Purdue Libraries and School of Information Studies News

The Rise of Digital Humanities at Purdue University

The Rise of Digital Humanities at Purdue University

March 1st, 2021

By: Matthew Hannah

To go so far as to call this a “rise” may be a bit of exaggeration. After all, Purdue is well known for its commitment to innovative methodologies and cutting-edge areas of study. Certainly, this is true of the STEM disciplines, but it is also true of the humanities, social sciences, and information studies. Digital humanities, or “DH” as it is known to practitioners, is but one area that humanities, social sciences, and information researchers and students have been exploring and expanding for some time, and Purdue boasts a long history of important DH innovators and initiatives, from Kim Gallon’s groundbreaking work in Black DH to Sorin Matei’s innovative use of GIS maps to study historical topographies, from grant-winning projects such as Dino Felluga’s BRANCH and COVE projects to Bradley Dilger’s CROW. The humanities and social sciences at Purdue are always breaking new ground, expanding the boundaries of academic research.

students share their digital humanities research with one another
Above: research for a COVE exhibit by student in Rebecca Mitchell’s class at the University of Birmingham, UK, based on material in Cadbury Research Library’s conservation studio (pictured)

And yet it feels like something is happening here. When I arrived at Purdue as an Assistant Professor in the Libraries and School of Information Studies nearly three years ago, I was given a broad mission: build on existing efforts to develop a DH curriculum through collaboration with scholars across PULSIS and the College of Liberal Arts. I began collaborating with Erla Heyns, who had already been working tirelessly to promote and foster DH in the LSIS, to establish networks and find collaborators who might be interested in such a project, and we immediately began working closely with Venetria Patton, the head of the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, to design and implement undergraduate and graduate certificates in digital humanities. We identified stakeholders, hosted informational sessions and call outs, and designed and identified courses for this new certificate initiative. Dr. Patton tackled the undergraduate certificate, and I handled the graduate, in what has been a fruitful multi-disciplinary, multi-college collaboration in keeping with the very ethos of collaboration inherent in DH itself.

I am happy to announce that our efforts have launched two brand new certificates in DH to be offered at Purdue. Graduate students will now have the opportunity to complete a 12-credit certificate, comprised of two required core seminars and two elective seminars, which will cover important aspects of the field such as computational text analysis, digital archives, geospatial analysis, data management, and various other topics, with an eye toward developing a toolkit for their own disciplinary graduate research. Many of these seminars are regularly available in both LSIS and the College of Liberal Arts to provide flexibility for students. By the end of a graduate certificate, students will have designed, implemented, and launched an original DH project of their own. Undergraduates can expect to complete a 16-credit certificate, with four possible tracks (three of which must be completed): culture and society, digital literacy, programming, and visualization. This important set of topics will provide students a well-rounded set of technical skills and, at the same time, a critical apparatus with which to think about technology from a humanistic perspective.  

Digital Humanities graduate students with Professor Matt Hannah
Above: Cohort of graduate students with Dr. Hannah (center) in Digital Humanities Foundations (Fall 2019)

In teaching my graduate seminar, Digital Humanities Foundations, over the past few years, I find that graduate students at Purdue are hungry for innovative digital methods to apply to their research in the humanities and social sciences. Certificates provide formal recognition that students have developed important digital skills and thoughtfully applied them to their research in the humanities and social sciences. For many graduate students, an official accreditation can provide important recognition on their CVs and resumes, especially if they pursue careers outside the tenure track, in libraries or cultural organizations. For undergraduate students, a DH program offers the opportunity to combine their interests in the humanities or social sciences with interests in technology, data science, or computation. For some undergraduates, DH may even provide a vocabulary for meaningful careers after college in tech startups, non-profits, cultural organizations, or industry, which value the combination of liberal arts training and technical literacy. In essence, a formal education in DH seems like a perfect fit for a place like Purdue.

The hard work of our Purdue community—the exciting projects, innovative methods, grants awarded, and courses taught—have culminated in these new certificate programs, a recognition that Purdue will continue its leadership toward innovative educational offerings across campus. Certificates in DH will offer students exciting new avenues for study, and I have already seen how impressive their work will be. Thus, we rise.    

