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Beyond the Shiny New Toy—Next Frontier for Digital Humanities

Joining Database Sites to Better Understand Early Modern Book History

Last summer, a group of three scholars commandeered the Obermann Center attic for a month with the goal of pushing their digital humanities (DH) project into a new phase. The team of Blaine Greteman (English, University of Iowa), James Lee (English, Grinnell College), and David Eichmann (School of Library and Information Science, University of Iowa) worked to link two separate database web sites. One captures the full texts of 25,000 early modern books; the other includes metadata about the makers and sellers of nearly 500,000 books from a 300-year period.

The group was the first recipient of an Iowa Digital Bridges Collaborative Grant, part of the Digital Bridges for Humanistic Inquiry. This multi-year experiment supports a variety of collaborative practices in the humanities and is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The initiative offers faculty members at Grinnell College and the University of Iowa opportunities to work together from 2015 through 2018. 

Lofty Goals

At the heart of their project, “Linked Reading: A New Scalable Model for the Digital Humanities,” was a desire to see how the two datasets could be combined to answer a host of questions about the history of published literary texts, including the impact of those who printed, sold, and circulated these materials. As both Greteman and Lee are Shakespeare scholars, they chose Othello as a test case. Could they garner a new understanding of the play by unifying their datasets, and what technical bumps would they hit along the way?

The loftier goal of the project was the advancement of a field that is arguably still in a very early phase. The three scholars believe that having multiple datasets that can talk to one another and be simultaneously cross-referenced will open new doors for scholars studying literatures of the past as well as for digital humanists. 

“For a long time, DH has been viewed as a shiny new toy,” says Lee. “Just saying ‘isn’t it cool’ isn’t sufficient. We want to move beyond that.”

[Editor's note: The original article states the grant ends in 2019. It ends in 2018.]

Continue reading "Beyond the shiny new toy - next frontier for Digital Humanities."

Carnival and Creativity: Sounding Community in Post-Katrina New Orleans and Post-Quake Haiti

Thursday, February 11, 2016 - 4:30pm

 

Co-sponsored by the Music Department, the Center for the Humanities, the Center for International Studies, and the Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights.

On August 23, 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans. Roughly five years later, on January 12, 2010, a massive earthquake rocked the small island nation of Haiti. These cataclysmic events, this shared experience of trauma, added a further layer of connection between these two regions, already linked by their shared African and French heritage, the legacy of colonialism, and the experience of slavery that made Louisiana and Haiti home to vibrant, thriving Afro-diasporic communities.

February 2016, therefore, represents the 10th and 5th anniversaries (respectively) of the first Pre-Lenten celebrations – Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Carnival in Haiti – to follow these social and environmental catastrophes. In New Orleans and Port-Au-Prince alike, Carnival did what Carnival always does: it gave the community a chance to come together in solidarity in the face of struggle; it provided an opportunity to heal from trauma; and it offered a moment for people who are often ignored – especially within the upper echelons of global social and economic power – to give voice and movement to their struggles and their triumphs through song and dance and celebration. These Mardi Gras and Carnival celebrations showed us the remarkable power that music, dance, and art have to heal and to empower individuals and communities.

On February 11-12 at Grinnell College, we will pay tribute to those individuals and communities with a series of events that mark the 10th and 5th anniversaries of the 2006 and 2011 Carnival celebrations:

• Thursday, Feb. 11, 4:30-6:30pm, BCA 102 - New Orleans Brass Band Workshop with Bennie Pete, tuba and co-founder, Hot 8 Brass Band

• Thursday, Feb. 11, 7:30-9pm, BCA 152 - "If You Don't Like What the Big Queen Says, Just...": An Evening With Queen Reesie (Cherice Harrison-Nelson, curator of the Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame and Big Queen of the Guardians of the Flame Mardi Gras Indians)

• Friday, Feb. 12, 4:15-6pm, BCA 152 - Carnival and Creativity Roundtable Discussion
o Discussants: Gage Averill, University of British Columbia; Cherice Harrison-Nelson, Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame; Tess Kulstad, Grinnell College; Bennie Pete, Hot 8 Brass Band; moderated by Mark Laver, Grinnell College

• Friday, Feb. 12, 8-9:30pm, Sebring Lewis - Grinnell Jazz Ensemble Plays the Music of New Orleans, featuring Bennie Pete and Cherice Harrison-Nelson. Directed by Mark Laver.

