It Takes a Liberal Arts Village to Raise a Digital Campus


UMW Daisy Chain (it takes a village to sew a giant serpent out of daisies)

UMW alum-cum-journalist Lindley Estes wrote an article today in the local Fredericksburg paper, The Free-Lance Star, about the brave new digital world emerging at UMW (forgive them the ads and video commercials, online publishing has confounded more than a few newspapers). It’s pretty cool to read about a legacy of work that’s been happening at UMW for almost a decade now (yes even before I was at UMW Andy, you bastard!), cast in a frame that starts to acknowledge the various “pilot” projects that have fomented a widespread movement on campus and beyond. From the early Bluehost experiment to UMW Blogs to ds016 to Domain of One’s Own (and countless course blogs, research sites, and faculty-driven experiments in between) the UMW community is being recognized for its pioneering work in the digital arena, and that’s a tremendous source of pride for all of us.

And while we all know credit is a fickle lover, it’s still important to try and be clear about such things not only so that every one gets their due (which is important), but even more so to resist the urge to make any shift in the culture of UMW about a single person or thing. It’s a tempting narrative (“‘Hey, Sebastain Thrun, we need to fix Higher Ed in California!’ said Governor Jerry Brown into the phone receiver one dark and moocy night.” Thanks for the inspiration Audrey Watters 😉 ), but in the end it’s not good history. And I’m not suggesting Linley Estes is doing this in her article because there is a long history of experiments in this regard, but when talking about the minting of a brand new Digital Studies minor at UMW I think it’s essential to recognize that this new minor at UMW is the work of a whole host of faculty from 15 disciplines led specifically by Jeff McClurken and Zach Whalen. And, in many ways, ds106 is one part of a larger constellation of courses that breathed life into the minor.

It’s important to do a roll call of faculty folks at UMW every once in a while so that we don’t turn the movement into a monolith: Mara Scanlon, Leanna Giancarlo, Rosemary Jesionwoski, Marjorie Och, Nina Mikhalevsky, Karen Anewalt, Chris Foss, Gary Richards, Carole Garmon, Claudia Emerson, Mike McCarthy,  Melanie Szulczewski, Jeremy LaRochelle, Betsy Lewis, Steve Gallik, Sue Fernsebner, Steve Harris, Jess Riggelhaupt, Mark Snyder, and many, many more. That’s awesome, just doing the roll call. Just seeing all the faculty who have a million other things on their plate, taking the time to do the digital work that needs to be done, and doing it really well! I’m proud to watch the era of the open, connected, and digital emerge at UMW. I’m proud to be an integral part of it all. But more than anything else,  I’m proud to support a faculty that’s done it all pretty selflessly while DTLT (and you can read that as me) has been galavanting around the country talking about all the awesome work our faculty has been doing. It’s time start sharing the credit far and wide. It takes a liberal arts village to raise a digital campus 🙂

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3 Responses to It Takes a Liberal Arts Village to Raise a Digital Campus

  1. Pingback: What about the UMW Students! | bavatuesdays

  2. Jim, you make me misty-eyed for the good old days. For what it’s worth, the consciousness of UMW is truly unique, and you put your finger on the main ingredient: faculty. When technologists steer away from monolithic digital “solutions” to simply opening the door to the monolith, amazing faculty stuff happens. Getting that door to open is DTLT’s job, and you do it with style. The UMW faculty are rare in their willingness to walk in and stay a while — so refreshing in this MOOC-muddled world. Huzzah to all!

    • Reverend says:

      I wanna believe those good old days are still ahead of us as well, with you moving to UVA’s medical School, it’s just a matter of time before the virus spreads 🙂 There are still many doors to open, and I can;t wait to catch up at OpenVA. See you there, hippie!

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