ILS Digital Scholarship Courses Offer Purdue Students Instruction in Data Science, Digital Humanities & More

October 28th, 2019

Purdue University Libraries and School of Information Studies (PULSIS) will offer four new digital scholarship-related information and library science (ILS) courses in Spring 2020. According to Matt Hannah, assistant professor of Digital Humanities, PULSIS, the courses are designed to provide students with important skills related to Digital Humanities, data science, archival science, and data management.
ILS 695, “Introduction to Computational Text Analysis” (3 credit hours); noon-1:15 p.m. Tuesdays/Thursdays; Instructors: Matthew Hannah and Trevor Burrows, postdoctoral researcher

Graduate Courses

  • ILS 695, “Introduction to Computational Text Analysis” (3 credit hours); noon-1:15 p.m. Tuesdays/Thursdays; Instructors: Matthew Hannah and Trevor Burrows, postdoctoral researcher
    This course will offer an introduction to text analysis using the scripting language R. Aimed at an audience of newcomers, especially from the humanities and social sciences, with no experience in programming. Students will learn a set of tools and methods, but will also think theoretically about the nature of text and textuality, signification, authorship and authority, the history of the book, and more.
  • ILS 695, “Digital and Analog Archives” (3 credit hours); 1:30-4:20 p.m. Wednesday; Instructor: Sammie Morris, professor and head, Purdue Archives and Special Collections
    In this course, students will engage both the theory and practice of archival work. Taught by University Archivist Sammie Morris, with support from a range of expert archivists, students will gain valuable experience regarding the practice of archiving and will contribute to an original digital archive of materials related to Purdue’s history.
  • ILS 595, “Data Management and Curation for Qualitative Research” (3 credit hours), 4:30-7:20 p.m. Tuesdays; Instructor: Kendall Roark, assistant professor, PULSIS
    This course offers an interdisciplinary introduction to data management and curation for qualitative research, with a focus on the use, value, and organization of data, materials, infrastructure, tools and scholarly communication.

Undergraduate Course

  • ILS 230, “Data Science and Society: Ethical, Legal, Social Issues” (3 credit hours), 1:30-2:45 Tuesdays/Thursdays; Instructor: Kendall Roark, assistant professor, PULSIS
    This course provides an introduction to ethical, legal, social issues (ELSI) in data science. Students will be introduced to interdisciplinary theoretical and practical frameworks that can aid in exploring the impact and role of data science in society.

For a complete list of Spring 2020 ILS courses offered through the Purdue Libraries and School of Information Studies, visit

Preparation and the First Day of School: Insight from John Dewey

August 21st, 2019

This is a guest post by Jeff Frank, author of Teaching in the Now: John Dewey on the Educational Present.

This commentary offers insights from John Dewey about how to approach the start of the school year so that students are prepared to do the type of work we hope they will do in the future. The meaning of preparation is central to Dewey’s philosophy of education, and this commentary aims to make his thinking available to teaching and teachers.


John Dewey hoped anyone concerned with education would regularly ask what appears to be a simple question. What is the meaning of preparation?

The question appears simple, because we are often told, as students, that we are doing something in order to be prepared for something in the future. Why do we learn addition? So we can do multiplication in the future. Why do we learn multiplication? So we are prepared for upper-level math.

At almost every stage of education, when a student asks why they are learning something, they are told that they are learning that thing so that they are prepared to do some other thing in the future.

In some ways, this way of justifying education makes sense. It is hard to do an advanced skill without the requisite background knowledge, understanding and skill. And yet, Dewey wants us to wonder if there are better ways to think about preparation. He wants us to think about the hidden costs of justifying a student’s present learning in terms of future gain.

One way of seeing Dewey’s point is to think about how teaching works when we are adults. To take a simple example, when we want a friend to like something that we care about, we generally don’t tell them they have to do a lot of preparation work to get there. If we want them to enjoy hiking—for example—we find the easiest hike with the biggest payoff. If we want them to enjoy cooking, we find a recipe they can cook and that will surprise them by its deliciousness.

Dewey wonders if school can approximate this way of teaching, at least some of the time.

