I owe my interest and experience in the Digital Humanities to a professor who took me under her wing during my undergraduate studies.
By my sophomore year, I knew I wanted to attend graduate school, yet I did not have a specific area of focus. I had been told I needed some sort of research experienqce to boost my CV, so I sought a research assistant position. I attended an on-campus fair where faculty presented their research and I saw one history professor listed on the program. I went to her table and I began talking to her. A historian of Africa, she wanted to hire an undergrad to serve two roles: help her map language communities using GIS (Geographic Information Systems) and work at the Social Science research lab helping students with ArcGIS. Although I had no idea how to work with ArcGIS, I decided to apply for the position.
I thought the position was going to be offered to someone else (given my lack of experience) but –to my surprise–she sent me an email asking to meet. She told me a number of professors and students had vouched for me and she offered me the position.
I accepted the offer and immediately began my training in ArcGIS and African history. ArcGIS is a mapping platform not only used to visualize spatial data but to analyze it as well. I collected all the ArcGIS course syllabi and completed all the assignments to better help students before they came to me. In addition, the professor took the time to meet with me to go over the details of her research as well as how to use ArcGIS.
My professor’s patience and dedication to my professional development opened the door to many other opportunities. Thanks to my GIS experience, I have worked in Policy, a Community Development Financial Institution and have acquired research assistantships. These opportunities would not have been possible without my background in the Digital Humanities and my training in History.
The versatility of the Digital Humanities with any field, such as History, can provide career and research opportunities. I acquired the aforementioned positions because I developed qualitative skills through my historical research and the Digital Humanities gave me quantitative and technological experience. Together, I believe the Digital Humanities and History can make me a well-rounded, interdisciplinary scholar.