Lafayette News videos about DHSS Projects

I hope that everyone’s having a productive spring semester so far! Mine has been very busy, as I prepare to close the DHSS 2019 application period (the deadline is March 15!), and focus on going through what is going to be another interesting set of candidates for the new cohort. Not to mention that I’m also planning for the annual Digital Scholarship Student Symposium and Meet-up to take place right here on campus on June 28. If you are here during the summer, please consider joining us for the symposium that day…the Summer Scholars will be presenting their final digital research projects there for the first time!

I know that many of you received the February 27th issue of Lafayette’s From the Hill newsletter in your email, but if you missed it, there was a nice mention of 2018 Summer Scholar, Uche Anomnachi’s digital research project, Racial Perceptions of Anime and the accompanying video created by the Lafayette Communications department. This video is actually part of a series on summer research, including the video about Ben Gordon’s project about the NYC subways that you may have seen in the fall. Very exciting coverage!

Ben Gordon ’19 and Charlotte Nunes, Director of DSS, Reflect on Data Science at Lafayette

Hi everyone,

I wanted to make sure that you all got a chance to read this terrific blog post by Skillman Library’s Digital Scholarship Services about our very own 2018 Summer Scholar, Ben Gordon, and his experience as a Data Science Major here at Lafayette, as well as his DHSS digital research project,  New York City’s Subways, Bridges, Highways, and Expressways in the 20th Century.


I’m reposting the piece here:


January 30, 2019
Ben Gordon ’19 and Charlotte Nunes, Director of DSS, Reflect on Data Science at Lafayette


My journey to Digital Scholarship Services and Data Science has been a long and rewarding one. I came into Lafayette with an interest in Math because of a statistics course I took in high school. I was always successful in my math classes, but often didn’t understand the relevance of geometry, algebra, and trigonometry. Yes, problem solving was interesting, but for what purpose? This changed when I immersed myself in that statistics   course. I truly fell in love with the applied nature of the discipline, using mathematical equations in order to find meaning in the real world. Assignments weren’t just problem solving, but included some form of essay writing to explain what our mathematical answer meant.By the time I was a freshman in college, this course had stuck with me and I was itching to continue. I was hoping for an applied version of mathematics in college, deciding I would be a major in math. I did not know what engineering might have entailed, although that might have ended up more of what I was looking for, so I ended up in math. However, when I took transition to theoretical mathematics, the infamous “weed out” course in the math major, I found it challenging to connect with the material.

This experience prompted me to try to forge my own applied statistics path in the major, so I met with the head of the math department. He understood my difficulties with the theoretical nature of the required classes for the major, and told me about how the future of the department included new statistics teachers and maybe a statistics major. But there was no statistics major currently.

The next semester, I decided to switch into a computer science major as a junior. The summer before my junior year, I made sure that I was going to approach my Data Structures and Algorithms course (the “weed out” course in the CS major) much differently than I did when I was a math major. I spent my summer taking notes from the textbook when I rode the subway to and from work, and practicing coding on my computer. I wanted to put myself in the best possible situation to succeed going into the class.

Yet when I started the class, I got failing grades on my first two labs. I did all I could possibly do to prepare for this next step over the summer; what was I missing? Why was I still failing? I met with my teacher and tried to work through the mistakes, setting aside most of my time here at Lafayette just to passing this class.

Eventually, I hit my stride, and started getting passing and above grades on my labs, tests, and projects. I finally felt some sort of relief, that my change in attitude towards school, combined with a new interest in what I was learning was going to get me through this class, and subsequently the computer science major. But one day after class, when I did not expect it, my professor approached me and asked about what my plan was for the next two years. I explained what I have written above; I was driven out of the math major because I wanted to do statistics, and was going to try and squeeze a computer science major into four semesters.

He said that he thought I could still make my own Data Science major. I was ecstatic – Data Science sounds a lot like statistics. Finally, after trying a year ago and giving up, I was going to be able to make my own major and do the discipline I actually wanted to. Then I met the director of Digital Scholarship Services, Charlotte Nunes, who told me there was an academic planning committee for Data Science & Digital Scholarship. I was excited, and realized that I was actually the guinea pig for Data Science at Lafayette College.

