DHQ: Digital Humanities Quarterly
Volume 15 Number 3
2021 15.3  |  XMLPDFPrint

An Approach to Designing Project-Based Digital Humanities Internships

Clayton McCarl <clayton_dot_mccarl_at_unf_dot_edu>, University of North Florida


This article proposes an approach to designing project-based, credit–bearing digital humanities internships, based on experiences engaging students with digital projects affiliated with the Digital Humanities Institute at the University of North Florida. The author reviews recent scholarship on experiential learning and DH pedagogy, and considers why digital humanities internships are valuable for students, faculty, and institutions. The article outlines three general types of DH internships, providing examples for each, and suggesting possible student learning outcomes and a general course structure. The institutional factors necessary to make such experiences possible are also examined.


This article proposes an approach to designing project-based, credit–bearing digital humanities internships. The ideas expressed result from experiments in engaging students with digital projects affiliated with the Digital Humanities Institute at the University of North Florida.[1] I review scholarship on experiential learning and DH pedagogy, and examine reasons why digital humanities internships are valuable for students, faculty, and institutions. I then outline three general types of DH internships, providing examples for each and suggesing some possible learning outcomes and structures for organizing student work. I also reflect on some of the institutional factors that can contribute to making these experiences possible.


Experiential Learning and Internships Across the Academy

The concept of experiential learning, as discussed in the academic realm today, derives from the work of John Dewey in the early twentieth century. In Democracy and Education, Dewey defined the dual nature of “experience” as both action and our reflection upon that action, and pondered the implications of this model for how we learn [Dewey 1966 [1916], 139–151]. In Experience and Education, Dewey further articulated a vision for a new type of education constructed around lived experience and a process of synthesis through which we can discover connections and convert such activity into meaning [Dewey 1970 [1938]].
Dewey’s ideas influenced trends at the margins of education in the United States during the first half of the twentieth century [Kraft 1995, xi], and in the second, informed what would become a major theme in pedagogical theory and practice. The proliferation of scholarship in this period is too great to fully summarize here, but a few key moments stand out. The Cooperative Education Association was founded in 1963, and began publishing the Journal of Cooperative Education the following year [Cooperative Education and Internship Association 2021]. The National Society for Experiential Education was founded in 1971 and began an annual conference which celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 2021 [National Society for Experiential Education 2021]. In 1976, M. Keeton edited a volume of essays organized around a model called Cooperative Assessment of Experiential Learning (CAEL), designed to address shortcomings in educational practice [Keeton 1976, 2]. The following year, the Association for Experiential Education was incorporated, and in 1978 began publishing the Journal of Experiential Education [Association for Experiential Education 2021]. Building on prior work [Kolb 1976] [Kolb and Fry 1975] [Kolb 1981], D.A. Kolb articulated in 1984 an influential four-stage model for experiential learning, in conjunction with a related taxonomy of learning types [Kolb 2015]. In 1995, R.J. Kraft and J. Kielsmeier published a manual comprised of essays from the Journal of Experiential Education [Kraft 1995], and J.A. Cantor surveyed experiential practices in higher education [Cantor 1995].
An emphasis on experiential and project–based learning continues to represent a central tendency. In recent years, Seaman et al. have traced the history of experiential learning theory [Seaman et al. 2017] and Heilbronn et al. have examined the continuing relevance of Dewey's ideas in the twenty-first century [Heilbronn, Doddington and Higham 2018]. D. Hutchison has considered the place of experiential activities in online learning [Hutchison 2018], and J.H. Fede, K.S. Gorman, and M.E. Cimini have studied the role of student on–campus employment in the development of transferrable skills [Fede, Gorman and Cimini 2018]. J.Isaak et al. have looked at institutional attempts to expand student access to experiential learning opportunities [Isaak et al. 2018]. L.C. Wang and L.R. Fuller have analyzed the relationship between student motivation and pedagogical outcomes in service learning courses [Wang and Fuller 2020]. Coyer et al. have studied the potential for experiential learning conducted locally to contribute to global learning outcomes [Coyer et al. 2019].
Researchers have also reflected on numerous case studies in different fields. These include Kärnä-Behm in art and design [Kärnä-Behm 2019]; A. Nelson in arts management [Nelson 2018]; E. Nir and J. Musial in criminal justice [Nir and Musial 2020]; R. Douglas–Lenders, P.J. Holland, and B. Allen in construction [Douglas–Lenders Holland and Allen 2017]; R.J. Durkin in engineering [Durkin 2016]; and V. Villarroel et al. in psychology [Villarroel et al. 2020]. Among the numerous studies in business are those of D.S. Maguire [Maguire 2018], L. Valenzuela et al. [Valenzuela et al. 2018], D. Finch et al. [Finch et al. 2015], and A.L. Leal-Rodríguez and G. Albort-Morant [Leal-Rodríguez and Albort-Morant 2019].
In recent decades, scholars have focused on internships in particular. This tendency was signaled by the CEA when it expanded its name in the late 1990s, becoming the Cooperative Education and Internship Association [Cooperative Education and Internship Association 2021]. Attention has been paid to matters including the development of partnerships with external entities, internships as a strategy for “industry engagement,” the assessment of outcomes, and interns' perceptions of their own learning. Scholars including Binder et al. [Binder et al. 2015]; M.T. Hora, E. Parrott, and P. Her [Hora, Parrott and Her 2020]; C. Burns and S. Chopra [Burns and Chopra 2017]; and H.F. Sweitzer and M.A. King [Sweitzer and King 1999] examine such questions broadly across disciplines.[2]
As in the case of experiential learning more generally, researchers have considered internships within specific academic areas or professional fields. Such studies include those of S. Stevenson and J. Hannaford in academic librarianship [Stevenson and Hannaford 2019]; A.C. Cuyler and A.R. Hodges in arts management [Cuyler and Hodges 2015]; W. Haque in computing [Haque 2017]; S.M. Zehr and R. Korte in engineering [Zehr and Korte 2020]; K. Weinstein in graphic design [Weinstein 2015]; J.L. Morrissey et al. in kinesiology [Morrissey et al. 2017]; M.H. Sauder and M. Mudrick in sport management [Sauder and Mudrick 2018]; and S.M. Matthew, R.M. Taylor, and R.A. Ellis in veterinary education [Matthew et al. 2012].

