Mellon Foundation Grant Supports Digital Media Initiative

College of Arts and Sciences Awarded Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Grant

Lehigh University’s College of Arts and Sciences will integrate emerging digital media with community engagement thanks to an $800,000, three-year grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The Mellon grant supports Engaging Undergraduates with the Local Community through the Digital Humanities, an initiative to support faculty and student work telling Bethlehem’s story using new digital media. Like other American cities, Bethlehem confronts issues of immigration, education, religion, economic hardship, and revitalization, and the Mellon grant supports chronicling the common issues of social justice and a city’s evolving history.
“This grant offers a powerful opportunity to truly transform the humanities at Lehigh,” says Donald E. Hall, Herbert J. and Ann L. Siegel Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “The integration of digital media into curricula provides the college with innovative educational opportunities, and the support lays the groundwork for a new undergraduate minor in interdisciplinary documentary studies.”
Bethlehem is experiencing a renaissance and the city is addressing issues surrounding immigration, education, religion, revitalization, and ethnic, racial and class diversity. Throughout this process, faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences have been telling the city’s story using digital media to chronicle addressing issues of social justice and an evolving history. Engaging Undergraduates with the Local Community through the Digital Humanities expands efforts, often in close collaboration with Lehigh’s surrounding neighbors, to bridge scholarship and community engagement.
"This grant from the Mellon foundation is the culmination of years of hard work by Lehigh faculty, staff, and students from departments and interdisciplinary programs across the College of Arts and Sciences,” says Edward Whitley, associate professor of English and the project’s director. “Thanks to the generosity of the Mellon Foundation, undergraduate students at Lehigh will have more opportunities than ever before to work closely with faculty and visiting scholars on research projects that will not only benefit the local community, but that will also give students hands-on experience with cutting-edge digital media."
This funding fosters deeper and broader academic efforts of faculty and students in the digital humanities and in the community. It provides resources for faculty and students in humanities projects involving the community. Digital media workshops and a lecture series will bring outside experts to campus to work with faculty and students, training in the latest techniques and best practices.
Postdoctoral fellows will offer digital humanities courses, faculty and staff training workshops, and work on an ongoing digital humanities project for each of the three years. Course development grants will allow faculty to expand humanities curriculum that engages the community. Lehigh/community partner grants will seed or kick-start collaboration between community organizations and Lehigh faculty and students.  Undergraduate research grants will integrate digital media into undergraduate work by facilitating independent projects outside the classroom.
The College of Arts and Sciences has a tradition of incorporating community interaction and emerging digital media into curricula. Students in the department of history increasingly study the past and focus on Bethlehem using digital media. A new graduate-level certificate in documentary film is offered through the American Studies program, while the South Side Initiative brings Lehigh together with the community share knowledge, foster democracy and improve the quality of life Bethlehem’s south side. Other educational opportunities exist in area studies that focus on the Asian, Latino, and Africana experience within communities.
-Robert Nichols