On the Digital Humanities

I recently attended a talk sponsored by the MLIS Colloquium Speaker Series at Rutgers University titled “Digital Humanities: New Roles for Libraries.”  The panel consisted of a diverse group of Digital Humanities scholars, staff, librarians, and specialists who discussed a broad range of topics ranging from an overview of the Digital Humanities to the specific roles of the various members of the panel.  As a PhD student in the Humanities, it was fascinating to learn about the general role of the Digital Humanities as well as the role they can play in my own scholarship.  The panel allowed me to consider the benefits of this kind of technology in academia, and to think about scholarship in ways that I had not previously thought about it.  In the following paragraphs, I intend to share my learning experience with you!

Perhaps an obvious, but very important aspect of the Digital Humanities is that it allows us to conduct research remotely.  The example provided was the Jazz Oral History Project at Rutgers – a project devoted to the recording and digitization of the oral history of jazz musicians and their profession.  By digitizing the oral history interviews, we are able to access these materials from any location, thus eliminating the need to travel to conduct research.

The most interesting aspect about this project, however, is the notion that it changes the way we study history.  We are no longer simply memorizing important people and eventful dates, but instead listening to and learning from the seminal figures that lived this history and are providing us with the opportunity to rewrite it.  As one of the panelists stated, we are experiencing history through storytelling, arguably more exciting than the traditional experience we are used to.

I think the greatest potential of the Digital Humanities lies in the opportunity for collaboration.  Digital Humanities librarians are able to work with scholars from many different departments of the university.  Furthermore, the Digital Humanities can bring together researchers from two seemingly disparate fields, such as Foreign Languages and Computer Science.  This allows for various networking and professional exchanges, but it also provides the opportunity to consider your research from different and multidisciplinary perspectives.  I believe this is especially relevant in today’s academic world; STEM disciplines and the Humanities are often at odds with each other, but it is truly in our best interests to narrow the gap between the two and take advantage of the chance to collaborate.

The Digital Humanities will undoubtedly continue to evolve and prove to be a valuable tool in academic research.  In a world of continual scholarly production across multiple disciplines, the Digital Humanities allows us to engage in both technical and creative endeavors, providing us the opportunity to expand our work and the collective knowledge of humanity in previously unthinkable ways.

Reflections and Advice After My First Semester

The transition into graduate school can be tough, and as a first-year student I was undoubtedly plagued by fears, both rational and irrational.  As the spring semester is now in full swing and I have had ample time to reflect on my first semester of graduate school, I’d like to share some advice that helped me get through my first semester.

Organizing your “free time” is the key to success

Some students may argue that free time in graduate school is an illusion, and to a certain degree I agree with them.  As a Graduate Fellow, I do not currently have any teaching responsibilities.  I attend class four times per week and the rest of my time is “free.”  This is inevitably spent reading and preparing for those four classes, but it can be easy to fall into the trap of putting those readings off.  I’ve found that it’s best to create a schedule and to stick with it the whole semester.  Unfortunately, life doesn’t stop in graduate school, and you will certainly be forced to deviate from your schedule, but creating one in the first place will be extremely helpful throughout the year.

Find a great place to study

Knowing that you have a favorite spot where you are guaranteed to be productive is a relaxing feeling.  Whether you are buried among the stacks in the library or hidden in the corner of your favorite coffee shop, a familiar environment in which you can motivate yourself to do work will yield great results throughout your graduate career.  Furthermore, chances are someone else has made this their habitual study spot, so it’s also a great way to make new friends!

Take advantage of Grad Student Tuesday/Thursday

Although it’s great to have a specific study spot, it doesn’t hurt to change it up a bit.  Every Tuesday and Thursday on the College Avenue Campus, food and drinks are provided in the Graduate Student Lounge (GSL).  You can certainly benefit from a break, and the GSL offers a more casual environment for studying.  At the same time, you will be among other graduate students, and it’s nice to know that you are surrounded by others who share a similar lifestyle.

