Using Digital Humanities in the Classroom: A Practical Introduction for Teachers, Lecturers, and Students

Chapter 9: Teaching Graduate Students


Debates and Conversations

Because of the widespread perception that DH skills can provide a boost to a graduate student’s job prospects, active and often impassioned debates about graduate students in the digital humanities rage on in a number of contexts. One popular debate revolves around the non-traditional dissertation. Amanda Visconti has written a widely cited blog post that helpfully explains how to evaluate non-traditional dissertations, which nicely sidesteps the question of the advisability of producing them and instead addresses important issues of quality, method, and social media publicity. A 2014 MLA panel, “Beyond the Protomonograph,” touches on the rationale for non-traditional dissertations as well as platforms for these types of theses, while Melissa Dalgleish and Daniel Powell have written in Graduate Education in the 21st Century to continue this particular conversation. Also within #Alt-Academy, check out Katrina Rogers’s “Toward Innovative Dissertations and Public Engagement,” Amanda Licastro et al’s “What is A Dissertation? New Models, Methods, Media,” and Alexandrina Agloro, Johanna Taylor, Elyse and Gordon’s “What’s the Point? The Dissertation as Process and Not a Product.” Unlike these sets of arguments, this collectively written article in Inside Higher Education concludes that “[a]s long as departments continue to be structured by literary-historical fields and tenure continues to be tied to monographs, a non-traditional dissertation seems likely to do a great disservice to students on the job market and the tenure track.” As we emphasize in the chapter, the ultimate decision must be made within the context of a particular department, but knowing others’ arguments for and against non-traditional dissertations can familiarize students and supervisors with perspectives on the issue beyond their own institution.

This careful balancing act between risks and rewards, which a student contemplating a non-traditional dissertation will inevitably face, will only intensify once the student is on the job market. Scouring the Academic Job Wiki and its annual listings for New Media and Digital Humanities jobs (here is a link to the 2017 list), as well as the targeted list for the student’s discipline and subdisciplinary specialization, will yield helpful information but will also do very little to allay fears and concerns. We suggest that anxious job hunters steer clear of any (or, at least, too many) articles on The Chronicle of Higher Education or Inside Higher Education and job-related social-media content; only the most fearless will manage to glean helpful information while not being mired in others’ misconceptions and negativity. A more positive source of information about professionalization and the job search is MLA’s Connected Academics (mentioned above as an External Opportunity). Even if you are in in a language or literature field, their articles, training sessions, and links to mentors can be helpful.

If a job outside of the academy is sought, or perhaps an administrative or development position within a university system, check out the #Alt-Academy on Media Commons in addition to Connected Academics. If you are unfamiliar with the term, read this introductory essay and this guide about how to begin thinking about an alt-ac career. These opportunities for recent PhDs have receive quite a bit of media coverage; even Slate and The New York Times have offered “hot takes” on the growing need for graduates to seek non-academic employment. Whereas these mainstream media accounts of alt-ac employment will be of greater help when you try explain to relatives why you are having a hard time finding a job -- and of far less value for a graduate or a supervisor trying to find sound advice -- Bethany Nowviskie has been doling out wise words about the topic for a long time. Her essay “The #Alt-Ac Track: Negotiating Your ‘Alternative Academic’ Appointment” is considered foundational, but do check out all of her posts tagged #alt-ac. More resources can be found in the crowd-sourced spreadsheet the ends this article.

Sample Graduate Syllabi

Although most of us may never teach a graduate course, and among those of us who do, many of us will never teach a course that is specifically a digital humanities course, you may be interested in graduate seminars that are intended as introductions or explorations into DH. Most importantly, these syllabi can give you ideas for incorporated DH-inflected assignments into any graduate course. For a more general approach to building graduate syllabi, read Scott Selisker’s “Digital Humanities Knowledge: Reflections on the Introductory Graduate Syllabus,” which is located in Debates in the Digital Humanities 2016.