Experiential Learning and Internships in the Humanities

Compared to the abundance of scholarship in some fields, that which addresses experiential learning the humanities is relatively scarce. This is, perhaps, a reflection of the fact that, as G.R. Ratsoy observes, students in the humanities tend to have less access to such opportunities [Ratsoy 2016, 1]. It may also be a product of the looser connections — or what are perceived as such — between the humanities and applied work. In many professional fields, designing hands-on experiences for students is perhaps a more straightforward task than doing the same for students whose programs of study do not lead directly to specific areas of practice.
Some studies focus on experiences that engage the communication and problem-solving skills of humanities students, outside the context of their particular fields of study. Ratsoy, for instance, has considered possibilities for humanities students to serve as active participants in experiments related to the scholarship of teaching and learning [Ratsoy 2016]. S.R. Koendjbiharie has examined the role that humanities students can play in large-scale course-based consultancy projects for corporations [Koendjbiharie 2020].
Other scholarship considers opportunities that relate more specifically to the materials and methods of humanities fields. K. Lucas and P. Radia look at student involvement in extracurricular projects connected to literary studies [Lucas and Radia 2017]. J. Oxley and R. Ilea have edited a collection examining experiential strategies for teaching within philosophy [Oxley and Ilea 2016]. K. de Bruin, L.O. Erickson, and J. Hammadou Sullivan have considered ways that experiential learning can be used to address the pressures that French programs face in today's academic climate, proposing the construction of “cross-disciplinary programs with French experiential learning opportunities” that can address “the demands of students, parents, and administrators,” while also staying true to a central mission of those programs by “expanding the reach of French literary, cinematographic, artistic, philosophical, and historical education to even more students” [de Bruin, Erickson, and Hammadou Sullivan 2014].
Studies looking specifically at internships within humanities fields are also relatively sparse. Scholars have considered the role of internships in graduate-level humanities education [Arteaga and Woodward 2017], particularly in a twenty-first century context. For E.J. Balleisen and M.L. Wisdom, internships are one component of an approach to the formation of “versatile humanists,” whom they describe as being “open to interdisciplinary approaches and collaborative projects, curious about new methodologies and analytical tools, and thoughtful about questions of scholarly impact, outreach, and engagement.” They point to key benefits for students as being “professional networking, resume building, and having a ‘story’ to tell future employers” [Balleisen and Wisdom 2018, 48–49].
Those considerations take place in the context of preparing humanities PhD students for employment in careers beyond academia following the decline of the job market in humanities fields since 2007 [Balleisen and Wisdom 2018, 47]. At the undergraduate level, where the great majority of students are bound for professions outside of the respective academic fields in which they have earned degrees, the need for such preparation would seem even more urgent. Scholarly work on the topic, however, is scant. One of the of the most extensive studies is a report produced in 1984 by the Washington Center, with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and other agencies [Kaston and Heffernan 1984]. Also in 1984, the Washington Center published a Directory of Undergraduate Internships in the Humanities [Washington Center 1984], a resource that does not appear to have been updated or repeated.
Paradoxically, perhaps, the most examined intersections between the humanities and the world of work today seem to not deal with experiential learning for humanities students, but rather the benefits of humanities education for students in professional fields, or the incorporation of humanities methods into those fields. Such ideas are prominent, for instance, within business [Charting a New Course 2018] and psychiatry [Furman and Hudson 2017]. The advantages of integrating the humanities into medical education has been recognized since at least the 1980s [Donohoe and Danielson 2004, 206], and “medical humanities” represents an important current within the formation of health professionals today [Schwartz et al. 2009] [Colvin et al. 2018] [O'Neill et al. 2020] [Kayser 2017]. Parallel tendencies exist in other fields, including “sports humanities” [Kanosue et al. 2015]. This embrace of the humanities, along with the social sciences, can be seen also within interdisciplinary spaces — like “environmental humanities” [Schmidt Soengten and Zapf 2020] — that are less closely tied to specific professional fields.