Grinnell Supports Scholarly Open-Access Publishing

Grinnell College is among nearly 40 liberal arts colleges joining forces with Amherst College Press and the University of Michigan Library to create Lever Press, a new collaborative peer-reviewed, open-access scholarly publishing enterprise.

Grinnell College and Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, are the only Iowa colleges currently supporting Lever Press. Both are members of the Oberlin Group, a consortium of libraries in America’s top liberal arts colleges. Also backing Lever Press are Allegheny College and Ursinus College, which do not belong to the Oberlin Group.

As part of its dedication to complete open access, Lever Press will first make all works freely available to readers on the Internet. The works also will appear in print form wherever possible.

Lever Press is unusual because it will require neither authors nor readers to pay for publication costs. This is made possible by the participating colleges committed to contributing a total of more than $1 million to the work of Lever Press over the next five years. Supported by these pledges, Lever Press aims to acquire, develop, produce and disseminate a total of 60 new open-access titles by the end of 2020.

Grinnell’s Libraries and the Dean’s office will share the cost of contributing $8,000 a year to Lever Press for five years for a total of $40,000.

Investing in Lever Press provides a great opportunity for Grinnell faculty and students, and for the wider world, said Julia Bauder, interim librarian of the College and social studies and data services librarian.

“For faculty,” Bauder said, “it provides an opportunity to publish peer-reviewed, digital books that incorporate media and data in ways that are not possible with printed books, opening up new possibilities for scholarship in the digital liberal arts. For students, my hope is that initiatives such as Lever Press will help to reduce textbook costs by making scholarly books of the sort that Grinnell faculty often assign freely available to them.

“And even after they graduate, Grinnell students and others who are interested in reading great research in the social sciences and humanities will be able to read these books, no matter where they live, what kind of job they have, or by what libraries they are served. Lever Press is truly a win for everyone involved.”

Lever Press is launching as an imprint of Michigan Publishing, a division of the University of Michigan Library. Michigan Publishing will focus on distribution, the publishing platform, and other technical matters, while Amherst College Press will take the lead on the editorial side.

In addition to its novel approach to open access, Lever Press is distinguished by its editorial alignment with the mission and ethos of liberal arts colleges, as well as its digitally native production processes designed to support innovative projects that go “beyond the book.”

“This is an exciting initiative because of the benefit to pioneering humanities and digital humanities work which comes with the space and scale that online formats provide,” said Matthew Johnson, assistant professor of history at Grinnell.

“In the past,” he added, “if you wanted to publish a book that was rich in images, for example, you needed a companion website, as my co-editors and I did with our volume Visualizing Modern China. Given that many small liberal arts colleges are ahead of the curve in terms of adoption of digital resources for teaching and research, Grinnell and other consortium faculty will benefit from being able to integrate similar approaches more seamlessly into their publication strategies, while connecting their work with a far larger audience than has been the case previously.”

Lan-Chang Fellowship Opportunity

The purpose of the Lan-Chang Fellowship is to promote cultural understanding of China and award initiative, originality, and creative exploration. 

Two Grinnell College students shall be awarded support for the expenses of traveling to and from and living in China for six to eight weeks during the summer (each $3,500). Recipients will complete a Mentored Advanced Project (MAP) or other independent research project focused on China with a strong experiential component, requiring interaction with a variety of Chinese individuals and sites.

Students of any major who have completed their second year with at least one remaining semester to be completed on the Grinnell College campus before graduation are eligible. Knowledge of Chinese language or culture is not required; in fact, those without such experience are encouraged to apply. 