As a college professor and former high school English teacher, I work hard to find readings that are immediately interesting to students and that are challenging enough to allow them to do more difficult reading in the future. Instead of seeing the beginning of the semester as merely preparatory for a later point in the semester or a course further along in their college study, I believe—with Dewey—that the best way to prepare a student to do good work in the future is to let them begin doing that work now, in whatever form they can.

This is most certainly not to say that everything a student does in class needs to be fun or easy. Rather, Dewey wants us to be honest, asking ourselves the hard question: Is my classroom, in this very moment, actually preparing my students for more effective and engaged work in the future?

Here is another way of looking at the problem. If a student is so disengaged by their experience learning a subject that they want nothing to do with it again in the future, can we actually claim that they were being prepared in that classroom? Even if a student was successful in terms of getting a good grade in the class, if they aren’t interested in learning more about the subject in the future, can we say that they’ve received a good preparation?

It is easy to dismiss Dewey’s vision of teaching as asking too much of schools and teachers, but before dismissing his thinking on the educational present out of hand, I just want us to think about small changes we can make to invite our students into our subject. If our students were adults who we didn’t have the power of grades and discipline over, how would we teach our subject? If we really want each of our students to keep engaged with our subject into the future, how would we teach?

These are the types of questions Dewey would have us ask, and these are questions that are worth asking again at the start of this school year.

Before the rush of the school year begins, we might take the time to think about the students we see leaving the classroom at the end of the year. What are they passionate about, and what are they empowered to do?

With this vision in mind, think about how to get them there. If Dewey is right, we don’t have engaged confident learners leaving our classrooms if they’ve never experienced engaging learning experiences that give them confidence. And he would encourage us to think about how we can create this type of present for students, from the first day.

Too often the first days of school feel like re-learning what it means to wait until something interesting may happen. We should work to break this habit of waiting and introduce something interesting early. Make the first days an invitation to do meaningful work in the present instead of sending the message that meaningful work must always wait.

“Make the first days an invitation to do meaningful work in the present instead of sending the message that meaningful work must always wait.”

We went into teaching to share our passionate interest in learning with students, and we shouldn’t wait to do this work. Give yourself permission to live in the fullness of the present with your students from the start of the school year, trusting Dewey’s insight that this is also an effective and engaging way to prepare students to live more fully in the future.

School leaders and policymakers are invited to do the same type of thinking. Much of the work that is justified in the name of preparation does not prepare students for a future of deeper engagement with the material they are learning in schools. At the start of the school year, we can do more to create an educational present that prepares students for good work in the future because they are doing good work now.


Jeff Frank is an Associate Professor at St. Lawrence University and author of the book Teaching in the Now: John Dewey on the Educational Present. His work has appeared in the Teachers College Record, Educational Researcher, and several philosophy of education journals.

You can get 30% off Teaching in the Now by entering the discount code PURDUE30 when you order from our website.


An Interview with Jeff Frank, author of “Teaching in the Now”

August 19th, 2019

In preparation for his forthcoming title Teaching in the Now: John Dewey on the Educational Present, we briefly talked to author Jeff Frank about the book, what motivated him to write it, and the reason for advocating for John Dewey’s work in the modern educational landscape.



Q: Could you briefly explain your book, for those who are not familiar?

Jeff Frank: I wrote this book out of appreciation for John Dewey’s thinking on how to create a meaningful educational present for students. Too often, we treat the present as mere preparation to do something rewarding or interesting in the future. When we do this, we lose student interest and engagement. Dewey argues that the best preparation for a meaningful future is learning to live meaningfully in the present.


Q: What prompted you to write Teaching in the Now, and what do you hope to accomplish with the book?

Frank: I wrote this book for two main reasons. First, I worry that we don’t do enough to value the present moment. Schooling can be tremendously interesting, but it loses its interest when we defer meaningful work to the future. Second, I wrote this book for students new to Dewey’s work in the hopes of showing them why they should take him seriously. Though his work may initially appear difficult, I wrote this book in the hopes that it might make it easier to stick with Dewey.

Jeff Frank


Q: What is it that motivates you to advocate for Dewey’s work in such a purposeful way?

