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Iowa Schools Team Up To Build Bridge Supporting Digital Liberal Arts

A small private college and a major research university, both in Iowa, have received a four-year, $1.6 million grant to explore digital liberal arts. Grinnell College, with 1,600 students, and the University of Iowa, with 31,000 students, received the funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The two institutions, which have campuses about 64 miles apart, will use the money to expand the use of digital technology among faculty and students, in a program called "Digital Bridges for Humanistic Inquiry."

Among the collaborative activities planned:

  • Faculty development through summer institutes, collaborative projects and training in digital liberal arts techniques;
  • Curriculum development to create new digital liberal arts courses and course modules;
  • Development of a conference to be held at U Iowa in 2018 to engage the wider digital liberal arts community;
  • Creation of a site with an online inventory of digital projects; and
  • Support for library and instructional technology faculty and staff members to help make the digital projects possible.

Digital humanities are not a new area for either institution. Grinnell research projects include "Mapping the Global Renaissance," which applies "big data" techniques to the examination of 50,000 early modern texts. U Iowa participates in the "Walt Whitman Archive" and "Shakeosphere: Mapping Early Modern Social Networks," among other efforts.

"This grant will enable us to build on the digital projects already underway at both schools to establish new communities of thought and practice. Teams involving faculty, staff, students, and community partners will be able to use digital tools to produce new forms of analysis, creativity, and critique that are fundamental to our disciplines," said Erik Simpson, a Grinnell English professor and principal investigator for the project at that school.

Added Michael Latham, Grinnell vice president of academic affairs and dean, the initiative will allow students to "develop greater digital literacy, gain valuable skills in collaborative writing and research and create knowledge for broader, public audiences. Those experiences will serve them well throughout their professional lives."

"Among the innumerable advantages of this partnership, we look forward to mining the rich potential of shared, project-based learning," noted Teresa Mangum, director of U Iowa's Obermann Center for Advanced Studies and professor of gender, women, and sexuality studies. "We picture professors and students working side-by-side in linked classrooms that connect Grinnell and Iowa, as they archive and visualize their research projects, sharing their discoveries and insights with diverse virtual audiences across the world."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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