2015 recipient, Rosie O'Brien ’16 shares her experience: 

“My inquiry into rural  anesthetics was informative, life-changing, and successful. There are many ways to say that a thing is beautiful, and many ways to achieve a particular kind of beauty, but 21st—century China’s rate of exchange from rural to urban apace is too quick for artists and viewers to settle on any one of them. ... Thanks to the Lan-Chang Fellowship, I was able to center myself in the confusing world of contemporary art and the capitalist rhetoric of development and growth.”

Learn more about the Lang-Chang Fellowship (login required). 

A Conversation about the Iowa Caucuses

Grinnell College will host "A Conversation about the Iowa Caucuses with E.J. Dionne Jr. and David Shribman" at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28, in Joe Rosenfield '25 Center, Room 101.

The Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights is sponsoring the event, which is free and open to the public.

"We are so lucky to be in a position at Grinnell to hear from these distinguished journalists as part of our preparation to participate in the historic Iowa Caucuses," said Sarah Purcell, director of the Rosenfield Program and professor of history.

E.J. Dionne Jr.Dionne is a syndicated columnist, National Public Radio commentator, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a noted author. His books include Why Americans Hate Politics and Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism From Goldwater to the Tea Party and Beyond, scheduled for release this week by Simon & Schuster.

His new book "provides a sweeping, sophisticated and shrewd analysis of the radicalization of the Republican Party from the defeat of Goldwater to the rise of the Tea Party and the bizarre twists and turns of the GOP's presidential contest in the fall of 2015," according to a review by Glenn Altshulter in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

David ShribmanShribman has been executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette since 2003. Before joining the Post-Gazette, he covered politics for several other distinguished newspapers, including The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. His column, "My Point," is nationally syndicated. He received the Pulitzer Prize in journalism for his coverage of Washington in 1995.

This will be Shribman's second appearance at Grinnell in recent months. He served on a panel with a Des Moines Register political reporter and political columnist at another Rosenfield event on Dec. 7 titled "Journalists Talk About The Iowa Caucuses."

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Rosenfield Center has accessible parking in the lot to the east. Room 101 is equipped with an induction hearing loop system. You can request accommodations from the event sponsor or Conference Operations and Events.

Bridging Scholarship and Activism

BlainGrinnell College's celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day will feature a speech on Tuesday, Jan. 26, by University of Iowa Assistant Professor of History Keisha N. Blain.

Although Jan. 18 was the King Holiday, the College is celebrating it on Jan. 26, the day after classes begin for the 2016 spring semester.

Blain's speech, titled "Bridging Scholarship and Activism: Reflections on the #Charlestonsyllabus," will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Joe Rosenfield '25 Center Room 101. Immediately following the talk, Blain will join attendees in a buffet dinner. Both the speech and dinner are free and open to the public.

"Dr. Blain is a rising academic whose work demonstrates how scholarship and activism for social change can and must be connected," said Professor of History Sarah Purcell, who also directs the Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights

"She will speak about connections in her own work on African American history," Purcell added, "and her work to educate the public about historical context necessary for understanding the Charleston shootings and continuing to combat white supremacy. Anyone with an interest in racial justice, current affairs, or history should not miss this talk."

Blain is one of the co-developers #Charlestonsyllabus, a Twitter movement and crowdsourced list of reading recommendations relating to the history of racial violence in the United States. It was created in response to the racially motivated shooting that took place in June 2015 during a Bible study class in a church in Charleston, South Carolina. The reading list has drawn international media attention from news outlets such as PBS, BBC, NPR, The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times.

Blain also is a co-editor of "Charleston Syllabus: Readings on Race, Racism and Racial Violence," forthcoming later this year from the University of Georgia Press. In addition, she is completing her first solo-authored book, "Contesting the Global Color Line: Black Women, Nationalist Politics, and Internationalism," which is forthcoming from the University of Pennsylvania Press.

Grinnell College's Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights is sponsoring Blain's speech and the buffet dinner. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion is co-sponsoring the events.

Satisfactory Academic Progress and Financial Aid

A new Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) policy related to student financial aid takes effect beginning with the 2016 spring semester.

If you receive any form of financial aid, including work-study and loans, we encourage you to carefully review the policy in its entirety.

Contact the Office of Financial Aid if you have any questions.