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Making a career difference for SMU graduate students

Carrie Johnston

Thanks to skills she developed through nCDS’s Digital Humanities Practicum, Carrie Johnston ’14 is a post-doctoral fellow in digital scholarship at Bucknell University.

Central University Libraries’ Norwick Center for Digital Services (nCDS) has created a Digital Humanities Practicum that is helping SMU graduate students with their career development in today’s technology-rich environment. Since fall 2013, nCDS’ practicum has allowed SMU graduate students to learn about the growing use of technology and software tools for teaching, research and scholarship in the humanities. Students learn digitization, metadata creation and digital collections development using CUL Digital Collections.

“The Digital Humanities Practicum was a natural evolution of our longstanding Master’s of Library Science (MLS) Practicum, where we teach library students about the field of digital collections,” says Cindy Boeke, CUL’s digital collections developer. “Over the past six years, we have trained 27 MLS students and graduates how to digitize special collections, create metadata and upload items into CUL Digital Collections. Both programs are informal and in many ways resemble an apprenticeship.”

The SMU graduate students often add historical context to their Digital Humanities projects.

In 2013, Carrie Johnston ’14, then an English Ph.D. candidate, created the Fred Harvey Co. Materials from the DeGolyer Library digital collection, which brought to light new information on the development of tourism in the U.S. Southwest.

Last year, Christopher Dowdy ’13, a post-doctoral religious studies student, received specialized training and advice on his multi-archival digital exhibit on the 1910 lynching of Allen Brooks in Dallas, “The Lynching of Allen Brooks and the Disappearance of the Elks Arch.”

Charles Wuest ’15, who completed the practicum in the spring while an English Ph.D. candidate, states, “I highly recommend the practicum to other students, particularly graduate students in the humanities: the materials we use are changing with digital technology, and more jobs are asking for candidates with training in the digital humanities.”

Johnston’s practicum project not only attracted interest from unexpected venues, but it also led to a transformative change in her career path. “During job interviews, search committees commented on my digital work and cited my Digital Humanities Practicum as the primary reason for their interest in my candidacy,” she says. As a result of her project, in 2015 she accepted a two-year post-doctoral fellowship in digital scholarship at Bucknell University, a position made available through the Council on Library and Information Resources and partially funded by the Mellon Foundation.

“Through my strong background in textual criticism and scholarly research, I have the necessary framework to form partnerships in pursuit of digital and archival projects with university librarians, faculty, and students,” she says. “My commitment to cultivating new ways to access and theorize literature and material culture using innovative technology has set me up to succeed in a highly competitive and ever-evolving job market.”