Frank: A major motivation for this project is a sense of hope. John Dewey believed that each one of us harbor deep potential, and he also believed that activating that potential was one way to ensure the future of a strong democracy in the United States. My belief, one I share with Dewey, is that we need to do everything we can to make each moment in the classroom as engaging and rewarding as possible for students. Doing this is not only good for students, it is also good for our democracy. By helping students realize their potential in the present moment, we are helping to bring about a better future. My book is meant to aid teachers as they create these types of experiences for their students.


Q: You mention some treating the present as “mere preparation to do something rewarding or interesting in the future”. How do you feel this mentality come about? How have you seen it manifest?

Frank: In many ways, this is the key point. Dewey believes in the importance of thinking about how we acquire habits and what these habits make possible or foreclose. When it comes to “mere preparation,” Dewey might think about the habit many of us get into where we think things like: Once I have X job I will be happy, or Once I have X amount of money I will be happy, or Once I have tenure, or my own classroom I will begin doing the things I truly want to do. For Dewey, we should begin living the life we aspire to, as much as possible, in the present moment. For a teacher, this means trying to create the most engaging environment for students we can, in the present moment, not deferring until ideal conditions are met.

This brings up a related point. Someone may wonder: But aren’t there just some things we just have to learn? To this, I have two responses. First, I coached three sports in addition to teaching high school English, and there are indeed things one must learn before doing more advanced work. For example, if you don’t know how to spin correctly in the discus circle, there is no way to throw as effectively as possible. But there are ways to make the learning how to spin more or less engaging. The same holds true in the classroom Robert Frost, an excellent teacher himself, noted that explaining a joke doesn’t make it funny. The same is true with a poem. Spending time explaining why a poem is interesting in preparation for helping a student enjoy a poem is often counterproductive. A teacher should look for poems that are appropriately challenging and that they think students will actually find interesting, thereby giving students the most meaningful experience of learning in the present.

My second point is this. When we are learning how to do things outside of a school setting, how do we learn best? How do we prepare to cook or ski or develop a passion for music or movies? While some people may spend hours reading about skiing or testing skis out off of the slopes, more often than not we try things out. This experimenting allows us to see what we need to learn in order to improve, and this leads us to develop a passion for figuring things out so that we can make progress.  Or to ask another question, when you want to share your passion with a friend, how do you do it? Do you make them do a lot of preparatory work, or do you try to use your pedagogical creativity so that the first experience your friend has with what you are passionate about makes them want to learn more and engage more deeply with that passion? Dewey would argue that we can approach teaching this way, seeing the goal of teaching as creating the type of present that makes students want to learn more. Far from leaving students unprepared, these are the experiences that instill habits of thinking and acting that make students more able to engage more deeply with their learning in the future.


Q: How would you explain the importance of your book, and your field as a whole, to a lay audience?

Frank: This book is important because it helps teachers and future teachers think about how to create an engaging and educative present for their students. It also makes Dewey’s work more accessible. Anyone who teaches Dewey’s Experience and Education or anyone reading Dewey’s educational philosophy for the first time will—I hope—find something of interest in my book.



Get 30% off your own copy of Teaching in the Now by ordering it from our website with the discount code PURDUE30.

Stonebraker Inducted into Purdue University Teaching Academy

September 26th, 2018

Purdue Libraries Associate Professor Ilana Stonebraker was inducted into the Purdue University Teaching Academy in 2018.
Purdue Libraries Associate Professor Ilana Stonebraker was inducted into the Purdue University Teaching Academy in 2018. Photo courtesy of Donna Ferullo.

On Monday, the Purdue University Teaching Academy inducted Purdue University Libraries Associate Professor Ilana Stonebraker as a new Teaching Academy Fellow.

Last spring, the Purdue University Teaching Academy selected and announced 12 inductees for 2018.

Faculty members are selected in recognition of their outstanding and scholarly teaching in graduate, undergraduate, or engagement programs. Candidates were identified by their individual departments or colleges/schools based on evidence of excellence in teaching, innovation in teaching methodology, teaching-related service, and scholarship in teaching and learning.

