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Last Call: a reflection on my final class in higher ed

This was the last class I’ll ever have to take. After four years of undergrad, two years in my master’s program, and two-and-a-half years into my PhD program, this was the last class I needed to complete my coursework. I feel so lucky to have chosen a class that truly centered students’ learning experiences, and even more lucky to be in a learning community that established a class culture early on of collaboration, enthusiastic inquiry, and vulnerability that made our Wednesday classes something I looked forward to each week.

My plans for my final project changed so much over the semester because I was excited and inspired by so much of the syllabus, but I’m glad I was ultimately able to make the practical decision on an idea that is relevant to the field, my current fellowship, and has already opened up new opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration. Mapping Our Humanities, my digital project at the intersection of sociological research and public humanities, will allow me to use my expertise as a social scientist to work with political science and humanities activist-scholars to drive change. I’m finalizing the Human Subjects protocol over break and moving forward with the domain and social media plans so that me and my collaborators can hit the ground running Spring semester.

After submitting the proposal, I’ve already identified things I want to change. I’ve been sitting with the tensions of “mapping” discussed in this class–the ways it can reflect or problematize colonial thought, and the importance of intentionality and reflexivity. I’ve been struggling to commit to the name and whether developing pieces that explore these tensions are more helpful than a new name for the project. Similarly with the survey’s use of machine learning, I want to be mindful of the “broken world thinking” embedded in academic methods and structure, but not to the point where I am immobile and too scared to produce anything for fear of imperfection. I feel a little stuck in this tension, but I am thankful for the discourse this class provided because it inspired dimensions of thoughtfulness I could not have explored on my own.

I’m also looking back and finding ways the social science research questions and humanities questions meant to facilitate discourse need a tighter framing to accomplish the survey’s goals. Simultaneously navigating CUNY’s Human Subjects while finalizing the project’s design makes me feel like I’m in a constant state of frustrated revisions, which feels a little ironic considering I submitted my final a week ago. I am thankful my collaborators and I designed this project to have a pilot phase that focuses more on our learning from the project’s design before taking the survey and digital platform to scale.

While I am anxious, frustrated, and a little scared, I also realize I feel this way because I’m genuinely excited and passionate about this project. And part of my hesitancy comes from the ways this class consistently centered digital humanities’ commitment to social justice praxis; critical race theory, intersectionality, and political strategies were treated as central, rather than niche areas of DH, and I feel incredibly lucky that this is my introduction and foundation. The skills I acquired over this semester have enhanced my approach as an activist-scholar, a public sociologist, and an accidental humanist.

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