Graduate Certificate in Digital Public Humanities

Mary Ellen Pethel, 2018

Mary Ellen Pethel

What work are you doing now?

I am currently serving in two positions, each with a DH component. At the Harpeth Hall School, in Nashville, I serve as the Digital Humanities coordinator, which allows me to work with teachers to develop digital projects. This is part of the school's new Digital Humanities Initiative. This work has resulted in exciting collaborations that include a wide range of interdisciplinary projects feature original research, online exhibits, podcasts, and visual/textual analysis. This initiative and related projects can be found on DH@HH.

At Belmont University, I am currently teaching classes and working on an external project as part of a Professor of Practice appointment. I teach in the Interdisciplinary Studies and Global Education division, which includes interdisciplinary work with two departments: Honors and Global Leadership Studies. The external project, Nashville Sites, grew out of a project completed for Dr. Sharon Leon's class as part of GMU's Digital Public Humanities Certificate Program. Belmont University is one of many community stakeholders who have invested in the project. The primary sponsor is the Metro Historical Commission Foundation, and I serve as the project director for Nashville sites, which is set to launch in September 2019. Other contributing scholars and institutions include Vanderbilt University, Middle Tennessee State University, Fisk University, and Tennessee State University. Nashville Sites will offer twenty mobile-friendly walking tours featuring audio narration, text narratives, images, and real-time navigation. 


Why did you choose to pursue the certificate in Digital Public Humanities?

I completed my Ph.D. coursework in 2006, before many history graduate programs offered courses in digital skills related to content creation, curation, and presentation. As the field of Digital Humanities expanded, I was very interested in riding this interdisciplinary wave. However, I was unsure how to pursue additional work having already earned a terminal degree. In 2015, I had lunch with a Vanderbilt faculty member who was part of George Mason's first cohort and she told me about the program. I was hooked and applied to join the next year's fall cohort. This certificate program was a great fit for me because it did not require an additional degree. Moreover, the classes and projects provided me with much needed digital training, skills, experience, and networking. The DPH certificate also expanded my scholarly credentials and helped to validate my academic pursuits.


What knowledge or skills from the program have been particularly valuable to you?

Each of the three courses offered something different, but together they offered a comprehensive study of Digital Humanities. I firmly believe that DH represents a paradigmatic shift — providing a new framework for the ways in which we ask questions, learn and transfer information, and simultaneously teach/learn. On a smaller scale, the exposure to programs and projects and the technical skills gained (such as metadata, copyright, website creation, digital exhibits, etc.) was equally important. Three years ago I never would have imagined that I'd be teaching an undergraduate "Intro to Digital Humanities" course or leading collaborative interdisciplinary projects. I would not have predicted that I'd be working on a digital project with the potential to shape how and where people can learn about Nashville's history and culture. Many thanks to George Mason University's DPH Certificate Program for giving me the skills and experience to expand my professional portfolio.