The Teaching Academy’s mission is to enhance and strengthen the quality of teaching and learning at Purdue University.

More information about the 2018 inductees is available at

In June 2018, Stonebraker was one of 10 individuals selected by the Tippy Connect Young Professionals (TCYP) in the organization’s 2018 TCYP Top 10 Young Professionals Under 40 Award program. This past summer she was also recognized by the ALA Library Instruction Roundtable as an author of one of the Top Twenty Library Instruction Articles of 2017.

Faculty Spotlight: Maybee Selected as Instructor for ACRL Immersion Program

March 7th, 2017

In a society named for the ubiquity of information, it is essential that everyone knows how to use information to continually learn in order to be successful in their professional, personal, and civic lives.” — Clarence Maybee, Assistant Professor of Library Science, Information Literacy Specialist, Purdue University LibrariesClarence Maybee, Information Literacy Specialist at Purdue Libraries

Information literacy is Clarence Maybee’s “thing” at Purdue University Libraries. He is, after all, the Purdue Libraries’ information literacy specialist.

So, it was with much excitement that he recently accepted a faculty position with the Association of College and Research Library’s (ACRL) Information Literacy Immersion Program. The week-long teacher development program is designed for academic librarians who want to enhance their teaching or programming skills related to information literacy. Maybee, who applied for the position in the ACRL’s recent national search for Immersion Program faculty, interviewed for the job at the American Library Association‘s annual Midwinter Meeting in January. He readily accepted the offer last month.

“As a faculty member in the Immersion Program, I will help craft the Immersion curriculum, work with the other Immersion faculty to facilitate the program, and mentor participating librarians in their teaching and programming roles on their campuses,” he explained.

In the Immersion Program, Maybee joins nationally recognized faculty, from college and research libraries around the nation, who lead the program, which provides instruction librarians the opportunity to work intensively for several days on all aspects of information literacy.

Below, Clarence shared a bit more information about his new opportunity with the ACRL and how his work in the Immersion Program will help serve the students and faculty at Purdue University.

Q. Tell me a little bit about your background, e.g., your work in libraries, as a librarian, a faculty member, as well as specifically what interested you in information literacy.

Clarence: I became a librarian in 2005 after completing my MLIS at San Jose State University (SJSU). Under the mentorship of Dr. Mary Somerville, then assistant dean of the library at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), I completed a master’s thesis in which I studied undergraduates’ experiences of information literacy. The research made me aware of how essential it is to understand the experiences of the learners for whom we are designing instruction. I began my career in librarianship in the role of Information Literacy Librarian at Mills College, and I served in a similar role at Colgate University before coming to Purdue.

Based on my research, which reveals that learners use information in more sophisticated ways when learning about course content, I focus my work at Purdue on integrating information literacy into Purdue courses. With colleagues from the Center for Instructional Excellence (CIE) and Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP), I manage the Instruction Matters: Purdue Academic Course Transformation program (IMPACT), which aims to make undergraduate courses more student-centered. In 2015, I received a PhD from Queensland University of Technology (QUT). My dissertation thesis, “Informed learning in the undergraduate classroom: The role of information experiences in shaping outcomes,” received QUT’s Outstanding Thesis Award for its contribution to the discipline and excellence demonstrated in doctoral research practice.

Q. How do you think taking part in the Immersion program will help you in your position as an information literacy specialist at Purdue Libraries? How do you think it will help students and faculty at Purdue?

Clarence: Great new ideas come from diverse minds sharing and discussing the possibilities. The Immersion Program Faculty is comprised of nationally known information literacy experts. A cornerstone of the Immersion Program is bringing together academic librarian participants from across the U.S. and beyond. No doubt, the learning experiences generated by this group will give me insights and new perspectives to bring back with me to my work at Purdue.

Q. Tell me something that people may be surprised to learn about you…

Clarence: I used to be a poet in San Francisco.

Q. What do you know about yourself and/or your work now that you wish you would have known when you first started your career?

Clarence: Understanding learning theory better has really advanced my own teaching, as well as helped me in my work with librarians and other instructors.

Read more about information literacy at Purdue University Libraries at, and learn more about the ACRL Immersion Program at