University of Virginia, Scholars’ Lab

Bethanie Nowviskie

We created the Praxis Program at the University of Virginia as a test bed for new-model, graduate-level, interdisciplinary methods training in the digital humanities (http://praxis.scholarslab.org/). It is notable in that it is housed in a library-based center, the Scholars’ Lab, and is developed and taught not by conventionally employed humanities faculty members but by alt-ac professionals (humanities-educated technology staff members and librarians) who work outside the academic departments. It complements a more traditional, dissertation-year fellowship awarded by the Scholars’ Lab—in which doctoral candidates undertake digital projects related to their individual research—but instead targets graduate students at earlier stages in their careers and asks them to come together as six-person interdisciplinary teams to spend an academic year on the design, development, testing, and publication of a new digital platform or tool for humanities research and teaching. Along the way, by writing for a broad, public audience on the Scholars’ Lab blog, they reflect on the nature of collaborative work, on the specific technologies in which they are gaining confidence, and on the methods, practices, and ethos of digital scholarship across the disciplines and professions represented by Praxis team members and mentors. Student fellowships in the first two years of the Praxis Program were offered through a pilot project on graduate education reform by the Mellon Foundation–supported Scholarly Communication Institute and are now supported by the University of Virginia Library. Our program also formed the seed of an international Praxis Network (http://praxis-network.org/), made up of like-minded but differently structured practicum-based humanities training programs at eight institutions in four countries. They come together to articulate their emerging models and share teaching materials and outcomes, with the goal of inspiring further experimentation and the development of creative alternatives to the single-department-based humanities methods course.

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