Shen Swartout '18 sketched a vision for a 3-D interactive temple that is part of a website on Confucian ritual.

The opportunity: A 15-month paid fellowship with Hamilton’s Digital Humanities Initiative to work on a website with a renowned scholar of Confucian ritual and the cult of Confucius. Learning 3-D imaging and other digital skills would be part of the package.

History major Shen Swartout ’18 jumped at the chance, via her bicycle. “I think I got on my bike and rushed into the DHi like a minute after it was announced,” recalls Swartout, who landed the position as a Culture, Language, Arts & Society Scholar, better known as CLASS. Swartout started the job this summer, and it will continue through the academic year.

about Shen Swartout '18

Major: History

Hometown: Highlands Ranch, Colo.

High School: Rock Canyon High School

Learn More about the Digital Humanities Initiative

Immersed in Confucian history and digital tools, Swartout is working with Thomas Wilson, Elizabeth J. McCormack Professor of History, and the DHi to expand and redesign a website based on his research on the cult of Confucius beginning in the seventh century. Swartout is working on creating a virtual, interactive 3-D version of a temple for the website.

Before she dug into the work, the DHi sent Swartout and three other CLASS students to a two-week digital humanities training program at the University of Victoria in British Columbia.

“I learned some technical skills in 3-D modeling, but what I really learned is a lot of theory which, personally, I love. It was very interesting to look at this new and emerging field and how they dealt with problems that they had come across,” Swartout says.

She was excited, too, to delve into Confucian history. “Specifically the area of history I’m most interested in is the history of religion, which correlates perfectly with this project with Confucian ritual and ritual practice, which I find fascinating,” she explains.

She’s also keen to learn new technical skills that are becoming increasingly important for history scholars. She’s pondering whether to make an academic career in history,  which she never considered until Wilson suggested it. It’s a prospect Swartout finds to be both terrifying and exciting. “It makes a lot of sense; I can’t imagine myself leaving a scholarly institution,” she says. 

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