Curricular Structures to Blend Data Science & the Digital Humanities

Guest post by Dr. Amanda Greene, Lehigh University

This Success Story is a report on the results of the Northeast Big Data Innovation Hub’s 2020 Seed Fund program.

The goal of this project was to develop pedagogical resources that integrate humanist perspectives, ethics, and data science by supporting a collaborative working group of academics and industry professionals. The resulting working group developed and redesigned courses at the intersection of the digital humanities and data science. In emphasizing the role of data science in forwarding social justice initiatives and prioritizing data science ethics, these pedagogical structures targeted and cultivated students’ technical capabilities. The result is that students were able to apply socially-conscious humanities skills during all phases of the data lifecycle. This project incorporated critical data competencies into coursework to effectively prepare students for digital humanities and data science careers outside of academia that center social justice. 

The working group developed five model lesson plans with case studies and data sets that can be adapted and incorporated into the classroom at Lehigh University and Saint Vincent College in Pennsylvania. Two workshops were held to present these lesson plans. The first, at Saint Vincent College, reached an interdisciplinary audience of twenty faculty members and introduced them to teaching tools at the intersection of data science and digital humanities. This workshop also promoted involvement in a new Digital Humanities undergraduate major

The second workshop brought together Lehigh University faculty from the Anthropology, Computer Science, Mechanical Engineering, English, Women’s Studies, and Physics departments, alongside colleagues from the College of Health. This workshop’s focus was to disseminate and revise the lesson plans. The faculty considered ways to integrate elements of these lesson plans into their existing courses alongside Lehigh University’s Humanities Lab and supported the development of a full syllabus for an undergraduate course titled “Algorithms and Social Justice” that will be co-taught by a faculty member in English, and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies with a faculty member in Engineering  at Lehigh University in Fall 2022.

While students were not directly involved in this phase of the project, the groundwork it laid and initiatives it created will impact a large number of students in the coming years. It will directly impact students in the “Algorithms and Social Justice” course and students in other courses where faculty involved in the workshops are piloting new course structures.  Additionally, the Digital Humanities minor at St. Vincent College (an institution where 43% of students are first-generation college students) will promote students’ career development, providing them with sought-after data science skills so they can apply these skills in support of social justice. 

Members from the working group at Lehigh University and St. Vincent College have submitted a proposal for the  National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Institutes for Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities grant, “A Humanities Toolkit for Data Science.” The goal of this project is to extend the work of the seed grant in order to create opportunities for digital humanists and data scientists in the greater Pittsburgh area (where St. Vincent is located) and the greater Philadelphia area (where Lehigh is located) to collaborate on best practices for how to bring principles drawn from the humanities into the data science classroom. 

Lead PI: Amanda K. Greene (Lehigh University)


Amanda K. Greene is a researcher at the University of Michigan Medical School’s Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine (CBSSM) since August 2022. She works on projects exploring career development, gender issues, and women’s representation in science and academic medicine, as well as projects exploring the ethical, legal, and social implications of health data sharing. Before joining CBSSM, she spent three years as an Andrew W. Mellon postdoctoral research associate at Lehigh University where she co-directed The Humanities Lab, a university wide center for interdisciplinary research and teaching.

Collaborators: Dominic DiFranzo (Lehigh University), Edward Whitley (Lehigh University), Annie Laurie Nichols (Saint Vincent College), Lauren Churilla (Saint Vincent College),  Belle Lipton (Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center), Catherine Nikolovski (CIVIC Software Foundation)