Bigger than the Sum of its Parts: A Collaborative Conference Structure and Student Empowerment to Engage

Donnie Sendelbach (DePauw University), Jacob Heil (Five Colleges of Ohio), Gregory Lord (Hamilton College), and Taylor Mills (Hope College)

Small, residential campuses provide an environment for intensive undergraduate-faculty research, albeit usually based on the faculty member’s work with the student undertaking a branch of it. How do we create the scaffolding for students to take ownership of joint scholarship alongside their own academic and professional development? Collaborative by nature, digital scholarship can furnish a structure that enables students to participate more actively—in research, technology, and design.

In July 2015, Hamilton College hosted the Institute for Liberal Arts Digital Scholarship (ILiADS), providing the opportunity for project teams of faculty members, instructional technologists, librarians, administrators, and students. A surprising and encouraging outcome of ILiADS’ flattened hierarchy and egalitarian team structure was that students recognized and seized upon the opportunity of this collaborative space to take ownership of their contribution as a community of “co-researchers.” By carving out time and space to meet as a group, these students organized the Undergraduate Network for Research in the Humanities (UNRH) along with a conference running simultaneously with #BUDSC15.

ILiADS organizers and a UNRH representative will discuss ways in which ILiADS’ structure directly and indirectly contributed to the students’ empowerment during the Institute. Moreover, the panel will discuss the ways in which ILiADS’ flexible and immersive design, along with its emphasis on teaching and learning, reflected a broader liberal arts ethos and led to a communal ownership of the event and a lasting investment in its outcomes—useful to practitioners of digital scholarship at any type of institution of higher education.