This long process was how I got introduced to Digital Scholarship Services in the library, and all of the different intersections between Computer Science, Data Science, and what is being done in DSS. I started then to do research for Charlotte, on topic modeling and different text analyses in R. Matthew Jockers is one of the leading scholars for this buzzworthy subject in the field of digital scholarship. We spent the semester working through Jockers’ how-to book and discussing how he was received by scholars.

This is a long and winding story, but I ended up in Data Science and Digital Scholarship Services for the same reasons I wanted to study statistics in the first place. I was interested in understanding the world around us in ways that were only possible with mathematical and technological methods. And Digital Scholarship Services is building capacity in this area. Topic modeling and Matthew Jockers’ scholarship, for example, is all about trying to discover new aspects to text that would be impossible without technology.

Response from Charlotte Nunes

Ben Gordon’s research project, New York City’s Subways, Bridges, Highways, and Expressways in the 20th Century, offers a great example of how Lafayette College Libraries supports data-oriented undergraduate and faculty research. Ben completed the project under the supervision of Angela Perkins, Research & Instruction Librarian and director of the Lafayette College Libraries Digital Humanities Summer Scholars (DHSS) program. As part of this program, Ben consulted with members of Digital Scholarship Services including John Clark, Data Visualization & GIS Librarian, on geospatial data discovery, research data management, data transformation, and data visualization. Ben currently collaborates with Janna Avon, Digital Initiatives Librarian, and I on a text analysis project featuring oral history transcripts.

In the academic year leading up to his DHSS project, I appointed Ben as a student worker to assist me in clarifying where DSS might build on departmental strengths to better consult on introductory data science methods for analyzing data in the humanities and humanistic social sciences. Together we explored data science as a varied, multidisciplinary field involving data analytics, data visualization, and data ethics. The field requires skills in finding, cleaning, and organizing data, articulating research questions, drawing interpretive conclusions from statistical inference, and communicating persuasively about the results of data analysis.

As Lafayette College advances its Data Science & Digital Scholarship academic planning initiative, I anticipate that DSS will continue to provide wide-ranging data services while growing in new areas, including:

  • Providing consultation and workshop instruction on humanistic uses of R, a statistical computing language that allows for a variety of modeling, clustering, and visualization techniques in text corpora.
  • Building research-ready digital archival collections guided by the principle of Collections as Data, and consulting on data mining in primary source databases such as Adam Matthew Digital.
  • Exploring uses of artificial intelligence and natural language processing for humanistic data analysis, as addressed in the Institute of Museum and Library Services grant Investigating the National Need for Library Based Topic Modeling Discovery Systems.

I thank Ben for his work exploring the field of data science, building skills as a practitioner, and helping to set a vision for the future of DSS. Check out the Lafayette News coverage of Ben’s research titled Uncovering Political History of NYC Subways!


Welcome to the Digital Humanities Summer Scholars (DHSS) Program!

Hi all,

My name is Angela, and I am a Research and Instruction Librarian at Skillman Library. I have the great privilege of directing the Digital Humanities Summer Scholars Program. I am very excited to announce the beginning of a new application period for the Digital Humanities Summer Scholars (DHSS) Program for Summer 2019! First, please take a look through the project pages of previous Summer Scholars to get an idea of the great work produced by our students.

As a member of the Lafayette College community for the past year, I have been very lucky to incorporate my education and professional background into my method for directing the DHSS. I hold a B.A. in Political Science from Bates College, an M.F.A. in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute (AFI), and an M.S. in Information Studies from The University of Texas at Austin. At UT Austin, I was incredibly fortunate to learn what I know about digital humanities from Professor Tanya Clement, who was amazing at explaining just why DH is an exciting critical and interpretive path in research in the humanities, and is not just about the digital tools. I have worked in many professional fields, including film and television production, startup companies and digital technology, and education, most recently for The University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Transformational Learning (ITL). I am also a native New Yorker, born in the Bronx, so it is impossible to do anything without that particular and incisive perspective.

Once they are admitted to the DHSS, I strongly advocate for students learning what original research entails, how to formulate an absorbing, cogent research question whose answers will contribute a rich and unique view to that particular field, and how to think critically as they work to integrate sources into their research projects. In addition to honing basic research skills, I help students learn DH methodologies for use in research, what digital tools are available, and how digital tools are capable of transforming their research.

