Models of Student Engagement in DH at Lafayette College

Emily McGinn, Feevan Megersa, Jethro Israel, and Ian Morse (Lafayette College)

In developing the digital humanities efforts on campus, Lafayette’s Digital Scholarship Services has been extending its focus from faculty driven projects to also include student research through our DH in the Classroom initiative and our DH Summer Scholars Program, an intensive internship where students worked on digital projects of their own design.

This presentation includes three students who have created projects under these two models.

Jethro Israel: The story of David Kinney and Washington Watts, two slaves turned Lafayette College Alumni during an era of slavery in America, is an overwhelmingly dynamic story that highlights the intersection of societal statutes and individual actions. The trials and tribulations of the two brothers present us with a story filled with individual agency during a period of time when most blacks in our country were not considered as individuals. Their letters combined with a historical backdrop produces a project bigger than just the two people at its core. As a digital project this story illuminates family ties for those who voyaged to Liberia with the American Colonization Society.

Ian Morse: Current press freedom indices conflate myriad problems and measures into single values. When searching for solutions to press freedom violations, believing that all countries suffer from similar afflictions is counterproductive. I approached this project in search of solution-oriented measures that could suggest which political, legal, economic, and social factors had the most influence on press freedom. The crux of my project has thus focused on establishing a method of measuring how we can use digital humanities to see how newspapers react to external events and evaluate how press freedom affects the ‘quality’ of journalism.

Feevan Megersa: With nearly 3000 years of history to date, the communal custom of sharing stories in Ethiopia, in the form of folktales, has been practiced since its founding and has contributed to the preservation of traditional values throughout generations. A comprehensive study of Ethiopian folktales conducted by Elizabeth Laird, in collaboration with the Ethiopian ministry of education and British council in Ethiopia, collected over 300 folktales spanning all of the country’s 13 designated regions. My project attempts to map out reoccurring themes in the folktales documented by Laird as well as highlighting the moral behind each folktale.

While faculty projects are still at the core of the DSS mission, including students in this work is crucial to developing a sustainable model of engagement across campus.