Brandon Trapp 19 Interviews Dr. Kerri Hauman
SPEAKER 1: Welcome to another campus conversation. Discussions with Transylvania University faculty, highlighting their interests, passions, and pursuits. Here is Brandon Trapp. BRANDON TRAPP: So I’m here with Dr. Kerri Hauman. And we’re going to talk today about the digital liberal arts. So first I want to ask, what is digital liberal arts? KERRI HAUMAN: It’s a loaded question. Of course, academics never like to give straightforward definitions of anything. When I think about the digital liberal arts, I sort of think about it as almost a silly thing, like a silly title, because the digital is already in the liberal arts. And we’re not, like when we’re just talking about liberal arts education without any sort of adjective or other word tacked on the front there, I think the digital is already there. But I think we name it that, because the technology is often sort of invisible, right? There are different course management systems, like Moodle and other things, that are being used. And so the digital is there. But they sort of blend into the background of the larger activity of higher education. And they’re not necessarily the focal point of it. And so I think that’s part of the reason why we give it that full label of digital liberal arts to sort of call to attention the digital that’s there already. I think also, though, it is a very purposeful choice to focus on teaching within about digital tools. So instead of having it just to be a part of the course, and the course could have existed 20, 40 years ago. And the digital tools don’t necessarily change what’s happening in the course overall, like you’re just using Google Drive to upload your folder instead of handing it to your professor– something like that. Digital liberal arts does make a very purposeful move to focus on teaching with and about technology, so that students are critical users of digital tools, so that they are producers of good digital tools. So it’s calling attention to analyzing the digital, thinking critically about the digital, being creative producers with the digital and even producing the digital, right? So yeah, I probably could talk for most of our time about just like explaining exactly what digital liberal arts means. But maybe for now, I’ll leave it at that. I think when we think of liberal arts and think of– I lied. I just said I was going to leave it at that. Now I’m going on. When we think of liberal arts as being interdisciplinary and being about questions about what it means to be human, I think that we can’t have those conversations today without thinking about the digital and often using the digital. So it’s really just putting a more explicit focus on the digital. BRANDON TRAPP: OK. And is this something that’s kind of like, are we developing this kind of thing here, Transy on our own? Or is this kind of a thing that’s been going on in other places that we’ve been taking from, as well, and kind of getting inspired by– you say no? KERRI HAUMAN: Yeah, good question. It’s both of those things. And so I guess really it’s more of the second one than the first, because it does already exist in other places. So we are definitely in conversations that we’ve had about what would it mean to embrace the digital liberal arts here at Transy. We’ve been having conversations about other programs, other schools, whether they’re calling it digital liberal arts or something else, we have definitely been looking to see what are other schools already doing. And I think kind of in response to what I was saying about it already being there, even if we’re not calling it that, I think we’ve also been trying to just call attention to the things that are already happening at Transy before we slap that label on it that there are already students doing all sorts of really cool things in music tech, for example right? And that that certainly falls right into digital liberal arts. There’s already faculty who are using digital tools as part of their teaching, as part of their research, as part of their creative endeavors. So that’s why I say it’s kind of both of those things that on the one hand, giving it that name, digital liberal arts, recognizes things that are already here and tries to not necessarily organize them, as if to say that what was happening before was no good. But in an attempt to recognize that if we put that label on it and bring together the people who are already interested in and doing things that we might think of as digital liberal arts, that that shared space, that chance to come together and talk about what they’re doing to share resources, best practices, products, that that would be helpful. We all sort of get so busy, right? We have these students and teachers and everybody here at Transy. We have all of this stuff that we have to do every day. And so even if we’re already incorporating digital tools and technologies into what it means for us to be students or faculty, we don’t often get a chance to talk about that critically with each other to really focus on what did I do here, and why did I do it that way? And how is that similar to what you did in that class over there? So I think part of the reason that I think it’s really important for us to name it as such here is to create a space for people who are already doing this, to come together and share ideas. And you hear about what somebody else did that didn’t work so well. And so you can avoid doing that in the future. But in the course of doing that, yes, we are definitely looking at other schools that have things. I mean, there are schools that have actual things that are called, like, the digital liberal arts center or something of that nature, right? There’s different names. But there’s some sort of central physical space on their campus, particularly, at larger schools that have more resources. There are teams of people that work in those centers who gather resources, who lead workshops, who send faculty and students out to conferences where they can show off things that they’ve created with digital tools. Or they can learn about technology and higher education and what all those premises and pitfalls might be. So does that give you a sense of how it’s kind of both of those things? BRANDON TRAPP: Yeah. It sounds like if the dArt lab were like a whole building– hint, hint, administration. KERRI HAUMAN: Yeah. Well, and I will say we’ve had a lot of conversation about expanding the dArt lab as part of these larger conversations about digital liberal arts, or whatever it might be called at Transy. There’s a group of, I would say it’s at least maybe like 12, 15 people that have gotten together faculty, staff, members of administration, including Dr. Kerri and Dean Brian. We have gotten together a few times starting, I think it was last May, perhaps? And