I am so proud of and was so lucky to have worked with the 2018 Summer Scholars. I will use this front page to post photos of the Summer Scholars, a timeline of their presentations from this past year, and pieces that were produced about their work. I will continue to post exciting news and events so that you, dear reader, can follow what is going on in this wonderful and vibrant program. And because DH and digital scholarship take a village, please feel free to contact me if you want to learn more about DHSS, know a Lafayette student who would like to participate, or you would like to become involved with the program. Thanks!




Research & Instruction Librarian
Director, Digital Humanities Summer Scholars (DHSS)
David Bishop Skillman Library
Tel: (610) 330-3191


Sarah’s thoughts.

And here we are, somehow, at the end again, and I am not ready. The poem, “Little Gidding,” that I included on the prompt, feels a little contrived and unfair: “and to make an end is to make a beginning./The end is where we start from.” It equates beginnings and ends, countering finality with continuation. It feels unfair because it makes me feel like I should wrap up this experience neatly and move on, with the knowledge that yes, it is an end, and something else will come.  It’s unfair, but it isn’t untrue; it just doesn’t really do justice to how much this experience means, and how much of it I will carry with me forever.


For me, the beginning of this summer wasn’t in May, or April, but two years ago, when I first arrived at Lafayette and met the first cohort of summer scholars. I remember taking them to the Bucknell conference that year and being so impressed by their work, but even more than that, being moved by who they were, the questions they were asking, their willingness to take on uncertainty. And two years later, having witnessed three cohorts, I am still impressed; still moved. And I am very grateful, especially to you.


If we’re talking about becomings and being, being your teacher has helped me become a librarian. I will never forget one of my first conversations with Tedi, when she told me she started painting because she wasn’t good at it and she wanted to make room in her life for things she wasn’t good at but nevertheless loved. I think that this is the true spirit of research— to love what you don’t understand and don’t know if you can master. To try and set some mystery out into the light, like John did with Lamar’s album under bell hooks’ theory. These examples astound me, who, perfection-oriented in college, was far readier to dismiss what I couldn’t articulate than acknowledge a wider view than my own eyes, than acknowledge a nimbler tongue.

I loved watching Ben explain how his  research was limited by his own insistence on clarity of detail. How, he could imagine opening up storylines that had neither the exactitude nor the instantaneousness of a timeline, but had the narrative. I was proud when Daniel didn’t take a lazy path of exaggerating cause— when he gave nod to the many factors and directions that would play into more accurate ways of understanding inequality. I suppose I often see people bypass what is true (that answers are difficult, unclear, murky, and half-wrong) for what is neat, and I’m so thankful to have you as models for choosing harder, better ways.

Camilla, Idil, Jovanté, Tedi, I am glad you took on the matter of representation. I admire so much how tenderly you orient your thoughts to others, to who may or may not appear in the picture. Camilla, you are a writer; Jovanté, you are a poet. Idil, your meditations on freedom and values from our dinner strike me as deeply wise.  Maria, I knew (and loved) you first, and I adore how your question was born out of a true investigation into a seemingly simple question. Why would these folks choose the cold, when there’s a whole country for them?

You are beautiful; I am so grateful that I have had the chance to witness you. I think, as I grow older, I realize that one’s own habits of mind, the deeply treaded furrows, are dull after awhile. Thinking about other people, listening to them and learning from them— it’s refreshing and reinvigorating and you have made me anew, because you have offered me other ways of seeing, of thinking. You have turned flowers into metaphors and metaphors into sustenance. What alchemy you are!

There are things I could have done better. I wish I had found a way to stave off the anxiety of week 4. I wish I had given you more of a sense of what was coming, earlier on, and restacked assignments. I wish I had been here for week three. I wish we had more time. I’d love to hear your ideas for the shape of the future; I’d love to know how you imagine this program looking. You will have the chance to fight for it, and that’s a good thing.

And even though I’m not ceasing from exploration, soon I am taking up a position at UNC, the place where I started. Maybe the poem isn’t so unfair after all. But, because of you, I know that I will have a chance to see it better. See it with an eye toward representation, toward history, toward access, toward joy.

I have learned so much from you. I hope you are proud of your own minds, of each other. I hope that you continue to allow the things that you love to take up residence in your hours. I hope you offer your thoughts to the world and sometimes, I hope you’ll send them to me.


With love,


How do you breathe, which is to say, how do you live?