Why DH Internships?

The digital humanities have evolved into a space that can provide opportunities for hands-on learning, and in response, scholars in recent years have examined the pedagogical potential of the field. In 2012, Brett Hirsch edited the volume Digital Humanities Pedagogy [Hirsch 2012]; in 2014, CEA Critic devoted a special issue to digital humanities in the English classroom [Hawkins 2014]; and in 2017, Digital Humanities Quarterly published a special issue on digital humanities in the undergraduate curriculum more broadly [Murphy and Smith 2017]. More recently, scholars have studied the use of digital humanities to teach within the fields of nineteenth-century literature [Travis and DeSpain 2018] and philosophy [Mills 2020]. Researchers have also examined the relationship between DH pedagogy and publicly funded DH research projects [Garwood and Poole 2019]; the role of library instruction in the teaching of DH skills [Varner 2016]; and the intersections between gender [DeSpain 2016], race, and ethnicity [Kreitz 2017] in the context of digital humanities pedagogy.
Within the scholarship on DH pedagogy, a modest amount of work addresses matters related to digital humanities internships in particular. Most commonly, such studies are articulated from a library perspective, a circumstance that is perhaps not surprising given the support within many libraries for DH, as well as the structures libraries often have for employing students. R. Risam, J. Snow, and S. Edwards consider the role of internships in building a digital humanities community based on collaboration between students, academic faculty and the library [Risam et al. 2017]. S. Morris describes a library–led, six–week summer internship program at Lafayette College, in which students direct digital humanities projects [Morris 2017]. K. Denda and J. Hunter likewise consider the possible outcomes of student engagement on digital projects within the library [Denda and Hunter 2016]. P. Hswe and her collaborators consider two digital humanities internships at The Pennsylvania State University [Hswe et al. 2017].
Despite the relatively sparse scholarship on DH internships, these experiences offer valuable opportunities for participants. Students in the humanities gain the chance to think differently about their fields and acquire skills that can open paths toward a broad range of professions. Students in computing and related areas have the chance to examine intersections between technology and culture, a process that likewise can influence how they view their studies and future directions. More generally, DH internships can help all students develop their capacities for critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving, as well as time and project management and outreach skills. These experiences can help students to build confidence, gain a sense of achievement, and develop awareness of their own potential.
English major Sarah Dumitrascu summarized many of these benefits in a reflective essay at the end of her internship:

Before taking DIG4944 this semester, I had never worked on such a large scale, self-directed project. I think it is easy to take for granted just how pre-planned and structured the majority of undergraduate college classes are — you show up on day one with syllabus in hand, and from then on out, it is your professor dictating your assignments, responsibilities, and deadlines. While some elements of this internship were decided for me (like this reflective essay, for example), the majority of the class’s structure was left up to me. And while I met with my advisor once every two weeks, there were no classes to attend, nor was there anyone to check in on me every time I worked on my transcription. This class has, by far, allotted me the most independence I have ever had in my college career; at times, that felt liberating, and at other times, it made things more difficult. But by venturing into this unknown territory, I have learned responsibility and self-discipline, time and project management, and problem-solving techniques. While my work in this course could certainly lead me into specific academic and professional disciplines, I think that, in a more holistic sense, it has prepared me to be self-directive and successful in a variety of different roles.