then we met a couple times during fall semester, this previous semester to talk about really what would a larger digital liberal arts initiative look like specifically here at Transy? And the dArt lab has always been a big part, not the only part, but a big part of those conversations. And I think there is a lot of excitement about the possibility for the dArt lab to expand. BRANDON TRAPP: Yeah. What do you think the value of the dArt lab expanding would be like? What would we as a campus, as a whole, get out of that? KERRI HAUMAN: Yeah. Well, I have many ideas about that. One of the things to answer that question, I think I have to talk a little bit about the limitations that the current configuration of the dArt lab has. We are very fortunate that we have a dArt lab at all, right? We have a lot of great tools and a lot of software and a lot of– even just like the fact that there’s a space where people, who are taking different sorts of classes or working on different sorts of projects, can come together and sort of share that energy and see each other’s projects. It’s great that we have what we have. But because we want to keep growing with the digital arts and media mind are being something that we have now and thinking about these larger digital liberal arts initiatives, we’re a little bit limited by the size of the space. There are only 12 computers set up in here. So right away, class sizes have to be capped at 12 or below. Usually they’re capped around 10 just sort of for a space. I think that’s our real limitation. There’s only one dArt lab. And we only have so many class sessions that we can use. Like on Tuesday, Thursday there’s really only, what, like four times that people can sign up for classes. So the folks who teach in the dArt lab, we do a lot of negotiating. What time do you want to teach your class? OK, I can teach at this time, and we can work this out. It would be really nice, part of, I think, one of our really big dreams in expanding the dArt lab is that it’s not one space anymore. It’s multiple spaces or a space that’s large enough to sort of be sectioned so that multiple classes could be happening simultaneously, right. Like there could be intro to music tech and digital rep both offered on Tuesday at 11 o’clock or something, right? So I think just in terms of how many students could be enrolled in courses? The possibilities for additional course offerings or additional times that courses are offered– that be a real benefit of expanding the space. Another thing that I noticed particularly in the classes that I teach when I teach digital rhetoric in here, for instance, we have a lot of hands-on time. But we also have a lot of discussion. Have you ever tried to have a discussion in the space where you can see everybody else in the room? BRANDON TRAPP: Yeah, we usually move to the other side of the room and have to leave our computers. KERRI HAUMAN: That’s exactly what we do. So the way that the computers are currently set up works really well for individual work or even sort of like small group or partner work or even for a class where the professors may be able to show something on the big screen, like, here’s how you do this. And then everybody can kind of work on it on their own. And they can come over and look with them. It works really well for that. But it really does not work so well, as you’ve experienced, and so have I. When you’re trying to have a full class discussion with 10 or 12 people, and you’re all rolling chairs over into this one side of the room that’s very small and very cramped. And you’ve then left your computer. So if you had things there that you wanted to reference in the conversation, you don’t have access to them anymore. Even just for me when the students are all sitting at their computers, I can’t actually see everybody in the room no matter where I’m standing. The monitors are so large, and I’m kind of short, so maybe that’s part of it. But I can’t even see the students who are talking. I have to look around the monitors. So there are just some sort of logistical things that I think an expansion would really help in that way. I also think we have some dreams about adding additional spaces. So for instance, having a green screen– having an area where that can be permanently installed, whether it’s a room of its own or just sort of a section of a room where lights are installed where they need to be for the space. And cameras are maybe always set up where they need to be. That sort of optimal set up, so that it’s easy to come in and out and not have to set that up all the time. So it would allow us to add to the types of spaces, the types of tools that we have, and those sorts of things that we can do if we had those spaces in those tools. Dr. Evans in the business program, he’s really interested in virtual reality. So that could possibly– you’re talking about, well, it sounds like if the dArt lab was a whole building. We’ve definitely talked about like, we want a whole building. We want to have what the dArt lab is now and maybe a couple classrooms. We’d like to be able to have space for that green screen in a room of its own. We’d like to be able to have that if there is a virtual reality lab for that to be there. We’ve talked about makerspaces. There are some makerspaces in town already. And we’ve got some relationships with those spaces. But we talked about the possibility of maybe having a makerspace here on campus. And I know that Kurt Gohde has talked a lot about like a dirty makerspace, which is something I wasn’t even really familiar with before he started talking about it. But there’s more of like heavy tools and things that are going to– you wouldn’t put them in the current dArt lab, because it would be too messy. There wouldn’t be space for it. You wouldn’t want all of that stuff flying around and getting in the technology that we already have in here. So if we could expand the dArt lab, that would also be another benefit to have additional spaces and capabilities. BRANDON TRAPP: OK. It seems like the digital liberal arts idea has manifested itself recently with the digital arts and media minor. Can you talk about that a little bit? KERRI HAUMAN: Talk about the minor specifically? Yeah. I think that when Tim Polashek and Kurt Gohde and I first started, we sat down and start having conversations about possibly creating a new minor. We had some of the same ideas that I mentioned earlier about calling attention to or making visible some of the work that was already happening. So we recognized that a lot of the things happening in the classes that we taught– not that they’re doing the same things, but that they would work well together to create a curriculum that would prepare students to be really savvy users of technology producers with technology. And it’s kind of