Sometimes life is a prayer, a quiet one that you whisper on exasperated breath.  And sometimes days are but a breath, and weeks a string of breaths or prayers or breathing prayers or praying breaths that escape your lips before you even have the chance to sigh or sing or sit in silence.

These six weeks have taught me to breathe in ways I had never imagined possible before.

Inhale.  But do not take the entire world in.  Only the places and people and things that most excite you.

Work fervently.  Ask questions.  Ask questions about your questions.  Read and ponder and imagine and create and believe.


More than the black feminist theory, the literary criticism, the technical knowledge about Digital Humanities skills, I am most grateful for the process.  The space in between the inhale and exhale where we wrestled with our ideas in productive tension until they were proven durable.  Never before have I had to think so critically about my academic and technical choices, nor had I ever had to think about anyone but a professor reading my work, let alone the prospects of an audience.  I enjoyed being given the task of more than blank pages on which to breathe life – a platform to create, opportunities to face my fear of public speaking head-on, a community with which to engage and get excited about my and their ideas.  These are the things I cherish most about this process, the dynamism of research and academia I have encountered through these experiences.

Don’t get me wrong – I am excited about project and will continue to develop my ideas as I develop my ethnographic sensibilities.  This work has encouraged me to continue to focus on the richness of the Caribbean experience, quite often overlooked by academics from the Global North.  This work has also reminded me of the urgency of anthropological research – that it should always be seeking to make strange the familiar and the familiar strange so as to move towards a more empathetic and altogether more just world.  Afro-Jamaican working class women are positioned at the base of Jamaica’s race-class hierarchy, are often the victims of interlocking systems of structural oppression and are often blamed for causing the conditions they encounter.  As long as I can research, my work will always be positioned towards unpacking the social relations that intersect to produce marginalization in Caribbean societies, especially Jamaica.

But the process is what I will carry with me as I embark on the rest of this journey.

There is another way that this program has taught me to breathe.  It is the kind of gentle breath that asked me to be kind to myself, mind and body.  I’ve suffered from anxiety my entire life.  Lack of stability, security and the tentacles of poverty have done much violence to my personhood, but in an attempt to be productive, I had to face the ways I was not loving myself, even when I was given the chance to.  The night we sat around candlelight, having dinner, sharing ourselves with each other as a community, I learnt to breathe, to not police myself, but be vulnerable and live in the moment.  Today, I try my best to remember that.  And even while I was in and out of medical centres, body screaming in between blood tests and ECGs, I realized that the only thing my body really needed was rest, and care, and prayers and breaths and breaths and prayers.  I have not fully overcome anxiety, but I am on a path I’ve never trod before, one that leads to health of mind and body and soul.  I’m not crying, I promise.

I am grateful to this program in more ways than one.

I will end with one of my favourite poems from Nayyirah Waheed which best characterizes the turn my life has taken:

All the best for the summer, everyone.  Let’s keep in touch every now and then.


Reflection 5

This experience has been amazing and I learned so much about history of women and advertising, different ways advertisements affect our lives and what it means to be a working women in the US. But more importantly, I learned so much about myself and my own interests. After this internship, which gave me the opportunity to delve into the marketing world, I found that marketing is where my love for anthropology and business intersect.

I love my topic and thought my findings were really interesting. I started my research thinking that advertisements reflected the society they were in. As I looked closely to it, I found that there is more to it than the reality. Advertisements are really integral to our daily lives and our opinions on certain issues and through my project, I realized instead of just taking the information in, there is small details we, as a society, need to question. And those small details we don’t really think about set the standards for social ideals and normalize certain situations. Seeing how powerful advertisements are, I am excited to be involved in this industry, knowing that I could make a difference in this world through my contribution in advertising world.

Throughout these 6 weeks, I learned how to be a scholar. I learned the steps in doing a humanities research and that 6 weeks is really a short period of time to do a big project. I have so much more respect for all researchers now. There were a lot of decisions to make and all the small decisions I made were really hard. Before Digital Humanities, I didn’t really realize how every single decision you make shapes and your research in different ways and you have to be really careful with them, think thoroughly about every single one of them. They were all big decisions to me.

Also learning Tableau is another thing I got from this experience and I will show it off whenever I get a chance! I didn’t realize before I got into it how much it is used in business world, including data analysis. I can now confidently say that I know how to use this tool.

