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Center for Digital Humanities

NSF-REU program "Mapping Freedom"

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The research and education in this Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) site at The University of Southern Mississippi will focus on the use of mapping technology, including geographic information systems, to understand better the transformation of society during periods of historical change.

About Mapping Freedom

Student researchers will work with faculty mentors in computer science and digital humanities to map the granular process of emancipation in Mississippi during the Civil War and through the period of Reconstruction to visualize freed-people's paths to citizenship.

This project was inspired by three factors: 

  1. the need for more individuals from economically underprivileged backgrounds in computer science and digital humanities; 
  2. evidence that underprivileged students are more likely to enter and stay in science and engineering fields if their first interaction is with material they recognize and find socially significant; and,
  3. the need for sophisticated, but user-friendly mapping technology in digital humanities and comparable fields of scholarship. The historical focus on emancipation is somewhat familiar to most students, but how that process evolved for the nearly half-million enslaved Mississippians in the 1860s and 1870s is largely unknown to them.

Project Goals

This project will help REU students develop a deeper understanding of historical change over time, and demonstrate how similar computer-based methods can be applied to analyze and visualize complex periods of history.

It will bring together humanities students from diverse backgrounds, especially those underrepresented in science, engineering, and digital humanities, to enable them to make significant contributions to collaborative research and to learn to work effectively as an individual and part of this REU community. They will include African Americans, women, first-generation college students, other minorities, and military veterans.

The experience will increase students' familiarity and comfort with computer science and digital humanities topics and research, including commonly used methods, software, and analytical tools.

To enhance their active participation in research, students will receive training in the fundamentals of each field, including systematic geography and geographic information systems.

A fundamental goal is to increase student interest in pursuing graduate studies toward a career in research and provide them with the experience and training needed to improve the likelihood of their success.

In addition, this work will demonstrate the research potential of accessible yet sophisticated mapping technology for STEM and non-STEM fields through the students' presentation of their research in academic settings and its use outside the REU program.


NSF logoThis project is jointly funded by Research Experiences for Undergraduates Sites, the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), and Human-Centered Computing.

This award reflects National Science Foundation's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.


Please use the button below to access further information about the application process, requirements, and a link to the application page.

Application Information

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Center for Digital Humanities

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