Potash Hill

NEH Supports Data Humanist Certificate

Eliza Rudegeair ’14, Kelley Hickey ’16, and history professor Adam Franklin-Lyons look over student maps, the product of a Cartography class that will become part of the Data Humanist Certificate Program. Marlboro College has always provided a wealth of interdisciplinary coursework, including courses drawing important links between the humanities and sciences. Now, with the support of a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant, the college is positioning itself to offer a new undergraduate Data Humanist Certificate Program, making these links even more explicit and demonstrating students’ preparedness for the workplace. 

“There is an obvious utility in a student being able to say to a prospective employer, ‘I did some relevant data work,’” said Adam Franklin-Lyons, history professor and one of the faculty members who applied for the grant. “They might have studied literature, but they also worked with a state agency or nonprofit on a data project. If they are applying to do something similar, I think that’s a no brainer.” 

The $30,000 NEH Humanities Connections Grant will support the development of a certificate program that provides clear links between humanities coursework and data-driven classes in mathematics, computer science, and biology. The certificate will involve taking two data classes, two humanities classes, and two designated “bridge” classes that are co-taught by faculty from both areas. It will also involve a capstone project that connects with the community in some way, through working for either a government agency, nonprofit, or other organization. 

“The ideal is to have four bridge classes in rotation, so they each come around every two years,” said Matt Ollis, math professor, who is also on the grant. “Adam and I will co-teach Cartography once every two years, just as we have in recent years. And Jenny Ramstetter (biology) and Kate Ratcliff (American studies) will continue the Culture and Ecology of the Western US class they’re teaching this semester.” 

Other bridge courses will take some development, but one about migrations among humans and other species, to be co-taught by Jenny and Rituparna Mitra (literature and writing), is in the planning stage. The grant team plans to collaborate with colleagues and finalize the certificate program through the Marlboro faculty for a proposed roll-out in fall 2020.