Looking back at it, seeing the title Digital Humanities and asking my friend who was a Digital Humanities Scholar last year what it is, getting confused, then talking to Sarah and just being super unfamiliar with all the tools she mentioned… I can say that I developed a sense of familiarity with digital tools now and the field of Digital Humanities.

Everything is becoming digital and adding this digital component to a humanities research enriches the experience. I loved my research, but I also loved building charts and galleries to support my findings. You cannot put 20 pictures on a paper, so having a digital platform to support your research only helps.

During my research, there was times I felt overwhelmed, stressed and rushed. Not knowing which direction to go as I started my research and trying to find a path, reading different articles on different things, talking to other people, all saying different things, trying to find data from all type of different resources… It was an exhausting 6 weeks and I would not be able to finish my project if it wasn’t for the people around me. All the librarians, professors, my fellow DH’ers and Sarah. I loved getting help from people, especially because I am the worst at making decisions, I loved having a variety of different topics and learning about all these different things and just having other people who were going through the same things as I did. And as the assignment says, this is only the beginning of a journey. I only have more questions now and I learned that questions push you to learn more. Next step is that I want to look at representation of minority groups in advertisements, maybe next year or maybe a few years from now. Doing my research, I realized there was barely any representation of women of color in advertisements and that is something I want to look at in future. So it’s not an ending, but only a beginning.

Fifth Reflection (Tedi)

On beginnings: It’s curious to think of how I started my digital humanities journey, full of hope and trepidation. Big plans had yet to be narrowed into smaller ones. Six weeks seemed to be a lifetime. Coding was merely a well-practiced dance of fingers on a keyboard. Though I’ve tried to carry this eternal optimism through my digital humanities process, imagination has ripened into realism. What was one plausible has become what is feasible. This, however, has been far from discouraging. There’s something satisfying, toothsome even, about grounding your fathoming in reality. The process of making, doing, editing and discarding is so organic that even forsaken ideas have their place in the practice. I can conclusively say that my greatest lesson from my digital humanities journey has been learning reverence for process. Before, I feared that my ideas would morph; now I embrace their inevitable metamorphosis. I rejected challenge; now I encourage the opportunity to absorb a new skill, however troublesome its acquisition may be. I do not want initial perfection; I want evaluation, revision, consideration.

On becomings: This respect for process has been evident in the archaeological dig of finding my research question.  But every draft, discarded or revised, lead me closer to my real inquiry. Truly, it was a process of discovering what I wanted to study, what I felt compelled to research. After time, energy, and a stack of library books, I discovered a void in the collective discourse on representation in reality television, and felt viscerally obligated to fill it. Likely my favorite thing about the digital humanities program was the allowance to study what I wanted to study, and the following process of discovering what that was. Never before have I been truly passionate about my research—and this passion was the product of process. I am grateful to process, for preventing me from pursuing my original research question, a topic on which I’m considerably less passionate.

On beings: Frankly, I feel accomplished. I truly believe that my research has made me more compassionate, considerate, and perceptive; in turn, I am certain that I articulated my project in a unique way, colored by the lens of my life experience, saturated by my complicated relationship to disability. Delving so deeply into the potential complications of life with disability has made me consider the physical impediments that disabled people face in many spheres of life; I look around campus and often consider how accessible it is, or ruminate on why I’ve never seen a student in a wheelchair. And continually, now and forever, I will consider how to be a better advocate for the disabled community. How can I discuss disabled issues without imposing the able-bodied white savior complex (which hovers, omnipresent) on every subject I touch? How can I be a better listener? How can I echo their ideas? Should I be quiet in order to let others speak? How can I do so when so few are talking and none are listening?

In this process, I have learned both the tangible and the intangible, of equal value. I have learned respect for process, but I have also learned how to operate Scalar. I have learned how to narrow the scope of my research just as I have mastered the art of the lightning presentation.

In truth, I have a complicated relationship with humanities. In many ways, I am more inclined towards simply “H” than “DH”; more drawn to words on a page than a technological labyrinth of graphs and tweets and maps and timelines. I don’t reject these tools, but I am resigned to ambivalence towards them. Frankly, I dislike how digital humanities pushes the digital, even at the cost of detracting from a project’s meaning but injecting flirty visuals. I believe that digital humanities exist for those whose work would better from these digital tools, but many humanities works do, and should, exist independent of this field (a field which so many are hungry to define). I believe that digital humanities should exist for those who pursue it, but should not be forced like medicine down the throats of those who are content with humble, unflashy academia. Those who care to evolve, may. Other may be satisfied with just the “H” in “DH”.

