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Competitive Duke Fellowship Allows Research and Teaching

An Ursinus English professor’s Fellowship at Duke University combines her love of teaching undergraduate humanities with cutting edge digital research.

Meredith Goldsmith, Associate Professor of English, has been awarded a Visiting Faculty Fellowship in the Humanities Writ Large program at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

“I am thrilled and honored to have been awarded the Humanities Writ Large Faculty Fellowship at Duke University for next year,” said Professor Goldsmith, who will arrive at Duke in August, 2015. “This is a unique opportunity for me to collaborate with a new group of colleagues, learn new tools that will enrich my classrooms at Ursinus, and expand the horizons of my own research.”

Goldsmith will be working on a number of endeavors during the grant—including digital humanities projects, projects with students, and archival work, all of which will enrich her coursework when she returns to Ursinus.

“It invites me, as a small liberal arts college professor, to bring what I do best–hands-on work with undergraduates–into a cutting-edge research environment. What unites Ursinus and Duke, despite their differences, is a passion for instilling curiosity in undergraduates, encouraging them to develop a life of inquiry, and providing them with skills they will need as they move throughout their lives,” she said.

The highly competitive and prestigious award drew a large national pool of applicants, said Professor Peter Small, Interim Academic Dean of the College. “I am thrilled for Meredith that her application was one of the best in the country,” he said. “I have no doubt that her year as a Humanities Writ Large Visiting Faculty Fellow will invigorate her work, especially in the area of student research in all of the humanities, not simply her home department of English. Meredith will benefit from this award and so will all of the humanities at the College.”

A teacher and scholar of mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth-century American literature, Goldsmith also has focused on mentoring undergraduate research and fostering support for teaching in the small liberal arts college environment. At Duke, she plans to conduct her work in the P-search program, the Wired! Lab for Visualizing the Past, and the Ph.D. Lab of the Franklin Humanities Institute.

“Dr. Goldsmith has proposed an ambitious and extremely compelling set of activities for her time at Duke,” says David Bell, Professor of Romance Studies and Interim Director of the Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University. He is the lead member of a faculty/library partnership that will be working with Goldsmith. 

“We were especially keen to see her plans to develop vertically integrated and experimental approaches to humanities pedagogy, to engage her research and teaching on both traditional and digital platforms, and to think about the ways in which her work can reach across disciplinary boundaries in order to think in new and productive ways about how to talk about and teach the humanities in the 21st century,” says Bell.

Goldsmith’s research approach is rooted in two of her recent roles at Ursinus. The first was that of the founding director of the Andrew W. Mellon Teaching and Learning Initiative (now the Teaching & Learning Institute; 2010-2014). The second was as the leader of Ursinus’s Council for Undergraduate Research (CUR) team for the Arts and Humanities. Her work as Teaching and Learning director offered opportunities to assess the relationship between faculty method and student engagement, she said. “My work with CUR emphasized the importance of undergraduate research in developing students’ autonomy, depth, and engagement with their disciplines,” said Goldsmith.

Merging both approaches provided a wealth of new approaches to undergraduate research in the humanities that she plans to bring to bear at Duke.  In addition to sharing her love of teaching and synthesizing her diverse interests, Goldsmith will immerse herself in collaborative opportunities, make the most of access to a cutting-edge research and pedagogical environment, develop tools that can be used by both institutions, and ultimately work toward a shared archive and scholarly agenda supporting undergraduate humanities research.

“In this way, the Humanities Writ Large fellowship will allow for cross-fertilization between our two very different kinds of institutions, highlight what and how small liberal arts college and university faculty can learn from each other, and offer a productive starting point for future collaboration,” said Goldsmith.

In addition to the opportunities for Dr. Goldsmith and Ursinus, Bell said he believed she has a lot to offer to the Duke community as they build on the initiatives in humanities research and teaching that have been developed under Humanities Writ Large. “We hope to learn much from her experience as the founding director of the Mellon Teaching and Learning Initiative and the head of the Arts and Humanities Council for Undergraduate Research team at Ursinus,” said Bell.

Her time at Duke will put Professor Goldsmith at the forefront of several initiatives outlined in the strategic plan, said Rebecca Jaroff, Associate  Professor of English at Ursinus. “Most specifically by exploring innovative ways for undergraduate students in the Humanities to embark on scalable research projects and to expand our ability to work collaboratively with our students on our own research,” she said.  Meredith has earned this prestigious award in part through her ongoing commitment to finding and creating undergraduate research opportunities  for students in the Humanities.   She works tirelessly to encourage her own students and other majors in the Humanities to make the most of their liberal arts education through independent research projects both on and off campus.”