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About the Project

This website is a 2021 project of Syracuse University and Katina L. Rogers of Inkcap Consulting, funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Project leads at Syracuse are Christopher Flanagan and Glenn Wright.

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The NEH Next Generation Humanities PhD planning grant allowed Syracuse to undertake several projects designed to 1) increase awareness of and training opportunities for careers outside the academy and 2) promote the role humanities training can play in the public sphere. Glenn Wright (Director of Programs, Syracuse University Graduate School) and Vivian May (Director, Syracuse University Humanities Center) were co-PIs on the grant. In January 2020 Christopher Flanagan (PhD, History) joined the project as a Postdoctoral Fellow.

The Next-Generation Dissertation project arose from one of four working groups established as part of the NEH planning grant. This working group conducted three surveys: of complete or in-progress dissertations in non-monographic form; of peer institutions regarding their engagement with these non-traditional projects; and of SU humanities departments regarding their dissertation requirements and history with projects outside of the regular, written monograph.  The group also researched into other universities’ guidance for non-monographic formats, which revealed a dearth of existing models to replicate. Katina L. Rogers, author of Putting the Humanities PhD to Work: Thriving in and beyond the Classroom (Duke UP, 2020), was engaged as a consultant on the project beginning in March 2021.

The project engaged with authors of notable dissertations in non-traditional formats; their bios are below. From the resulting conversations, we created a series of video interviews on the opportunities and challenges of this new approach to dissertation work, an innovative dissertation rubric, and a series of guidelines to assist future scholars, all of which can be found on this site.

Our thanks to:

The National Endowment for the Humanities for making the project possible.

The NGD working group, chaired by Glenn Wright; members included:

  • Kal Alston (PhD, Philosophy of Education; Professor of Cultural Foundations of Education and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Syracuse University School of Education)
  • Deborah Manion (PhD, English; Acquisitions Editor, Syracuse University Press)
  • Robert Searing (PhD candidate, History; Curator of History, Onondaga Historical Association)
  • Matthew Stewart (PhD, History; Humanities Teacher, The Ambrose School, Meridian, ID),
  • Patrick Williams (PhD, Information Studies; Librarian for Literature, Rhetoric, and Digital Humanities, Syracuse University Libraries).

Teresa Mangum of the University of Iowa (PhD, English). Dr. Mangum, a noted proponent of the public humanities, provided guidance to the working group in her role as outside consultant on the NEH planning grant initiative.

We’d like to extend special thanks to our interview participants: A.D. Carson; Sonia Estima; Ivan Gonzalez-Soto; Jesse Merandy; Justin Schell; Amanda Visconti; and Anna Williams. You’ll find their work throughout the site. Learn more about them below.

Listen to interviews with these scholars!

A.D. Carson is an award-winning performance artist and educator from Decatur, Illinois, and an assistant professor at the University of Virginia. His work focuses on race, literature, history, rhetorics & performance. He received a Ph.D. in Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design at Clemson University. His album, i used to love to dream, the first-ever rap album peer-reviewed for publication with an academic press, was released with University of Michigan Press in 2020. This work extends from his doctoral dissertation, Owning My Masters: The Rhetorics of Rhymes & Revolutions, a rap album that is the primary feature of a digital archive at phd.aydeethegreat.com. Watch a video introduction of A.D. Carson from our interview archive.

Sonia Estima is an Associate Professor at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA, and currently serves as an Academic Specialist. She supervises the Faculty Development and Immersion programs at the school. She successfully defended her dissertation, Multimodal Meaning Making, in December 2020 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her current work and interests revolve around helping teachers become engaged in their own professional development. Looking through the lens and the principles of critical pedagogy, she tries to help faculty reflect on their practice and begin questioning their role in helping students and also themselves become critically conscious and develop a sense of agency in their practice—as teachers working in the classroom, and also as writers and professionals. Watch a video introduction of Sonia Estima from our interview archive, and visit her website to learn more.

Ivan Gonzalez-Soto is a PhD student with the Interdisciplinary Humanities Graduate Group at the University of California, Merced. His cross-disciplinary research draws from environmental studies, history, and ethnic studies, and explores questions about race, labor, and technology in the arid American West. He is especially interested in the waterways and workers of twentieth century California’s Imperial Valley, and his work aims to better understand the Valley’s past in relation to the region’s contemporary environment. Learn more about Ivan Gonzalez-Soto’s work on his website.

Jesse Merandy is the Director of Digital Humanities and Digital Exhibitions (DH/DX) at Bard Graduate Center. He received his PhD from The Graduate Center, CUNY, studying mobile technology, Walt Whitman, and composition & rhetoric.  His dissertation, Vanishing Leaves, is a location-based mobile experience which takes players to Brooklyn Heights to learn about Walt Whitman in the neighborhood where he wrote and published the first edition of Leaves of Grass. Watch a video introduction of Jesse Merandy from our interview archive.

Justin Schell is the Director of the Shapiro Design Lab, a peer and engaged learning community in the University of Michigan Library. In addition to his work at the Design Lab, he is a filmmaker, visual artist, and podcast producer. He holds a PhD from the University of Minnesota’s Comparative Studies in Discourse and Society program, where he completed We Rock Long Distance, a multimodal dissertation and full-length documentary film on immigrant hip-hop in Minnesota. Watch a video introduction of Justin Schell from our interview archive.

Amanda Wyatt Visconti is Managing Director of the Scholars’ Lab. They hold a Literature PhD from the University of Maryland focused on the digital humanities and textual scholarship, and an MS in Information from the University of Michigan focused on DH and human-computer interaction. They have also worked as a professional web developer for over a decade, with specialization in online knowledge-building communities, meaningful crowdsourcing websites, and reading/annotation interfaces. Their dissertation, Infinite Ulysses, was the first humanities dissertation to fully acknowledge digital methods (code, design, user testing, blogging, no chapters) as scholarship by treating them as the dissertation instead of addenda to traditional written chapters. Infinite Ulysses, a participatory digital edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses, attracted over 12,000 unique visitors in its first few weeks of open beta and was cited in The New York Times in July 2016. Watch a video introduction of Amanda Wyatt Visconti from our interview archive.

Anna Williams is a freelance podcast producer and writer based in Birmingham, Alabama. She earned her Ph.D. in English from the University of Iowa in 2019, pioneering the first-ever dissertation in podcast form. Watch a video introduction of Anna Williams from our interview archive.

Photo credits: Derek Thomson; Annie Spratt; US Geological Survey; Pawel Czerwinski; Bia Andrade; Mitchell Griest; and Mr Karl (all via unsplash.com).

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