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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