Four humanities scholars chosen for media production grant

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Spanning topics from racial history to classic theater, four new multimedia projects will explore topics in humanities in a more accessible way through technology.

The Humanities Media Project, created by the College of Liberal Arts, announced the recipients of its Media Production Grant on Jan. 17. Three professors and one Ph.D. student were awarded $5,000 each across several humanities disciplines. The grant aims to provide scholars with the funding they need to make humanities accessible to a wider audience outside of academia.

The grants are often awarded to projects with a focus on diversity and social justice.

“We’re focused on intriguing and accessible stories that help us unpack bigger questions and historical issues,” said grant recipient Lauren Gutterman, an American Studies assistant professor.

Gutterman and her team will use money from the grant to produce a second season of their podcast, “Sexing History,” which provides historical context for contemporary issues of gender and sexuality.

Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, a journalism associate professor, was a recipient of the grant in 2017 and used the funding to produce a four-part podcast detailing the 1975 expansion of voting rights. She said she hopes the accessibility of the audio format will educate the public about a seldom discussed issue.

“If folks understood all the effort that it took to get the right to vote, people would be lining up every election day,” Rivas-Rodriguez said.

Along with Rivas-Rodriguez’s podcast, ventures of 2017 recipients also included a television program which disseminates information on black studies, programs and scholarships.

A broad pool of applicants completed proposals and drafted hypothetical budgets in the fall of 2017. Most candidates used the opportunity to expand upon research they were already undertaking.

“It’s been a project I had considered doing for a while,” said classics Ph.D. student Michael Mignanelli, another 2018 awardee.

Mignanelli’s project, entitled “Ancient Drama for the 21st Century Reader,” aims to create an immersive play-reading experience by utilizing virtual reality technology. Users will enter a digital theater and read animated text while interacting with avatar performers. Mignanelli said he hopes to incorporate the product into high school classrooms and expand the outreach for Greek and Latin curricula.

The four teams have until Aug. 31 to complete their projects, after which their work will be displayed publicly on various platforms including the Humanities Media Project’s website.