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Digital Humanities Center Opens at The University of Southern Mississippi

Tue, 01/11/2022 - 15:39pm | By: Margaret Ann Macloud

L-R: Samuel Hill (BS student in Computer Networks and Cybersecurity), Dr. Susannah Ural, Dr. Liz Polcha, and Joseph Jarrell (MA student in History and Digital Humanities Badge candidate)

L-R: Samuel Hill (BS student in Computer Networks and Cybersecurity), Dr. Susannah Ural, Dr. Liz Polcha, and Joseph Jarrell (MA student in History and Digital Humanities Badge candidate)

The humanities are growing at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) with the launch of the Center for Digital Humanities. The center supports existing faculty work in digital humanities (DH), expands current course offerings, adds a new tenure-track professorship in digital humanities, and promotes USM as a DH hub throughout the region.

USM's Center for Digital Humanities (CDH) is housed in the School of Humanities and serves an array of growing digital humanities scholarship at the University. As an interdisciplinary research center supported by a Carnegie R1 institution, CDH benefits from strong relationships with faculty in English, History, and Philosophy as well as faculty affiliates in Computer Science, Geography and the Ecospatial Lab, and Cook Library’s Digital Lab. 

“At an R-1 institution like USM, digital humanities isn’t just about faculty research. It’s about collaborating on that work with our students,” said Dr. Susannah Ural, the director and founder of the new center. “DH offers students the chance to experiment, learn, and reflect on how computational methods are implemented both in humanistic research and in their daily lives, and it provides students with experiences that make them highly marketable to employers."

"This center was not built overnight, and it's exciting to see years of effort by Dr. Ural begin to pay off,” said Dr. Matt Casey, Director of the School of Humanities. “Among its major innovations is that it created a structure to bring faculty from various disciplines together who were already integrating aspects of digital methods into their scholarship. I'm proud that this Center will be greater than the sum of its various parts, and I have already seen it motivate additional people to consider their research agenda through a digital lens."

Development on CDH began in November 2019. USM asked Ural—a digital and military historian—to lead this effort based on her scholarly expertise and role in the successful multi-million-dollar campaign that launched USM’s world-renowned Dale Center for the Study of War & Society in 2014. Working with partners in the region, across campus, and in the School of Humanities, the USM DH team led by Ural and digital liaison, Dr. Stephanie Seal Walters, spent the next two years building the center. Today, the Center for DH is directed by Ural, working in close partnership with Dr. Liz Polcha, Assistant Professor of Digital Humanities and English.

“If you come by the DH Center, you’ll find our team advising students and faculty with their projects, or busy with the exhibit building work we are currently doing for regional organizations to improve public accessibility to state archives related to histories of slavery and colonialism in the south,” said Dr. Polcha. “Our public outreach not only supports the sustainability and accessibility of humanities knowledge for regional repositories, but also provides our students with excellent training for their desired career paths in the public humanities.”

There are several course offerings for undergraduates (HIS306, ENG365, HUM402) and graduate students (HUM501 and HUM502), as well as opportunities to work in DH internships. The Center for DH includes about 20 interdisciplinary faculty working across campus and collaborating on DH projects and grants. The team also benefits from strong relationships with partners across the region including the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and the Mississippi Digital Library.

More information can be found by visiting https://www.usm.edu/digital-humanities