Listening for Zora: Merging Sonic Archives with the Digital Humanities

Zora Neale Hurston text and images.
Images from the timeline created by the authors

By Janel Ramkalawan, Ayanna Legros, Chloe McGlynn, and Luoshu Zhang

What happens when a group of students participates in a collective from a range of disciplines? How do a premed student, historian, neuroscience major, and English scholar seek to parse out the life and work of anthropologist, folklorist, and novelist Zora Neale Hurston? How can the digital humanities aid our understanding of sound? How does a team made of half undergraduates and half doctoral students unify to engage in research methods in a humanities seminar?

This fall, Professor Tsitsi Jaji collaborated with the Bass Digital Education Fellowship program and 2019-2020 Fellow Hannah Rogers to incorporate the digital humanities into the classroom. Our collective focused on Zora Neale Hurston’s anthropological work in Florida and the Caribbean (Haiti and Jamaica) with particular attention paid to the text Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica (1938). Most people have heard of Zora Neale Hurston and recognize her for her popular literature. Yet few are aware of the contributions that she made to sound studies and ethnography.

We paused to reflect on the experiences of working across methods, areas of expertise, schedules, and interests.

Chloe McGlynn, Senior, Neuroscience and English

Chloe.Working on a team is easiest when there are clear goals set and it can be difficult when people are coming from different academic backgrounds or people lack experience with digital projects. Further, we all had different schedules and different levels of responsibilities.

So, it became important for us to define our goals, to be clear, communication [had] to be good, and everyone [had] to be equally invested in the project. Sometimes we spent a lot of time catching each other up. People are busy. Also, conflicting visions can be hard on a project. And people work at different speeds.

Ayanna Legros, Ph.D. Student, History

Ayanna.One challenge that our group came across was that we wanted to create a mixtape yet were made aware that rights may be an issue. Do we speak to a lawyer? Do seek out resources at Duke? We referred to Hannah Rogers and requested a handout with clearer guidelines for rights. In my experience, obtaining rights for digital projects is not always standardized so it was a great learning moment to have to pause and request help and support. What came to fruition was an in-depth discussion between the whole team alongside Professor Jaji.

Finally, another thing I learned from this experience is that faculty must request permission to publish from students. This is a great thing to keep in mind as I pursue my teaching career.

Luoshu Zhang, Ph.D. Student, English

Luoshu.For me the most interesting thing about doing this project is that because we had so much time to work on it, and we all come from different academic backgrounds with different insights and approaches, we often had too many ideas, too many things we wanted to cover.

So trying to narrow down the scope of our research was a real challenge. Yet it was always in the process of making choices that we found our most creative ideas.

Janel Ramkalawan, Senior, English and Premed

Janel.The preliminary planning stages of the project (selecting our topic, scope, content, and creative angle) were, in my opinion, the most challenging aspects of our process. Flexible project requirements, a wealth of possible directions, and our lack of exposure to the broader digital humanities landscape made it challenging to decide upon and flesh out a targeted approach. We wondered how about legality of digitizing archival materials and the originality of creating digital historical maps.

I think during this phase, it would have been beneficial for us to have sought out greater librarian/technologist/scholar support as the realm of digital humanities is new to us, and evidently necessitates sustained and collaborative engagement. I think our team did a great job of working together in a nonhierarchical and communicative way.

Creativity and flexibility were key to making this project a success! For more information about collaborative projects in the humanities at Duke University, check out the Bass Connections program, Humanities Unbounded Labs, Humanities Labs in the Franklin Humanities Institute, and the Story+ summer program, to name just a few.

Faculty Can Propose New Humanities Labs to Begin in 2020-2021

Humanities Labs.

Deadline: January 27, 2020

The Franklin Humanities Institute is soliciting proposals for a new Humanities Lab to begin in the 2020-21 academic year. The new Lab will receive funding for 2-3 years (contingent on successful annual reviews). Jointly funded by the FHI and the Office of Global Affairs, the Lab should have global reach, broadly defined: for example, it can be focused on an area outside the US (like previous labs – Haiti, Global Brazil), on a topic with international or comparative dimensions (Social Movements), or on historical and cultural phenomena that cut across national and other geopolitical formations (From Slavery to Freedom). If it were a US-based project, we would expect some understanding of the US in the world, whether transoceanic, pluriversal, internationalist, or part of a system of globalization. Projects that address earlier historical periods (in which terms like global and nation may be anachronistic) and diverse modes of world-making are encouraged.

