NCCU Awarded National Endowment for the Humanities Grant for Digital Humanities Initiative

Posted February 10, 2022, 11:52AM

Two North Carolina Central University (NCCU) English professors have been awarded a two-year, $98,420 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities that will enable the duo to digitize the university’s history.

Kathryn Wymer, Ph.D., a professor of English and associate professor of English Rachelle Gold, Ph.D., are co-principal investigators of “Digital Exploration of North Carolina Central University’s History.” They’ve worked at NCCU since 2008 and were fellows with Duke University’s Digital Humanities Initiative, through the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute.

“As North Carolina Central University continues to expand its efforts in the humanities, this grant will provide faculty and students additional opportunities for hands-on training in digitization,” said Carlton Wilson, Ph.D., interim dean of NCCU’s College of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities.

With the funding, NCCU will hold a five-day workshop this summer to teach faculty how to incorporate digitized materials about campus history into their classes.

The university will also partner with officials from the City University of New York (CUNY) who will help faculty work through relevant curriculum materials CUNY created. Visiting assistant professor of art Hilary N. Huskey and associate professor of music Lenora Helm Hammonds, D.M.A., have been through CUNY’s program and will help facilitate the session.

“At Duke we received advanced training on using computing technology to study humanities and were part of the curriculum they set up,” said Wymer. “This grant allows us to further our training on our home campus and to use advanced computing technology to look at old campus newspapers, yearbooks, the student literary magazine and other materials dating back to the start of NCCU’s long history.”

The initiative will also allow ten faculty members to participate in a workshop this summer. Stipends will be given to NCCU faculty members who attend weeklong events. An additional 10 faculty members will join the group in summer 2023 for a one-day conference.

“This isn’t esoteric faculty research but instead opens up the door for faculty-student collaborations,” said Gold. “The analytical and technical skills that we will hone will help to professionalize our students.”

Faculty will learn advanced techniques during the workshop, including Python, a computer programming language that analyzes text.

“I’m very excited about being awarded this competitive grant; it is collaborative and multi-generational because it’s not just exclusive to faculty,” Gold adds.

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is a federal agency that supports research, education, preservation and public programs in the humanities. Since 2010, the NEH’s Division of Education has funded Humanities Initiatives at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and it made an average of two awards per year out of approximately 18 annual applications. According to its website, the funding ratio for the most recent grant cycle announced in December 2020 was 15%.

“This grant recognizes the hard work that so many of my colleagues have put into learning these new technologies and to bringing innovation into the classroom,” said Wymer. “This is the kind of work that recognizes NCCU as a research leader – which we are and also grant provides opportunities for faculty, staff and students to grow.”

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