DHRI: Digital Humanities Research Institute

In 2018, I stepped into a new role as project manager of the Digital Humanities Research Institute (DHRI), supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The project expands communities of DH practice using curricular materials and an inclusive pedagogical approach. I organized a ten-day workshop with sixteen community leaders from different educational institutions across the United States—faculty, librarians, museum administrators, and staff.

The workshop agenda included wide-ranging skill-based modules that introduced, for example, the command line, basic Python, and machine learning. As part of their commitment, I subsequently worked with the participants to produce local versions of the institute using the DHRI’s core curriculum. In each case, we tailored the curriculum to the participants’ specific institutional needs. Across the local versions, the project reached more than 200 participants and involved 100 instructors.

The NEH selected our application as a sample application narrative: bit.ly/DHRI-NEH-application. In 2019, I co-wrote a successful application to the NEH, securing $250,000 in funding to revise and expand the DHRI in 2019–21. I had to familiarize myself with all the steps of a federal grant proposal, from budgeting to scoping the project, and setting expectations toward all different stakeholders (the NEH, CUNY’s Research Foundation, CUNY’s Graduate Center, as well as fellows, faculty, and administration in the Digital Initiatives at the Graduate Center).

I coordinated most aspects of the project with Lisa M. Rhody as the Project Director. At the ACH Conference in Summer 2019, we co-organized a “DHRI Pedagogy Showcase” around the individual institutes. I built a companion static website in Jekyll that provided access to all the information presented at the conference: ach.dhinstitutes.org. I also played an integral part in qualitatively evaluating the project. The evaluation focused on the importance of human- and community-centered approaches to DH skill-building, as well as how the participants’ professional development and future career goals were affected by this approach. The findings have been summarized and appeared in a White Paper on the NEH’s website in the Fall of 2019: bit.ly/DHRI-NEH-details. Some of the results will also appear in a co-written chapter, “Against Prestige: Cultivating Communities of Practice and Scaling DH Pedagogy,” in the Debates in Digital Humanities Pedagogy series published by University of Minnesota Press.

After a first successful iteration of the DHRI, I successfully applied for another $411,000 grant from the NEH for a second iteration. As we embarked on that work in the past year, COVID-19 substantially affected all our plans. Consequently, we had to redesign our curriculum from in-person to online training with synchronous and asynchronous components. We spent significant time considering participants’ technology access and their ability to participate in our new curriculum due to the changing social environment that emerged with the pandemic.

Faced with these challenges, I built a robust bespoke virtual learning environment for our skills modules, administration, and skills assessment using Django/Python and JavaScript. Read more about the website here.