Editing Modernism in Canada


June 11, 2014

Encouraging Undergrad Involvement in DH

I would like to pick up on the idea of bringing the sense of community and excitement of DHSI back to the undergraduate students at my home institution. I feel that this is especially important now that DEMiC has had its last DHSI. I occasionally encounter some troubling attitudes towards undergraduate students in the “upper levels” of academia. Yes, they are young and may not be considering their future in the field at this point. Yes, many do not take their undergraduate work seriously. Yes, not all of them will be thinking about continuing on to graduate studies and beyond. Things change. Many students do not benefit early on from a sense of inclusion in a community of scholars, which may stem from traditional notions of undergraduates as consumers of, but not producers of, knowledge. When I was an undergrad I did not consider applying to grad school (or getting involved in the digital side of humanities work) until I met an incredibly supportive professor in the final year of my degree. I was taking her CanLit course as a requirement, had no previous experience with the field, and had never heard of anything called the Digital Humanities. And now I’m hooked.

Since I am a TA and not in the position to incorporate DH skills and theory into my tutorials, I am left wondering how best to encourage “my” undergrad students to get involved. I briefly described DHSI to my classes before leaving for Victoria last week. I let them know that since our library is a sponsor, the tuition is greatly reduced for anyone interested in attending in the future. I encouraged those interested in becoming English majors or who have computer-based skills to send me an email or come talk to me during office-hours about future opportunities in the field. I don’t claim to have all the answers; but I do have access to a community of scholars who might!

Of course, I wouldn’t want to push the discipline on students who are not interested in the digital side of English studies or who have no immediate plans to pursue a graduate degree. Basically, I put the bug in their ears. Maybe only one of my students will actually be interested in DH; maybe none of them will be. But I would like to pay the favour forward by providing opportunities for young scholars to get involved in this highly energetic and collaborative discipline, in whatever ways that I can.

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