HUM 6836: Digital Humanities Studio
Elizabeth Dale and Laurie Taylor (University of Florida, Spring 2016)

ENG 508: Prototyping Texts: Interpretation through Alteration
Jentery Sayers (University of Victoria, Spring 2016)

ACS 6820/HIST 6820: Introduction to Digital Humanities
Andrew M. Schocket (Bowling Green State University, Spring 2016)

ENG/HIST 598: Digital Humanities
Jacqueline Wernimont (Arizona State University, Fall 2015)

ENG671: Seminar in Digital Rhetoric 
Sarah J. Arroyo (California State University - Long Beach, Fall 2015)

English 350: Literary Data: Some Approaches
Andrew Goldstone (Rutgers University, Spring 2015)

HIST671: Introduction to Public History
Anne Mitchell Whisnant (University of North Carolina, Fall 2015)

ENGL533: Distant Reading the 19th Century
Ted Underwood (University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign, Spring 2015)

WRT614: Digital Rhetorics (Reading/Writing/Culture Across Networks)
Cynthia Davidson (Stony Brook University, Spring 2014)

LIT 306E: Digital Humanities and New Media
Kathi Inman Berens (Marylhurst University, Winter 2014)

AMST2661/ITAL2661/MCM 2500F Visualizations in the Humanities
Steven Lubar, Massimo Riva, and Jean Bauer (Brown University, Fall 2013)

CMS.633/833 Digital Humanities: Topics, Techniques, and Technologies 
J. Paradis and Kurt Fendt (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Spring 2013)

ENG890S/ISIS 490: Digital Literacies
Cathy Davidson and Dan Ariely (Duke University, Spring 2013)

LIS657: Digital Humanities
Chris Alen Sula (Pratt Institute, Spring 2013)

INF385T: Introduction to Digital Humanities
Tanya Clement (University of Texas - Austin, Fall 2012)

MALS 78100: The Digital Humanities in Research and Teaching
Stephen Brier and Matthew K. Gold (CUNY Graduate Center, Spring 2012)

DH 201/CMLT 290: Introduction to Digital Humanities
Todd Pressner (University of California - Los Angeles, Winter 2012)

LLCU-602: Digital Humanities New Approaches to Scholarship
Stéfan Sinclair (McGill University, Fall 2011)

ENG 798/583: Introduction to Humanities Physical Computing
David M. Rieder (North Carolina State University, Fall 2011)

HIST 697: History and New Media
Paula Petrick (George Mason University, Spring 2010)

ENGL503/CSC589a: Literary Computing
Ray Siemens (University of Victoria, Spring 2010)

AMCV220: Digital Scholarship
Susan Smulyan (Brown University, Spring 2010)

HUSL 7335: Digital Rhetorics 
John Gooch (University of Texas - Dallas, Spring 2009)

External Opportunities for Graduate Students

Many of the opportunities outlined in Chapters 11 and 12 about internal and external support communities will also be available to graduate students. Frequently, through those support systems, you will also find travel funds, bursaries, and other forms of additional support designed specifically for early-career scholars and students. Also, make sure that you are knowledgeable about the opportunities within your institution, whether or not they are labeled “DH” or restricted to research agendas or opportunities related to technology. (You may end up discovering more opportunities for yourself, as well as for your students!) In larger institutions, you may be able to point your students to your internal grant office or humanities research institute, which will ensure that the student’s entire palette of available resources does not depend solely upon your (the supervisor’s) effort. Meanwhile, other places to look for graduate student funding, experiences, and communities include the HASTAC scholars programthe MLA Connected Academics program, and this constantly updated DHNow list. Don’t forget the summer workshops -- DHSI at the University of Victoria and DHOxSS at Oxford -- which are very welcoming to graduate students. Look out particularly for workshops that help students build their “digital identity.” If none of these opportunities work out for your graduate students, give them a similar professionalization experience by asking them to complete this assignment in digital identity management from Leslie Madsen-Brooks.

Because much of this information changes so quickly, your best bet for helping graduate students find resources is to keep track of news from DH colleagues by maintaining an active Twitter account and by subscribing to DH-minded listservs, such as Humanist ( This frenetic pace whereby available funds, fellowships, and programs change constantly also, confusingly, applies to graduate programs in the digital humanities.  Miriam Posner has made a list of DH MA programs, while Tanya Clement also has a list of DH-related programs, but even these are somewhat outdated. To make it even more confusing, even though King’s College London and Trinity College host some of the only PhDs in Digital Humanities in and of itself, many PhD programs in the humanities will boast faculty who are so cognizant of DH that the student will be as knowledgeable as you’d expect a DH PhD to be. Others have “certificates” or “tracks” in the digital humanities; these include the University of VictoriaCUNY Graduate CenterUCLAGeorge Masonthe University of North Carolina, and Texas A&M. Look for universities with DH centers -- MITH at the University of Maryland is a major example, of course, as is the University of Nebraska’s Center for Research in the Digital Humanities and Arizona State University’s NexusLab -- as these attract DH faculty and projects that will give graduate students, again, almost like a PhD in DH. New programs, tracks, and certificates in all sorts of institutions crop up all the time, so it is worth to conduct new searches each year or reach out to your academic peer community if you want to stay current with graduate programs in DH.

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