We invite proposals centered on collaborative, interdisciplinary faculty research in the humanities around a theme, a geographical area, a historical period, a genre, a concept, a paradigm, or another well-defined object of your choosing. Along with possible connections to scholars and thinkers outside the US,   including those working in languages other than English, we welcome collaborations with journalists, artists, curators, designers, translators, architects, writers, activists, musicians, and other intellectuals who bring humanistic expertise to engagements with a variety of publics. We strongly suggest careful thought on how graduate students may be included in Lab activities. Though the FHI Labs do not require curricular “output,” new courses that may be taught or co-taught in the Lab are encouraged, as are co-curricular projects such as Story+. Working in complimentary relationship with the Humanities Unbounded Department-based Labs, we are seeking projects that range across departments and, if appropriate, schools.

Support for the Labs

The Lab will be provided with $50,000 in funding annually. The Lab’s budget should cover the cost of both core operations and programming. A Lab’s operations budget may include faculty course releases (limited to a maximum of two courses per lab per year and no more than one course per person, contingent on Department Chair and Divisional Dean approval), graduate assistantships, undergraduate salaries, student staff assistance with programming, etc. Programming budget could be used for short-term residencies, visiting speakers, public events, Lab research projects, and related expenditures. The Lab is provided with a space designed to foster collaboration and to multiply learning opportunities through exposure to a diversity of approaches to a coherent field of engagement: Lab faculty and students use this as a home base for activity connected to the Lab mandate.

The FHI will support the Lab in budget and financial management, HR/payroll, facilities, and computer/AV maintenance. The new Lab will receive programming and logistical assistance from a Lab Manager, a member of the FHI staff who will be shared among our Labs, and graduate assistant(s) hired by the FHI. Other members of the FHI staff may also be available for more specialized services, for example consultation on scholarly publishing and digital projects, as well as occasional videography.

Eligibility

Each Humanities Lab proposal should identify two to three regular-rank (tenured/tenure track, PoP, and Research) faculty members who will serve as the Lab’s co-directors, and two to three additional core faculty affiliates. The co-directors can be comprised of faculty from the humanities, arts, and interpretive social sciences, or humanities/arts/interpretive social sciences faculty along with faculty from other Schools. Affiliated faculty may be drawn from Arts and Sciences as well as Duke’s professional schools, other University Institutes, the Library, or the Nasher Museum. To avoid over-commitment of junior faculty time and effort, no more than one Lab co-director should be at the Assistant rank.

Proposal Guidelines

Proposals should include the following components:

  • A 2-page intellectual rationale, describing the Lab’s central research objectives and their cross-national, cross-regional dimensions
  • Brief descriptions (1/2 page each) of 2-3 potential projects that the Lab might undertake in pursuit of these research objectives, e.g. publications, exhibitions, digital or multimedia projects, collaborations with individual or institutional partners, curricular and co-curricular projects, etc. We encourage you to conceptualize at least 1 major project that would span the life of the Lab. Feel free to discuss preliminary ideas with FHI Associate Director Christina Chia (christina.chia@duke.edu).
  • A list of faculty participants (co-directors and core affiliates). Co-directors must sign the proposal.
  • An outline of the budget categories in which the lab plans to use its $50,000 annual funding. Please indicate any additional funds that the Lab will be able to draw upon (e.g. through existing projects and grants) or plans to raise funds from external or other Duke sources.
  • Additional materials:
    • Approval letters from the appropriate Department Chair and Divisional Dean for any Lab faculty member intending to request a course release
    • Letters of support from the Department Chair and Divisional Dean for Lab co-director at the Assistant rank

Complete proposal should be submitted electronically to fhi@duke.edu by Monday, January 27, 2020. Approval/support letters from Chairs and Deans may be submitted separately to the same email address.

Questions

Please email FHI Associate Director Christina Chia at christina.chia@duke.edu.

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

Mellon Seeks Exceptional Duke Humanities Faculty for New Directions Fellowship

Mellon Foundation.

Deadline: August 23, 2019

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has invited Duke University to nominate one candidate for consideration by Mellon for a New Directions Fellowship.

