Home About Subscribe Search Member Area

Humanist Discussion Group

< Back to Volume 32

Humanist Archives: Nov. 17, 2018, 8:15 a.m. Humanist 32.196 - Overworked, with opportunities

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 32, No. 196.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                   Hosted by King's Digital Lab
                Submit to: humanist@dhhumanist.org

    [1]    From: Roopika Risam 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.193: Overworked? (17)

    [2]    From: Elisa Beshero-Bondar 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.193: Overworked? (20)

        Date: 2018-11-16 13:49:16+00:00
        From: Roopika Risam 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.193: Overworked?

With all due respect to Dr. Rovira, this is the nature of academic life at a regional comprehensive university in the U.S., where teaching loads are high, some research is expected (certainly not at R1 rates), and the service load is significant. But, when approached strategically, which works well with digital humanities, it can afford tremendous professional creativity and freedom - without any more than the usual academic overwork (itself a different issue). 

It was because of these competing demands that a number of faculty, librarians, administrators, and technologists at regional comprehensive universities have come together, through funding by NEH, to strategize about not only the challenges of developing digital humanities initiatives under our institutional constraints but also the affordances. (We had a participant from UPitt-Greensburg, which is in the same system as UPitt-Johnstown, of the job ad in question.) Particularly with digital humanities, the different duties listed in our job descriptions can be combined in ways that are meaningful for our students and for our professional careers. 

I encourage grad students and others seeking professor positions to speak with those of us who work at these kinds of universities because the realities of jobs are far more complex than a job ad conveys. I am happy to talk about this candidly and to put you in touch with others who would be willing to share the pros and cons.


Roopika Risam, PhD
Assistant Professor of English
Faculty Fellow for Digital Library Initiatives
Salem State University

        Date: 2018-11-16 17:58:16+00:00
        From: Elisa Beshero-Bondar 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.193: Overworked?

Some perspective: I work at the neighboring regional at Greensburg campus, where we endure the same teaching load. I earned tenure in 2010, after which I helped coordinate our campus’s efforts to build an interdisciplinary Digital Studies program (see http://greensburg.pitt.edu/academics/info/digital-studies ). Our programs at Greensburg vs Johnstown are quite different from one another, due to differences in size and faculty involved. (I am a TEI person building digital editions from manuscripts, and I am connected with literature and historians at my campus, as well as people working with digital media. Johnstown has different priorities with media apparently in the lead.) Both our campuses can be called “regional comprehensives” in a relatively recent use of the term: 4-year undergrad programs (maybe a few MA programs attached) that primarily serve communities within a 50 to 100 mile radius. Students at these schools are often the guest in their families to go to university, and in my experience are either very driven or not sure if school is worth the trouble. The very driven ones are extremely rewarding to work with, and they are worth building new curricula to support their interests, voices, and perspectives. 

I attended an institute on DH at Regional Comprehensives hosted by Roopika Risam at Salem State University last July, and it was a wonderful opportunity to reflect on what’s distinct about our work. The group of us, from various teaching-oriented broad-based regional programs (not community colleges and not research-1 institutions) found that we practice a DH that is readily adaptable to mixing disciplines and engaging students and our colleagues together in research. (For example, see the projects hosted at our Pitt-Greensburg Center for the Digital Text: http://www.greensburg.pitt.edu/digital-humanities/center-digital-text ) 

To build a program and projects, you need the good will of colleagues, and you need to be in a safe position for them to review your digital work as significant professional development. One issue with DH hires is that they too frequently are post-doc, short-term, or outside the tenure stream. My neighbors at Pitt-Johnstown are not working on that model—notice that this post is tenure stream. That is promising, if the faculty there are amenable to supporting and building the program and not isolating the new hire in the DH lab where only an isolated few participate. 

I really wish Pitt would abolish its outmoded 4-4 load for full-time faculty at the regionals. That isn’t up to Greensburg or Johnstown. However, Pitt has been nurturing of regional faculty’s research initiatives—I am living proof of this, and I am very grateful for the support I have received here and especially the eagerness with which my little campus and the Pitt University Library got behind the Digital Mitford project and its Coding School (http://digitalmitford.org). I think a tenured DH post at a teaching campus is a potentially rewarding prospect, and 4-4 means something very different if the 4 courses enroll a hundred students each, or 5-15 for some and 20-25 for others. (That means my teaching load experience sure isn’t the same as my colleagues in Psych or Biology). Yes, I wish my university would revisit the teaching load issue, realizing the importance of time devoted to building innovative teaching and research programs and things we could do more efficiently with more hours in a day. I hope some of my Pitt colleagues and administrators might follow this list and please give it some thought. We all teach more brilliantly with time to think, and DH holds great promise (proven!) at regional campuses, but time is the most important resource we require to build project-driven DH programs on a shoestring budget.

Cheers and best of luck to my colleagues at UPJ,
Elisa E. Beshero-Bondar, PhD
Associate Professor of English
Director, Center for the Digital Text
University of Pittsburgh, Greensburg
150 Finoli Drive
Greensburg, PA 15601

Unsubscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted
List posts to: humanist@dhhumanist.org
List info and archives at at: http://dhhumanist.org
Listmember interface at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted/
Subscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/membership_form.php

Editor: Willard McCarty (King's College London, U.K.; Western Sydney University, Australia)
Software designer: Malgosia Askanas (Mind-Crafts)

This site is maintained under a service level agreement by King's Digital Lab.