I feel an overwhelming sensation of gratitude to my advisors, my peers, academia, and to Lafayette for allowing me to pursue a research passion in such a conducive and assistive setting. I will be forever grateful for the skills that I have acquired, forever thoughtful about my place in academia, forever considerate about how to rightly advocate for marginalized groups, and forever glad to have experienced such an incredible research opportunity so early in my college experience.

An end to a beginning – Final Reflection (Camilla)

I must admit that when I first started designing my project, I was intimidated. I was intimidated by the amount of time I had to complete my mission, worried that my final project just wouldn’t be good enough. But over the past six weeks, I have gained confidence in my own abilities and in my work. These past six weeks have been enlightening in terms of just how much one can get done in a short period of time, my strengths and weaknesses, and the immense amount of issues unraveled over the course of my research adventure.

I have learned that the research process is a series of ups and downs. Last week at the Digital Humanities Meet up at Bryn Mawr, I listened to a member of Swarthmore’s faculty discuss failure. I began to reflect on my own failures, and realized more clearly than ever that failures are steps to progress. Failure isn’t stationary: it is a process in of itself, one which is sometimes necessary in order to succeed. My work continued to fluctuate: I bounced from mapping to data visualization to one form of web design to another, constantly waiting and wishing that something would sort itself out on its own, that suddenly the answer would be right in front of me, ready to put together. However, it wasn’t that simple, figuring out my project and my research goals was a pattern of trial and error, taking risks, spitting out ideas and eventually figuring out a combination that fit correctly. When I finally came across the ideal combination of research and conclusions and digital tools, the project came together much more smoothly and cohesively than anything else I had done prior in the process.

The bulk of the work that I have done during this research internship has been the process of discovery and learning. In the end, the project itself only took a fraction of the time; after all of my experimentation the direction I wanted to go in was finally clear. I was relieved and proud to have come up with a plan. I remember sitting in the classroom in the basement of the library for a few minutes after lab hour in week three and clicking the display button on my timeline prototype and thinking to myself how exciting it was to have come up with something so interactive and pleasing on my own. It felt good to design a project from beginning to end and to write a paper about what I truly am passionate about without a prompt predetermined by a professor. It was also an accomplishment I hadn’t imagined I’d achieve the summer after my first year of college.

Ultimately, this project has been a series of beginnings: from beginning my project and developing my research question (which flipped and spun in circles for weeks, I might add), to beginning a series of discoveries regarding indigenous issues, to finally, beginning a passion that might just continue to develop over the course of my academic career and beyond. My dad heard that I wanted to apply for this internship early in the spring semester and randomly sent me an article from The Guardian regarding Sami reindeer herding rights and said something along the lines of “how about this?” At first, I laughed. I didn’t think that I’d be able to form a project about a topic so obscure. I was sort of right in that with the resources available to me and the distance between researchers in Sweden and myself, the topic was too specific. But, I went ahead and tried anyway.

My project frustrated me, and the research available frustrated me even more. In the end, I embraced the frustration and the limitations to my research. I did what I could, and centered my research around the lack of data available. This way, whenever I present my research, I continue to raise awareness about the erasure of identity and the restrictions the Sami people continue to face today. One could say that it is my small contribution to human rights activism, a field I am keen on dedicating myself to in my career.

As these six weeks come to a close, I hope that I have been honest with my research. Early on, I discussed the importance of remaining objective when discussing a group far removed from my own cultural identity. I realized as time went on how difficult it is to convey Sami culture from an outside point of view without making accidental assumptions or categorizations – the very same issues I displayed in my findings regarding Sami treatment by the Swedish government. I did my best, and hope to someday be able to immerse myself more in this vibrant culture in order to understand it more deeply. I believe that with this challenge, I have grown as a thinker, as a writer, and as a human. While this project may come to an end (or perhaps not), the values I’ve learned to appreciate, and the skills I’ve gained will translate into all of my future endeavors. This reflection may be a conclusion, but this is really only an introduction.