Look after your physical and mental well-being

This is the most important piece of advice I can offer, but is sadly one that is overlooked by many graduate students.   We all get worried and stressed about deadlines and the amount of work we need to complete; it may often seem like there aren’t enough hours in the day.  Unfortunately, this may lead to poor management of our body and mind.  This coincides directly with our organizational skills – it is important to plan a time during the day to take a break from studying to go to the gym, take a walk around campus, read a book for pleasure, or to do whatever you would like.  It is also important to eat healthy and to eat regular meals.  Preparing a meal may seem like a burden after a long day of work, but it is extremely important.  I have found it helpful to plan and prepare meals for the following week every weekend.  This eliminates the possibility that you come home and realize that you need to go grocery shopping in order to eat that night.

Other concerns or advice you think is helpful for other students?  Leave a comment!

A Great Study Spot

It is amazing to think that we are already more than halfway through the semester; it seems as if classes started only a short time ago! As the semester continues to move along, we are becoming increasingly busier. This means that (if you have not done so already) it is time to buckle down. If you are the type of student who needs to distance himself/herself from all distractions in order to be efficient while studying or doing schoolwork, then you most likely have a favorite spot in which you can accomplish this. However, if you are new to the Graduate School or are looking for a new place to study, consider Gardner A. Sage Library on the College Avenue Campus!

When I started my graduate career at Rutgers just a few months ago, my first official study spot was Alexander Library on the College Avenue Campus. However, I found that it was difficult to focus while I was there. The library is in general relatively crowded, and there are always people coming and people going. This tended to distract me, as I would continually look up from my work whenever someone entered the room or left the room. At this point, I decided that it would be beneficial to find a new place to study, and that is when I discovered Sage Library.

IMG_1287 (Click to enlarge)

As you can see from the photo, Sage Library is absolutely stunning. The library is actually a part of the New Brunswick Theological Seminary, and was modeled and built in the style of a fourth century Roman church! Perhaps you also noticed that the library is completely empty, meaning disturbances will be minimal. The library features three levels, and there are many different areas in which you can study. The top level features individual desks (see top right corner of photo) for those who wish to study in their own space without any distractions in sight. And yes, there is Wi-Fi!

First-year Fears

The transition to graduate school is an exciting time in the life of a first-year graduate student, but it can also be a terrifying experience.  As a first-year graduate student, I will admit that the first couple of weeks of my graduate career were extremely overwhelming.  I found myself in an unfamiliar city surrounded by students who seemed to be more comfortable in this environment than I would ever be.  Many students already held advanced degrees, while I was making the transition straight from undergraduate.  Doubts arose and I asked myself the most daunting question that a graduate student can pose: “Do I really belong here?” Amidst the panic and feelings of discouragement, I hadn’t noticed that I had fallen victim to a prevalent phenomenon known as the “Impostor Syndrome.”

The Impostor Syndrome is characterized by feelings of inferiority that may be coupled with the idea that you are a “fake” or that everything you have accomplished thus far can be attributed to luck or any external factors not related to your own abilities.  These feelings can be quite debilitating and may interfere with your school work.  However, as graduate students we need to keep one important idea in mind: These feelings are absolutely unfounded.

So how can we overcome these feelings?  Well, one of the answers is in the question.  It is important to realize that you are not alone.  Other students have undoubtedly been through a similar experience.  Graduate students belong to a unique community, and it’s important to reach out to the other members of the community.  So talk with your fellow peers about their experiences as graduate students.  You may find that they share or have shared the same concerns as you, and they can help you find ways to resolve them. 

 It is also important to realize that none of us are perfect.  Most of us will encounter a moment in which we may start to question our competence.  At this point, it’s important to take a step back and recognize how far you have come.  This will give you a different perspective and will help you to realize how much you already know.  Keep in mind your moments of success and the steps you took to achieve this success.  At the same time, it is beneficial to identify potential areas of improvement.  Categorizing your weaknesses is a key step in working past these barriers in order to grow as a person and as a student.

Finally, take care to remember that you do belong.  You were accepted at Rutgers because your professors were impressed by you and believed that you would succeed in your program.  We are all talented and bright intellectuals that have the potential to make an impact in our respective fields.  When you are struggling with negative feelings, do not quit.  Be persistent in your efforts to overcome these feelings.  Have confidence in yourself and believe that you can accomplish great things – a positive attitude will yield a world of possibilities.