Your Students Want Jobs, and Digital Liberal Arts Can Help

Saturday, January 7, 2017: 8:30 AM
Mile High Ballroom 3A (Colorado Convention Center)
Rebecca Wingo, Macalester College
Like many history departments across the country, at Macalester College we are trying to find ways to recruit and retain history majors and minors. I began the first Digital Liberal Arts (DLA) programming in Fall 2015 as the Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in DLA; within one year, I worked on both formal and informal consultations with ten percent of the faculty across an alphabet of disciplines. For history in particular, DLA has made our classes more relevant to our students in two key ways. First, it teaches useful, marketable skills alongside the best practices of historical research. A June 2016 Chronicle of Higher Education article, “Liberal-Arts Majors Have Plenty of Job Prospects, if They Have Some Specific Skills, Too,” identified skills in eight fields that employers seek, with salary increases commensurate with experience. In one course—following the History Harvest model that creates a student-driven, community-centered digital archive—my students gained experience in five of these categories. Second, the same course forged a partnership between a local community and my students that fostered a feeling of investment they had not experienced before. We partnered with Rondo, an active historically Black community in St. Paul intentionally bifurcated by the construction of I-94 in the late 1960s. The students could tangibly see the value and relevance of their work, so much that many returned during the summer solely to help staff our table at the annual Rondo Days celebration. DLA is poised to revolutionize pedagogy at SLACs. The quicker we embrace it, the faster our number of majors will recuperate.
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