While such a process of discovery can have implications for students' long-term academic and professional trajectories, these internships also have more immediate and concrete benefits. Students can highlight their experiences on their resumes and discuss them when applying to jobs, graduate programs, or other opportunities. These internships can also create openings for students to participate in academic and professional events on campus and beyond. Students mentioned in this article, for instance, have recently presented at regional, national, and international conferences including HASTAC [McCarl et al. 2017], Latin American Studies Association [McCarl, Thom and Wilson 2021], National Council on Public History [McCarl et al. 2021b], National Humanities Conference [McCarl et al. 2020], Society for Textual Scholarship [McCarl and Dumitrascu 2021], the Society of Southwest Archivists [McCarl et al. 2021c], and a webinar series sponsored by the Florida Digital Humanities Consortium [McCarl et al. 2021a]. They also allow students to document their skills through the digital products of their work, as well as through the references their mentors can provide — because of the real-life work relationships involved, faculty who oversee the internships can often write letters of recommendation with a level of detail that is often not possible when a faculty member's knowledge of a student relates mainly to their performance in a classroom setting.
DH internships also hold value for mentors themselves, providing faculty a means to work with students in applied settings, an experience that is routine in many fields but is relatively rare in the humanities. Student collaborators can help faculty leaders discover new angles on their own research, including pedagogical applications that might not previously have been apparent. The opportunity to work with students in this capacity can also influence how faculty view their own roles and potential as educators, developing perspectives that may change how they teach in a more traditional format. These experiences can also provide a means for building relationships with cultural heritage and community institutions, as well as other faculty, whose expertise may be needed to make a particular internship possible.
Institutions themselves also stand to benefit from the promotion of this type of student experience. Colleges and universities today commonly promote their capacity to provide hands-on learning opportunities, and marketing materials frequently showcase images of students in science labs, on construction sites, and in other real-world settings. Because students working in humanities fields are seldom the focus of such representations, DH internships can offer rare opportunities to visualize the applied potential of humanistic scholarship. These experiences also present ways to showcase different types of student-faculty collaboration, as well as external partnerships. When handled properly, these internships can enable institutions to demonstrate their success at putting forth into the job market graduates with broad, diverse skill sets who can engage with ideas and technology in ways that are in demand across the economy.
These experiences can also benefit humanities programs themselves, which, as Lucas and Radia observe, “yet again find themselves under fire, this time from government cutbacks and five-year strategic plans that strive to package scholarship as a marketable commodity commercialization of university education.” As they argue, programs can find a way to compete in this environment by emphasizing the practical benefits of studies in the humanities: “humanities programs stand to gain currency in the contemporary consumer economy if they embrace a more hands-on, creative, and service-driven approach to learning” [Lucas and Radia 2017, 129–131].

Three Models

I propose three basic models for designing DH internships, categorized on the basis of whether two factors — the project and the work involved — existed prior to the involvement of the students in question. I use “work” here to refer either to labor (tasks to be done) or methodology (an approach to doing those tasks) or both. These hypothetical frameworks are not intended as fixed templates, but rather possible starting points for thinking about how to envision and structure this type of experience. In practice, an internship might combine more than one of these models, or present an entirely different profile.
I also illustrate model each with experiences that students completed at UNF between 2015 and 2021. With the exception of two that involved graduate students, all examples were carried out at the undergraduate level. For some of these internships I played an administrative role, as leader of the Digital Humanities Institute (2015-2019)[3] and director of International Studies (2016-2022). For the rest, I served as mentor myself, in my capacity as coordinator of the digital editing projects coloniaLab (2016-present), Editing the Eartha MM White Collection (2016-present), and North Florida Editorial Workshop (2020-present), as well as my role as co-leader of the Viola Muse Digital Edition (2020-present).[4]
Because my focus is on internship design, not technology, I do not discuss tools when describing these examples. As a general rule, the projects that involve websites employ Omeka or WordPress, both of which are supported by the Center for Instruction and Research Technology (CIRT) at UNF. The digital editing projects discussed use both Omeka and TEI-XML, with the XML files displayed in customized installations of TEI Boilerplate. Any further information regarding tools for a particular project is provided in the notes.
For the purposes of these internships, I take an inclusive view of what “DH” means. I include work related to digital projects that may itself not necessarily be digital in nature, such as conducting secondary research. It could also include building websites and managing social media related to digital projects, activities that in many contexts might not be regarded as DH work, but the inclusion of which I believe to be valid in a pedagogical sense.

