate Professor of English and African & African American Studies. Jaji will give her Langford lecture “Unsettling Scores: Black Revisions of the American Frontier Myth” in April.

Music is one thread that connects all three of this year’s awardees. Jarvis is known as a top researcher in the songbird field, and Jaji’s work bridges music and literature. The Langford Lectureship program continues to celebrate interdisciplinary scholarship in its fullest capacities, in tribute to Thomas Langford.

Erich Jarvis with Provost Sally Kornbluth, at Jarvis’ Langford luncheon on September 19, 2016

Preparing for Job Market, Grad Students Create Online Lessons for Humanities Center

 Humanities grad students Hannah Ontiveros and Kelly Tang participated in the NHC pilot program

Doctoral students in the humanities know they’ll be entering a tight job market. This summer, four Duke students gained an edge by building their pedagogical skills at the National Humanities Center in Durham.

Each student chose a text that addresses elements of a standard high school curriculum in American history or literature and created an online National Humanities Center lesson for high school teachers.

Johnnie Holland, a Ph.D. student in History, selected an anti-lynching pamphlet by Ida B. Wells. Ph.D. student in English Karen Little chose “Ballad of the Landlord,” a poem by Langston Hughes. History Ph.D. student Hannah Ontiveros worked with an anti-feminist speech by Phyllis Schlaffly. Kelly Tang, a Ph.D. student in Art, Art History and Visual Studies, took on Citizen 13660, a graphic novel about the internment of Japanese Americans.

The pilot internship program grew out of conversations between Richard Schramm, then the vice president for education programs at the National Humanities Center, and Ed Balleisen, vice provost for interdisciplinary studies at Duke. Four graduate students from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill joined the cohort.

“Our meetings were highly collaborative, providing ample opportunity to receive insightful feedback from peers and NHC staff—often from the perspective of what works practically in a classroom and what teachers’ needs are,” Tang said. ”We were encouraged to explore and experiment at every step and were given advice on how to conceptualize our plans, not what they should be.

“And I think we felt a greater awareness of a Triangle-area graduate student community that may individually work on different time periods, source materials and methods, but share an interest in bettering classrooms throughout the United States.”

To create their lessons, the students developed a framing question, orientation for teachers, background information for students, interactive exercises and a follow-up assignment. Over four sessions, they received coaching and critiques of their work in progress from their dissertation advisers.

In an evaluation, students reflected on their experiences, which many noted would enhance their career prospects. The National Humanities Center hopes to offer the program again next summer.

“The internship was a great experience,” said Ontiveros. “It had me thinking critically about not only my pedagogy and writing for a non-academic audience, but also about how to ask the really simple questions that cut to the core of a document—an invaluable skill for a historian. It was also inspiring to work with my fellow interns. Each person’s work raised important and very interesting questions.”

Originally published on Duke Today

Photo: Humanities grad students Kelly Tang and Hannah Ontiveros participated in the NHC pilot program.


For Dissertation in English, Lingold Thrived on Interdisciplinary Collaboration


Graduate students have a lot of ideas, says Mary Caton Lingold, who is nearing completion of her Ph.D. in English. What they often lack is status and access to resources, which can make it hard to innovate on a larger scale.

So tapping into structures designed to bring scholars together from different areas is a smart move, Lingold says. “Fostering interdisciplinary collaboration helps to capitalize on the energy that grad students bring to their field.”

Inspired by her interest in early Caribbean literature, Lingold took a course on the history of Haiti with Laurent Dubois and joined the Haiti Lab at the Franklin Humanities Institute, directed by Dubois and Deborah Jenson with graduate, undergraduate and faculty collaborators. The lab focused on innovative thinking for the country’s recovery from the 2010 earthquake and for the expansion of Haitian studies in the United States and Haiti.

“What hooked me was standing next to Edouard Duval Carrié, a world renowned artist who created Haiti in Amber, decorating the libretto of an early Haitian opera,” Lingold says. “An undergraduate premed student was also next to me, and we’re gluing sparkly things onto a research document. I thought, this is the kind of research I want to be involved with! It was the sense of all working alongside each other that I found inspiring. It’s about the community that’s formed, the conversations you’re having…I was plugged into a community with a sense of purpose, and I really liked being part of something bigger than my own research.”

Lingold also got involved in the Audiovisualities Lab, where she pursued her idea for an open-access archive of sounds. “The Sonic Dictionary project was a pipe dream that I couldn’t have realized without the lab structure. Eleven courses at Duke and Oberlin have contributed to it so far.” She conceived of and taught a related course, Sounds of the South, to engage undergraduates in the burgeoning field of sound studies.

“The students loved working on a collaborative digital project,” she recalls. “Writing for a public audience really motivated them. It was galvanizing. They like work that’s bigger than themselves.”

In the humanities, a student’s work may often result in an essay that only his or her professor will read, Lingold points out. Her students were excited to make “a contribution to public knowledge.”

She applied to the Graduate Digital Scholarship Initiative, which led to Provoke!, a collaboration with colleagues in English and music.

“Scholars can use sound in digital spaces, but usually it’s lots of text and a little audio clip,” Lingold says. “What kinds of innovations could more meaningfully integrate sound?” She and her colleagues put out a call for projects, provided funding for groups at Duke and other institutions and designed a website to showcase the projects.

Stemming from this experience, Lingold is coediting a book for Duke University Press about digital sound studies.

And in collaboration with Laurent Dubois and David Garner, who recently received his Ph.D. in music composition, she coproduced a digital project called Banjology and is working on Musical Passage: Voyage to 1688 Jamaica, a website that animates the earliest musical notation documenting African vernacular music in the Americas.

Currently Lingold is finishing her dissertation on representations of early Afro-Atlantic music in literature. She’s thriving in an environment that supports her creative pursuits across fields with a rich array of faculty and student partners: “I have felt at home here because Duke supports interdisciplinary work.”

By Sarah Dwyer; originally published on DukeToday’s website