Last Reflection

“Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.” Isaac Asimov

As reflect on the past six weeks, I think about home a lot. I love my topic not only because it is so close to home and I know first hand people who left home in search for better life, but also I am amazed what awaits those people on the other side. The decisions and challenges that a lot of them face reflect on their strength. I learned a lot about myself and the things I hold close in this process. By reading a lot about the refugee process, I appreciate that I have a place to call home, a luxury that a lot of refugees don’t have.

The process of conducting this research has been educational, challenging and frustrating at times. I wanted to do justice of the people I was studying and share their stories, so when I was stuck at some stages of my project, I felt I was falling short and not doing justice to my topic. Not only have I learned more of the history of my country, and how the rest of the world sees it, but also I reflected a lot on what I know about Somalia. I think about the stories of civil war that my mom and aunt would tell me when I was younger, and how that in a way shaped the way they see the world. My mom constantly reminds me to be grateful for the stability in our lives.

In this past year, as I got involved in Refugee Action and started this project, I am learning a lot about the evil in the world that forces so many people to flee home and leave everything that once felt familiar to them behind. Having the platform to educate myself about such issues, I feel it is my duty as a human being to at least educate myself about those issues. I plan to continue this process and contribute to this discourse as best as I can.

I am holding close to all the stories I read, and the people that I learned their stories and empathized with just by just reading about their lives. I want to leave behind my appreciation of this program to the next DH scholars who will find something they’re passionate about and commit themselves to learn more about it. I am grateful all for all of you for making this happen. It went fast, and I could not do without the help of each one of you. Thank you Sarah for all that you did for me this past year as my advisor and also in the last six weeks. You always feed me cookies or banana bread and I am going to miss that a lot.

“There is no denying that there is evil in this world but the light will always conquer the darkness.” Idowu Koyenikan

The Finale of Reflections

John Rodriguez

“You will take all you want from me
Oh, the innocence I lack
You will take all you want from me
But I will take it all back in the end”


I have love for my project, and the opportunity to do this work, because of the unexpected lessons I have learned about this country, music and myself through the duration of this program.

Firstly, I have always believed that change is possible. But this project has taught me that something greater than legislation has to change in order for equality. From Black Panthers to #BLACKLIVESMATTER, nothing has really changed but the time period. During Black Panther Era, activists complied with toning down their demand of complete overthrow of democracy for seeing more Black people in political positions; assuming that Black faces in high places would help stop Black death from government hands. However, still we are fighting and protesting for the same demands. I learned a while a go that the true definition of insanity is repeating something over and over again expecting a different result. And I wouldn’t say this experience made me a communist, but I have realized something greater than legislation has to change in order to make the greatest change.

From my experience of making beats and songs, I know that everything a person hears on a track is intentional; rarely anything is put randomly. Revisiting this album, but from a research perspective, opened my eyes to how deep an artist can go with their lyrics. One can tell their story, another’s story, or relay a message. After reading the historical ramifications of Black leaders using their influence to harm their people, and seeing Lamar’s struggle with complacency, I have vowed to use my privilege and power, as an academic student and artist, to never be complacent to injustices that occur back home and wherever. Not a lot of my brothers back home get the opportunity to research and gauge their interests, so I will make sure I always put on for them and myself.

Speaking of myself, working on this project has given me the chance delve deeper into my consciousness and analyze my own decisions. hooks’s novel Rock My Soul really opened up the conversation of what is self-esteem and how one knows their own mental state. It is intriguing how such a personal conversation is easier to hold with words on a page rather than with a person. Throughout my time hear I have also heard “the thing that makes you the most uncomfortable/scared, write that”. So, as a writer, I’ll hold myself to that and make more honest pieces.

The only thing I would change about my time here is that I wish I learned more about Sarah. Throughout your time of helping all of us, you’ve been able to see bits and pieces of our passions and interests. So far, I’ve been under the assumption that we would see each other face-to-face more over these years and that, then, I would have the chance to see your interests. But, what I have learned is that you are a great person that makes the absolute best out of what she’s given; thus, I am excited to see what is to come when you start helping others build their Digital Humanities programs. I already know I’m going to see the rest of you around campus so no need to get mushy like Daniel’s pasta.

“I’ll never lay down and die
For I am all that is love
All that is light
I’ll never compromise
For I was born of this world
To take back the night”