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How Can Administrators Support Public Outreach and Digital Humanities?

Sarah E. Bond

University of Iowa

How can departmental and university-wide administrators work to better encourage, support, and assess scholars interested in public outreach and digital humanities projects? This talk explores how higher education administrators can work together with both Classics faculty and students in order to encourage collaborative digital scholarship targeted to the public.

The first portion of the talk focuses on the need for Graduate College administrators to reassess Masters and PhD thesis standards for students in order to allow for the acceptance of more multimodal content. This content might include geographic visualization, network visualization, textual analysis, or the 3D modeling of cultural heritage. Such “born digital” approaches to scholarship go beyond the traditional, analog thesis template developed in the German academy of the 19thcentury, and allows for more flexibility in what is considered valid research. Challenging students to develop digital research methods not only prepares students for employment outside of the academy, but also help them to create content more readily interacted with by the public. The University of Iowa’s creation of summer funding grants for graduate students to develop new digital projects to supplement their dissertations is but one example of how to encourage and support such aims. Moreover, new graduate initiatives such as the NEH’s NextGen PhD program and the “Beyond the PDF” movement encourage both dynamic and non-traditional graduate scholarship that encourages students to focus more heavily on public outreach as a core objective of their graduate experience.

The second half of the paper addresses how administrators can integrate these same graduate objectives into reworked tenure and promotion standards for faculty and permanent lecturers at their university. Acceptance of new and different content for Masters and PhD theses can only be achieved if we also address outdated research expectations and how we define “scholarship.” Faculty are more likely to engage in blogging, public outreach, and digital humanities if they are rewarded for doing so in terms of salary and recognition. As scholarly organizations such as the American Historical Association (AHA) and Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) have gestured to assessment models for digital scholarship, we must move beyond the standardized but archaic metric of articles and monographs as the sole means of measuring who should attain permanent employment. Standardized rubrics that allow administrators unfamiliar with public Classics and digital humanities to do uniform assessments of digital projects and public content are essential, as are qualified digital content reviewers within the academy.

As this talk underscores, administrative support for public outreach and digital humanities projects must go far beyond funding. Money may be the first step, but sustained engagement with public digital humanities content can only be achieved when we begin to modify our expectations of what academic scholarship is in the modern day. Embracing collaborative, digital, and non-traditional research in Classics not only invites new and diverse voices to be a part of our field, it welcomes the public to the study of the ancient Mediterranean in in new ways that most traditional monographs and journal articles simply have not been able to achieve.

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Administrative Appointments: A Contribution to the Dialogue on the Present and Future of Classics...

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