New minor allows students to use technology to ask questions about world

Leaving college with skills and tools that can help to make students marketable to potential employers is one of the benefits for students getting a minor in digital humanities at Marshall University, said Marshall’s director of digital humanities.

Other benefits of graduating with the minor include leaving college with another credential on their resumes and with the experience of having already done presentations, being published or completing projects, said Kristen Lillvis, Marshall’s director of digital humanities and a professor of English. 

Digital humanities is using technology to ask and answer questions about the world, Lillvis said. Humanities is the part where these questions are asked and answered, but digital humanities looks at how new technology and new ways of using digital tools allow people to investigate questions about the world in new ways, she said.

Marshall’s digital humanities minor is designed to prepare students to translate their knowledge into twenty-first century jobs and the twenty-first century world of careers, said Robert Bookwalter, dean of Marshal’s College of Liberal Arts. Specifically, students can take some of the basic critical thinking, communication and collaboration skills that are central to liberal arts majors and put those skills into practice in modern careers, he said.

Everything uses digital tools nowadays, Bookwalter said. Fields in the liberal arts and elsewhere have digital applications in the world after graduation, so students need to have competency in things such as social media, app development, web development and data applications, he said.

Lillvis said she thinks the most exciting thing about the digital humanities minor at Marshall is that it is from all throughout the university. Students from several different colleges and departments are minoring in digital humanities, she said, and some of the areas of study these students are in include video production, computer and information technology, English, psychology, art, political science, journalism, athletic training and education.

The digital humanities also has an interdisciplinary element and requires students to take courses in at least three different academic departments, Lillvis said. Almost every college in the university is represented in the digital humanities minor, she said, with some courses that count towards the minor being in subjects such as anthropology, communication studies, computer science, geography, political science and music.

“It’s really a minor that can be tailored to the student’s interests,” Lillvis said. “So, no one student has the same set of courses as any other student. There’s so many different ones, you can really pick and make it your own.”

A lot of these courses, which engage with both the humanities and digital tools and technologies, also count towards students’ core requirements, Lillvis said, so students can complete the minor while also fulfilling core requirements.

Bookwalter said he thinks an understanding of the humanities, a set of disciplines that provide individuals with hindsight, foresight and insight into the human condition, makes the world better and allows individuals to improve themselves and their community.

The digital aspect of the digital humanities minor may also give students a “leg up on” other applicants in the work force, Bookwalter said. He said he thinks it would be unusual for any college graduate to get a job in the public or private sector where employers would not be thrilled to learn an individual knows how to do things such as deploy social media tools to connect with customers or clients, manage websites or build or develop web based tools for the business or develop apps and apply those apps to the goals, to the audiences and to the stakeholders of that business or agency.

“I think that being able to deploy digital tools in our lives, in our personal and professional lives, is an absolute necessity in the twenty-first century, so minoring in the humanities would be beneficial for any person in college, no matter what their field no matter what their major,” Bookwalter said.

Jesten Richardson can be contacted at [email protected].