Eligibility

The fellowship program provides support for exceptional faculty members in the humanities (broadly defined to include the arts, history, languages, area studies, and zones of such fields as anthropology and geography that bridge the humanities and social sciences) who received their doctorates between 2007 and 2013.

Program

The fellowships cover salary and fringe benefits for one academic year and two, two-month summers, as well as tuition or course fees associated with the fellows’ training programs and project related travel. Most awards are between $200,000 and $250,000, with a cap of $300,000, and may be expended over a period not to exceed three full academic years.

Fellows will be expected to pursue systematic training and academic competencies outside their own distinctive fields in order to advance a cross-disciplinary research agenda. This fellowship does not aim to facilitate short-term outcomes, such as completion of a book. Rather, it is a longer-term investment in the scholar’s intellectual range and productivity.

Key Dates

  • Letter of Intent Deadline: August 23, 2019
  • Committee Decision: September 9, 2019
  • Finalist Proposal to ORS: September 19, 2019
  • Mellon Decision: September 26, 2019

Duke’s Internal Nomination Procedure

Each candidate should provide a 750-1000 word statement briefly documenting his/her plans for future research and anticipated program of study this new work requires. The statement should provide an explanation of the overall significance of the proposed activities and how this new direction will build on an applicant’s current strengths, widen their intellectual horizons, and facilitate exciting new research vistas. If selected as Duke’s nominee, the candidate will need to develop a longer version of this document (2000 words plus 300 word summary, each non-negotiable limits), also highlighting research accomplishments to date. They will also need to arrange for a letter of appraisal from an informed senior colleague (e.g., department chair), a budget and budget narrative, and a CV no more than five pages in length in 12 pt. font.

  • Please submit your 750-1000 word statement via email to Amy Feistel no later than noon, August 23, 2019. If you have any questions regarding the nomination process, you may contact Carol Vorhaus, Office of Corporate and Foundation Relations, by email or by calling 919-681-1967.
  • Applicants should take care to write for a scholarly audience with a variety of disciplinary backgrounds and intellectual interests.
  • Applicants should familiarize themselves with the fellowship-specific application guidelines described online here.
  • After the internal deadline, proposed nominations will be forwarded to a nominating committee. Applicants may be offered an opportunity for conversation with members of the nominating committee.
  • All applicants will be informed of the committee’s decision by September 9, 2019, and the chosen nominee will be given assistance from the nominating committee and the Office of Foundation Relations in preparing materials for submission to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
  • The finalist will be required to submit their final proposal to Duke’s Office of Research Support no later than September 19, 2019 in order to meet the Mellon Foundation’s deadline of September 26, 2019.

Contact Information

For additional information on this funding opportunity, contact Carol Vorhaus (carol.vorhaus@duke.edu).

Representing Migration Humanities Lab Offers Six Fellowships for 2019-2020

Screenshot from Representing Migration Humanities Lab website.

Deadline: September 6, 2019

Humanities students, come be a part of an exciting community at Duke exploring the art and politics of migration, from humans and animals to plants and microorganisms.

Taking advantage of this opportunity will enable you to:

  • Acquire and/or practice research and teaching skills (archival, digital, administrative, collaborative) that you may not be using in your regular coursework or dissertation process
  • Work closely and enjoy stimulating conversation with Duke faculty and graduate and undergraduate students outside of a traditional classroom setting

Who Is Eligible?

  • Graduate students at any stage working on a migration-related project in the humanities
  • Motivated undergraduates with a clear project related to migration

How to Apply

  • In a document, describe the project that you imagine yourself working on over the 2019-20 academic year. The more specific you can be about the labor entailed in the project and the imagined outcome the better, but please limit yourself to ~300 words. Outcomes do not need to be in the traditional form of research papers but can include syllabi, databases, digital projects, or other outcomes.
  • We encourage projects related to the lab’s Bass Connections project team but other projects will also be considered. In the event that the projects are related, the fellow will be expected to participate in the Bass Connections team’s work.
  • Applications are due 9/6/19. Decisions will be made by 9/23/19.

Benefits

Fellows will receive a one-time $1,000 fellowship payment after the completion of the terms of the fellowship, and up to $150 in reimbursement for relevant books and materials.

