Skills For A Digital Age

Joe Shelleyby Joe Shelley
Vice President for Libraries and Information Technology

Since arriving at Hamilton College a year ago, I’ve had the opportunity to view campus from a rather unique vantage point. Our integrated library and IT allows us to work across every academic program. The Burke Library is a hub, physically and digitally, for learning and research. 

Hamilton has long been known as a place devoted to excellence in written and oral communication. Our students use these skills, along with critical reflection and discernment, to gather and present evidence as persuasive problem-solvers. Now, students and faculty are translating and extending these skills for a digital age — presenting arguments across new media, communicating in new modalities, gathering new forms of evidence. Design, digital media, data analytics, algorithmic thinking, and digital ethics are all examples of merging forms of communication now growing from Hamilton’s strong foundations.

In getting to know our faculty this year, I’ve been inspired by their dedication to the students. Their shared passion for student learning and success underpins the academic culture of the College. Across the disciplines, many of Hamilton’s faculty are engaged in weaving the greatest affordances of digital technologies throughout a world-class liberal arts experience. Here are just a few examples of projects I’ve found fascinating. 

Inclusion in VR

Judy Zhou ’19 built a project in the library’s Virtual Reality Studio that took VR to a new level by using technology to create a learning experience for diversity and inclusion. She used anonymous data from real students to create a virtual world where you can participate in a virtual “empathy walk.” In the world Judy created, participants move around virtual space to understand the differences in privilege often created by factors such as race, gender, wealth, and more. Participants are surrounded by avatars of anonymous students, creating a space for a sometimes very personal journey.   

Social Justice in Multimedia

Sacharja Cunningham ’19 creates stunning multimedia projects where art, public policy, poetry, and advanced technology collide. He described the work he did in an advanced video course like this: “The class allowed me to experience cathartic and transformative creative expression about the topics that matter most to me. My longest, most emotional, and most successful video combined spoken word poetry, concepts of anti-blackness and ancestry, green screen work, as well as audio work through narration. I am proud of this piece and grateful for Hamilton’s courses along with its resources that enable me to continue claiming my artistry and reaping its unmatched benefits.”

The Best Library Reference Question ... Ever

One day last fall, I walked by the front desk and asked one of our librarians, Kristin Strohmeyer, what she was working on. “Just trying to figure out how to make
a ghost appear,” she answered. It turns out that Kristin was supporting research by Jeff Larson (resident designer and production manager for theatre) on 19th-century sound and light effects for the production design of Hamilton’s incredible production of Hamlet.  

As I start my second year on the Hill, I feel grateful to be a part of this community, to participate in the mission of the liberal arts, and to embrace the challenges and opportunities emerging in our digital world.

And since I didn’t attend Hamilton myself, I’m also a bit jealous of our students. 

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