hard in higher education to change anything. It’s hard to propose something entirely brand new. It takes a long time. And so part of what we were thinking about also is, well, we’re all already doing these things. And if we could create a minor that would recognize that, first of all, it would call attention to some of the things that are already happening. But second of all, it would almost, I don’t want to say forced. That’s too negative of a word. But it would create reason for us, the three of us as faculty, to come together and talk about what we’re doing. It would create, hopefully and ideally, this was one of our goals, an environment here in the dArt lab, where students from different types of classes that are involved with digital art and media, would come together into the same space and sort of feed off of each other’s energy and creativity. So those are all things that we were thinking about. We looked at what we thought the goals of such a minor should be to help students to become– I think we ended up putting some bullet points that boiled it down to saying that people could be skilled in audio, editing, image editing, and video editing. We think of the minor and bigger ways of focusing both on analysis and production on the sorts of critical thinking skills that really everybody we hope would have when they’re approaching new technology or old technology. I’ve kind of talked around in circles here, trying to remember the original question that you asked me, which was to talk about– BRANDON TRAPP: Yeah, they just talk about the minor in general. KERRI HAUMAN: So, after we had conversations about what we wanted the goals to be, we looked at the current courses that we all already offer and realized what we had suspected was correct, that the courses that we already have would create curriculum that would get students. It would help reach the goals that we had identified, the student learning outcomes of what the minor would be. And so we went ahead and proposed it, with the courses that we had already identified, that we were already offering, with the idea that we would like it to continue to grow. So that was why I was mentioning earlier this idea of proposing something brand new that’s totally different and it taking so long. We would like to have more like video production. That’s part of the reason that we like this idea about the green screen. The three of us, I certainly– that’s not my area of expertise. I think for Tim and Curt, maybe it is a little bit more– I know Curt has done that kind of work definitely before. But we also already have so many responsibilities in what we’re currently doing. So we have dreams that this is a minor that gets established now, calls attention to the work already happening, create spaces for faculty and students to come together collaboratively to work on– that type of work– and has a lot of potential for growth. Whether it’s into a major or not, we haven’t necessarily identified that as like an ultimate goal, I don’t think. But that it’s a really flexible design. Already, electives are built into it. Students have a list of– there’s five courses that we say are sort of the core of the curriculum. And they can choose to take all five of those and one elective. Or they can choose to take four of those and two electives. And that’s us from the get go, building in some of that flexibility and recognition that this is really interdisciplinary. And so while the core courses come from art, music, and WRC– Writing, Rhetoric, and Communication– we obviously recognize that we don’t own digital arts and media. And we don’t want to own digital arts and media. So I think we toyed around with coming up with a list of courses that might be like suggested electives. And we were thinking of different classes in computer science. And there’s lots of different film classes and different majors all across campus. If we ended up expanding journalism at some point in the future, I could imagine lots of overlap there. And I think it was that last step where I said like, oh, what if this happened in the future that made us decide not to list any set of electives for people to take? Because, especially with digital arts and media, things are changing so frequently that we can’t really predict exactly which classes are going to be offered or going to be created at some point that might fit into this. So we left the wording for that pretty flexible on purpose and an attempt to, I think, one, recognize the interdisciplinary of the major or the minor. And then also to just sort of recognize the we don’t know exactly what the future holds. But we think that there is a lot of potential for growth of the minor. BRANDON TRAPP: OK. Do you think there’s a specific kind of person that the minor is for? KERRI HAUMAN: Offhand, not really. But then that’s not a great answer. Because I mean, we don’t imagine that every student’s going to be interested in it, right? We recognize that some students will be really interested in it. Some might have some vague curiosity about it. And some already sort of have a plan of what they want to do. And that doesn’t fit into it. And that’s fine. I think that the courses, whether they’re taken piecemeal one on their own, or whether they’re taken altogether as a minor, they offer really great learning experiences for students, regardless of what they’re interested in. But as a minor, something that someone would be saying, yes, I’m going to sign up and take all five of those and one elective or four of those and two electives. And I think we recognize that it’s going to draw students who are interested in thinking about technology, who are probably already using lots of different digital tools. People who are interested in knowing more about how they can use digital tools to be creative. How they can create digital tools that will allow them to do things that they weren’t able to do before. People who want to really think about analyzing digital tools that exist already, and the ways that technology is affecting society and vise versa. I think we definitely recognize that students who are already interested in those sorts of questions and who are interested in working hands-on with different types of technology and different digital tools are probably the ones who are going to be interested in the minor. Yeah, but we certainly hope that it’s appealing to everybody, because as we’ve talked about already a bit today, we can’t really separate the digital from the liberal arts or from higher education or from what it means to be a productive member of society today. BRANDON TRAPP: Dr. Kerri Hauman, thank you. KERRI HAUMAN: Thank you. It’s nice talking to you. SPEAKER 1: You’ve been listening to another in our series, Campus Conversations– discussions with Transylvania University faculty.