Obligations for Fellows

  • Present at the lab’s works-in-progress event early in spring semester 2020.
  • Deliver a conference-length paper related to your project in April 2020 at a Fellows Symposium.
  • Attend the Representing Migration Humanities Lab’s monthly reading group.
  • Attend an orientation session in September 2019.
  • Undergraduate fellows will also be required to attend three additional mentoring sessions each semester.
  • Undergraduate fellows will also be required to attend and write summaries of a migration-related event on campus (reading group, talk, author visit, film screening, etc.) three times per semester (6/year) for possible publication on the lab’s website.

Learn more

Duke Welcomes Collaborators to Humanities Unbounded Initiative

Durham Tech faculty Lisa Blair (far left) and Marina DelVecchio (far right) will collaborate with Duke PhD students Patricia Bass (left center) and Maggie McDowell (right center) to redesign courses in French, Women’s Studies and Literature
Durham Tech faculty Lisa Blair (far left) and Marina DelVecchio (far right) will collaborate with Duke PhD students Patricia Bass (left center) and Maggie McDowell (right center) to redesign courses in French, Women’s Studies, and Literature

Six visiting scholars representing liberal arts institutions, historically black colleges and universities (HBCU), and Durham Technical Community College will arrive at Duke this summer to collaborate with faculty as part of an innovative humanities initiative.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-funded Humanities Unbounded is designed to nurture collaboration and inventive expressions of the humanities at Duke and beyond. Among other aims, it expands Duke’s curriculum by launching research-based humanities labs that enrich undergraduate education by extending the learning experience outside of the classroom.

“Through our previous Mellon grant, Humanities Writ Large, visiting faculty fellows greatly enriched the humanities ecosystem at Duke,” said Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies Ed Balleisen, who is also a principal investigator for Humanities Unbounded. “Those fellows brought compelling research questions, inventive approaches to communicating humanistic arguments, and a deeply collaborative spirit to our campus.”

Four visiting scholars from HBCUs and liberal arts colleges are central to that effort through their leadership of research projects over the next year, and will broaden the effects of Humanities Unbounded as they extend their work once returning to their home institutions.

Durham Tech faculty will work with Duke doctoral students to develop pedagogical modules that foster collaborative humanistic inquiry at the community college. Meanwhile, the Ph.D. students will gain exposure to new modes of teaching, a highly diverse community college student population, and faculty mentorship.

The inaugural cohort:

  • Garry Bertholf of Wesleyan University will be hosted by Joseph Winters of Religious Studies and African & African American Studies to explore the interplay between black politics and popular culture.
  • Lisa Blair of Durham Tech will work with Duke Ph.D. student Patricia Bass (Art, Art History, and Visual Studies) to incorporate Francophone African literature and culture, in part by facilitating virtual exchanges with Senegal, into an online introductory French course at Durham Tech.
  • Marina DelVecchio of Durham Tech will work with Duke Ph.D. student Maggie McDowell (English) to redesign two courses at Durham Tech – an online American Women’s Studies course and a seated American Literature II course – using new technologies and approaches to help students see themselves represented and how they can learn to represent themselves.
  • Collie Fulford of N.C. Central University will work with the Franklin Humanities Institute and the Digital Humanities Initiative, continuing relationships begun when she was an FHI-NCCU Digital Humanities Fellow.
  • Craig Quintero of Grinnell College will be hosted by Torry Bend and the Department of Theater Studies to develop and produce a theatrical performance rooted in the history of North Carolina’s former Black Mountain College.
  • Eva Michelle Wheeler of Oakwood University will work with Mark Anthony Neal and the Department of African & African American Studies on critical analysis of translations of ethnonyms and epithets in literature and film.

“We are eager to welcome a new cohort of superb humanists to Duke,” said Gennifer Weisenfeld, divisional dean for the humanities in the Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, “to see how they interact with our faculty and students, and to facilitate their contributions to our humanities labs, the training of our doctoral students, and humanistic dialogue more broadly.”

Weisenfeld is also a principal investigator on the Humanities Unbounded grant, as is Ranjana Khanna, director of the Franklin Humanities Institute.

By Kathryn Kennedy; originally posted on Duke Today

Mellon Grant to Strengthen Humanities Curriculum and Foster New Collaborations

The English department launched a pilot lab for the Humanities Unbounded proposal, “Representing Migration.” Shown are Professors Charlotte Sussman and Jarvis McInnis with doctoral student Karen Little and sophomore Liddy Grantland. Photo by Les Todd

Duke University will expand on its commitment to a strong humanities curriculum and forge new collaborations beyond campus with a $3 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, President Vincent E. Price said Friday.

