College Looks to Hone Student Technical Skills with New “DAsH” Program

by Taylor Brethauer, Editor-in-Chief

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, two key features employers seek on a candidate’s resume are analytical skills and technical skills. In an attempt to create well-rounded liberal arts students, a new “Digital Arts and Humanities” (DAsH) attribute will be introduced next semester.

Spearheaded by multiple professors and staff members, the DAsH attribute will have five courses available for the upcoming spring 2019 semester. At the head of the planning committee, serving as chair, is Maeve Adams, assistant professor of English.

“Our efforts to develop the digital arts and humanities curriculum on campus came from an attempt to help students develop some skills that employers want […] as liberal arts majors you are at a distinct advantage because what employers want most is primarily to communicate in language in written language and orally, effectively, persuasively, all of which are skills you’re learning in your courses,” said Adams.

In that same information from the National Associate of Colleges and Employers, leadership, ability to work in a team, communication skills and problem-solving skills are also features employers look for in a candidate. DAsH will allow analytical and technical skills come to the forefront through multiples skills and tools utilized in an array of courses.

“What if you had the opportunity to build these sorts of projects in your coursework, ahead of time? These are tools and platforms that are free and easy to use, but it’s just a matter of providing context in order to learn those things,” said Adams.

One class in particular is History 100: Slavery in the Bronx, taught by Adam Arenson, associate professor of history. Through the use of government records and ancestry records, Arenson and his class will look into a topic that is not commonly talked about in the Bronx neighborhood.

“We will question what is the legacy of slavery in a space where most people wouldn’t think of there being a legacy of slavery at all. Slavery was legal in New York state until 1827. When people were freed from slavery they didn’t move very far. There could very well be people living in the Bronx that are descended from those same people,” said Arenson.

He expects the course to be an open-ended learning process, with no specific goal for the end of the semester other than planning out research and data and seeing what comes of their effort.

By the end of the semester, however, students will be able to create clear and precise data visualizations.

In another course, English 392: Writing and Remembering, taught by Adam Koehler, associate professor of English, will use one of the most commonly used tools in today’s society, social media.

“We’ll be using social media and other digital social spaces also specifically talking about the way memory gets mediated by media. It’s an interdisciplinary effort,” said Koehler.

By the end of the semester, students will use the website Omeka, a web-publishing platform to produce their findings based on research of a public event along with compiling digital writing.

Adams will be teaching another English course, English 335: Victorian Media. She plans on digitizing the College’s rare books collection.

Other courses offered include Business 227: Business Statistics taught by Musa Jafar, associate professor of accounting, CIS and law, and Sociology 250: Geographic Information Systems taught by Robin Lovell, assistant professor of sociology.

Also rounding out the DAsH committee are Laurin Paradise, reference and instruction librarian, and Kimberly Woodruff, director of instructional design. As a whole, the committee has planned and picked important skills and tools such as data or text mining, digital archive research, website design, computer programming, and many more for students to learn in the context of liberal arts courses.

The new attribute, similar to global non-western, is not a requirement. As the program continues to come into itself, the plan is to move towards a more robust comprehension. At its heart, DAsH is intended for the integration of students into a well-rounded employee for the 21st century.

“As an English major, it’s really scary that everything is digitized and I don’t have any knowledge in those programs. But I really want to be in the English field when I graduate. I was always worried about [gaining more digital knowledge] but I didn’t do anything about that yet or take any computer classes, so this is a good opportunity,” said Darby Zelaskowski, a student in attendance at the information session.

In the future, there are also plans for summer research grants earmarked specifically for DAsH students and research projects, no matter what a student’s major is or where their expertise comes from.

Ultimately, Adams makes sure students know they shouldn’t be afraid of their experience levels when registering for these courses, saying, “you don’t have to have any prior knowledge of anything before you walk into these classes. We will all be learning as we teach these classes. […] We are learning alongside you. […] The whole point is how do we help you develop some facility and literacy with these tools.”