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Saint Mary’s introduces digital and public humanities minor

Saint Mary’s introduced the new digital and public humanities minor this fall. The digital and public humanities minor is an interdisciplinary, hands-on field of study that aims to highlight the real-world applications of the humanities field. 

“Humanities is quite literally the study of what it means to be human and what makes us human. This minor is going to allow us to think about what it means to be human at a moment which is exceedingly digitally motivated and how we respond appropriately to this new digital era that we find ourselves in,” Sarah Noonan, program coordinator for the digital and public humanities minor and associate professor of English, said.

Course goals include demonstrating the value of humanistic perspectives in business-oriented and tech-driven areas of study while providing students with project-based learning opportunities. 

“I personally was drawn to the digital and public humanities minor because I thought that it would be super interesting and helpful to be able to learn how to integrate the fields I am in (History, Humanistic Studies, and Gender & Women studies) with technology,” senior Sarah Stephenson, the first student to officially adopt the minor, said in an email.

As a 15-credit hour minor, there are two required classes and three elective classes students must take to complete the minor. The two required classes are “Humanities at Work: Introduction to the Digital and Public Humanities” and “Computer Programming.” A variety of classes are offered as electives in addition to several new courses that are being created for the minor. 

One course in development is “Public Humanities,” which will be taught by professor Julia Dauer.

“[The course] has a big goal of thinking about what the public is, including the idea and history of the public sphere, who is included in this and what conflicts there are. So, there’s that conceptual work and we’re also going to be thinking about reading in public whether that’s reading in protests, consciousness raising groups or other kinds of contexts,” Dauer said. 

For the creation of this minor, faculty from ten different departments are collaborating to implement the related courses.

“It is going to expose students to a range of perspectives, all seeking to address humanistic problems from a multitude of angles. I think that will be enriching, interesting and exciting for them, [while also] helping them see the validity and value of their study,” Noonan said of the minor. 

Six community partners are collaborating with the program. The partners are the Civil Rights Heritage Center, IUSB Archives and Special Collections, South Bend Civic Theater, Michiana Jewish Historical Society, Elkhart County Historical Museum and the St. Joseph County Public Library.

Students will complete project based work involving the broader Saint Mary’s community including the community partners.

“[Students will be] engaged in community work, telling stories that have not yet been surfaced by those community partners that they’ve been hoping to tell,” Noonan said. 

Upon completion of the minor, students will be equipped with hands-on, project-based community experience and have the ability to effectively communicate in digital and public forums, Noonan said.

Noonan added that the program will “allow students to see that what they learned in the humanities classroom is directly applicable to their professional careers.” 

Students are currently able to take classes that count toward the new digital and public humanities minor. There is a collaboration in development that will allow students to fulfill Sophia Program requirements and requirements for the minor at the same time. 

“So far I have taken classes for this minor with Professor Laura Williamson, Professor Jamie Wagman, and Professor Ian Weaver. Through these three classes I have already learned so much about creating digital spaces and exhibits, how to do oral histories and now, in Professor Weaver’s class, I am learning how to put together an actual physical exhibition. This minor is really just so diverse and teaches you so much, and I have really enjoyed the content and the faculty,” Stephenson said in the email.

Noonan said the minor opens up a variety of professional and lifestyle opportunities.

“People have questioned the value of a humanities degree and I firmly believe that a humanities degree is one of the most important degrees you can get because it is going to prepare you to live flexibly throughout your life, to be curious, to get jobs, to have satisfying careers and to actively contribute to the world in really profound ways,” she said.

Contact Chancelor at cgordon01@saintmarys.edu

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SMC votes hosts ‘Rock the Vote’

Editor’s Note: Crystal Ramirez is a former Associate News Editor for The Observer.

SMC Votes hosted ‘Rock the Vote’, Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in Belle’s Backyard. The event featured voting resources, treats and live entertainment. Bellacapella and the Pearl performed while attendees requested region specific voting information and voted for the Most Popular Dog on Campus.

Saint Mary’s students relax and chat during the “Rock the Vote’ event on Wednesday September 21.

Rock the vote was an event created “to increase voter engagement and celebrate democracy,” SMC Votes co-coordinator Libbey Detcher said. The live music, furry friends, and numerous resources fostered a welcoming environment for people to come and get information on voter registration and requesting absentee ballots. 

“[Rock the Vote is] a positive way to bring people together. I feel like a lot of people in our generation are passive, but if you want change you’re going to have to actively work for it and voting is one way you can do that,” sophomore McKenzie McDaniel said. 

SMC Votes is an initiative under the Office for the Common Good. “[SMC Votes helps students with] registering to vote, requesting absentee ballots or making some kind of voting plan,” Detcher explained. 

Founded in 2018, SMC Votes has worked diligently to improve the civic engagement of the student body. “SMC Votes started in 2018 after we realized our voter registration and voter participation rates were really below national averages,” Director of the Office for the Common Good Rebekah Go recounted. 

With an issue at hand, Go and the Office of the Common Good immediately took action under the new initiative. “We started making concerted efforts to get students engaged in the process [by] helping them register and figure out how to vote, which is complicated because absentee ballot wielding is not streamlined at all,” Go said. 

Since 2018, SMC Votes has made “significant strides” in increasing voter registration and participation with around a “30% increase” according to Go. The ultimate goal is to reach 100% of eligible voter participation at the college. 

“We’re trying to get students excited about the electoral process and this fall’s midterm elections,” Go said as she reminded students that “their voice matters”. The two clubs featured at the event, the Saint Mary’s College Democrats and the Saint Mary’s College Political Science Club, provide students with a way to get involved with the field of politics in addition to exercising their right to vote. 

“We are an official chapter of the statewide College Democrats of Indiana and we are here to represent and get more engagement. [As] a brand new club here at Saint Mary’s [we are] looking to build community and are excited for the semester,” President of the Saint Mary’s College Democrats Crystal Ramirez detailed. 

SMC Votes plans to host numerous events throughout the year including mobile voting, constitution day and educational events in the spring. “We are planning on hosting debate watches for district two on Oct. 4, and it’s just for students to come if they want to watch the debate, do their homework, de-stress, chill out, or whatever they want,” SMC Votes co-coordinator Jeanett Ochoa said.

Students should contact the Office for the Common Good at ocg@saintmarys.edu or stop by the Student Center for more information on voting and getting registered to vote.

“Everybody just wants their voice to be heard and I think voting is one way that everyone can come together for some kind of common cause,” Detcher said.