The funding will establish Humanities Unbounded, which will run from July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2023. The initiative will focus on three major areas:

  • Developing new collaborative curricula models that blend undergraduate education with faculty research and graduate student training
  • Deepening Duke’s relationships with liberal arts colleges and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs)
  • Piloting a new teaching partnership with Durham Technical Community College.

“Duke has long been engaged in building the future of the humanities, both through undergraduate teaching and faculty scholarship,” Price said. “We are grateful for the support of the Mellon Foundation, which will help us strengthen existing partnerships and forge new connections on our campus and beyond.”

Humanities Unbounded will build on the success of Humanities Writ Large (HWL), an initiative aimed at changing the role of the humanities at Duke. HWL supported labs that integrated undergraduates with faculty and graduate students engaged in humanities and social science research. With Humanities Unbounded, Duke seeks to scale up these efforts, such as embedding the humanities’ lab structure into humanities departments and curricula.

“We plan to develop nine humanities labs over the course of the grant, and we believe this will create innovative and flexible educational pathways that will expose more Duke students to the richness of humanistic thinking and its exciting research possibilities,” said Gennifer Weisenfeld, dean of the humanities.

The program will be led by Weisenfeld, an art historian; historian Edward Balleisen, vice provost for interdisciplinary studies; and Ranjana Khanna, director of the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke and professor of English, women’s studies, and literature.

Humanities lab funding will support course development, research assistance, graduate student training, website and multimedia production, visits by external partners, research trips, student projects, and faculty and staff training in lab development and operations.

Humanities Unbounded will strengthen connections with liberal arts colleges and HBCUs through a series of two-year visiting faculty fellowships. The first year will be spent in residence at Duke, where fellows will conduct research and develop collaborative relationships. During the second year, fellows will receive funding to share their Duke experiences with their home campuses after returning to teaching, and to continue research collaborations.

Humanities Unbounded will also pilot a teaching partnership with Durham Technical Community College, which serves a diverse population of 20,000 students. The pilot will pair graduate student research assistants from Duke with Durham Tech faculty. The pairs will then work to develop innovative teaching modules that could include collaborative research, community‐based oral histories, the reorientation of syllabi around a case study approach, or the development of online resources. The project will focus on Durham Tech courses eligible for transfer credit, thereby preparing students to continue at four-year institutions.

“This new partnership will generate great benefits for both institutions,” said William Ingram, president of Durham Tech. “It creates exciting opportunities for our instructors to further enhance and develop their pedagogy, and that will have long-term benefits for our curriculum.”

Originally posted on Duke Today

Join Us on October 11 for a Special Event on “The New Education”

Cathy Davidson

The Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies is hosting a discussion, reception, and book signing with educational innovator Cathy N. Davidson, author of The New Education: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World in Flux.

The event will take place on Wednesday, October 11, at Duke University’s Penn Pavilion from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Cosponsors include the Office of the Provost, Bass Connections, the Center for Instructional Technology, the Social Science Research Institute, Duke University Libraries, the Office of the Dean of Humanities, the Forum for Scholars and Publics, and the Franklin Humanities Institute.

Davidson is currently Distinguished Professor at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and previously served as Duke’s first Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies. In her new book, she argues that the American university is stuck in the past—and shows how we can revolutionize it to prepare students for our age of constant change.

Our current system of higher education dates to the period from 1865 to 1925, when the nation’s new universities created grades and departments, majors and minors, graduate and professional schools in an attempt to prepare young people for a world transformed by the telegraph and the Model T. This approach to education worked for most of the 20th century, says Davidson, but is unsuited to the era of the “gig economy.” From the Ivy League to community colleges, Davidson introduces us to innovators who are remaking college for our own time, by emphasizing student-centered learning that values creativity, dexterity, innovation, and social change.

In this talk she shows how we can revolutionize our universities to help students be leaders of change, not simply subject to it. Davidson will be joined in conversation by Edward Balleisen, Professor of History and Public Policy and Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke.

The Gothic Bookshop will provide books for sale at the event at a special rate of $24.

RSVP to Sarah Dwyer.