Existing Project, Existing Work

A student pursuing an internship is this category has been recruited to work on a project that has a defined existence. The student will receive training in doing something that someone else — most likely the project leader or a previous student intern — has done in the past. An overarching outcome can be defined as the completion of a certain task, or merely the total number of hours required as part of the internship.
Internships of this type offer several advantages. Because the conceptual work is already done, the student in this scenario can focus on exploring and mastering a methodology or a specific technology. Likewise, because the project is already established, this is perhaps the scenario in which students’ contributions are most likely to become part of a lasting, visible undertaking. Depending on the nature of the work and the previous knowledge of students, this potentially is the model that requires the least investment of time on the part the mentor. It is also perhaps the best fit for a student with limited previous experience, as that individual can be trained on discrete, compartmentalized aspects, without needing a global understanding of the endeavor. This is also a situation in which students can be tasked with training their own replacements, thereby creating potentially self–sustaining sequences of interns.
Several students at UNF have pursued internships of this nature with the digital editing workshop coloniaLab. Spanish/international studies major Buddy Delegal, Spanish major Kalthoum Elfasi, and political science/Spanish major Kathlina Brady assisted in the transcription and markup of manuscript from 1799 about Spanish expeditions to present-day British Columbia. Anthropology/Spanish major Teri Wilson and criminal justice/Spanish major Nicole Mills worked together to transcribe and encode part of a print volume from 1690 dealing with the geography of the Straits of Magellan. Ali Alsalman, a student in the Master of Arts in International Affairs, edited a section of the journal of an English voyage to Chile in the the late seventeenth century, a project that history major Marisa Pechillo later completed.[5]
In some cases, the “existing work” carried out in this type of experience might involve engaging at a higher level on something that the same student had done previously in the context of a course. International studies/Spanish major Mariana Mendieta assisted in conducting a second round of work on a digital edition of an eighteenth-century legal case in Spanish related to witchcraft to which she and her peers contributed as part of digital-editing-on-site experience in Colombia.[6] Marisa Pechillo conducted higher-level editorial work and contextual research on the documents related to the history of North Florida that she and her classmates produced as part of a summer digital editing course in English.[7] In a similar fashion, Amelia Dixon continued the editorial work she and her peers began on the Viola Muse Digital Edition as part of a separate iteration of that same summer course.[8]

Existing Project, New Work

A student pursuing an internship in this category is joining an existing project, but is tasked with adding something new. This could mean conceptualizing, designing, and/or implementing some novel aspect, or merely finding a way to implement a new facet that has been already conceived and/or designed by someone else. In whatever case, this internship involves an element of doing something new, in which the intern cannot be trained by someone already experienced in that exact work, in that exact context.
This second category offers some of the features of the first, while expanding the role of the student. By contributing to an existing project, a participant can reasonably expect that their work will become part of a larger, enduring undertaking. As the student is contributing to some new facet, the work can involve a degree of design and experimentation that goes beyond that which is involved in the first model. A student in this scenario may learn less about the implementation of a specific methodology or technology, but may have more exposure to the creative and project management aspects of digital humanities work. This model may require a higher degree of interaction between student and mentor, and a greater amount of uncertainty regarding the final products of the students' work. Participants in these internships may need help identifying processes and tools that can be used to implement their goals. They might be able to train their successors, who might at that point be pursuing internships corresponding more to the first category.
Two students have completed this type of internship with Editing the Eartha M.M. White Collection, a collaborative project that makes available online the papers of the Eartha M.M. White, a key figure in the African American history of Jacksonville. History major Susan Williams helped to design and implement a pilot workshop series for the project, which had begun previously in the context of an undergraduate course. Williams's work aided in refocusing this endeavor to be not only about building a digital archive, but also experimenting with editing workshops as a mechanism for outreach and project continuity.[9]
Building upon Williams's work, history/Spanish major Carol Lynne Hemmingway later completed two internships as student leader of the Editing the Eartha M.M. White Collection. During the first, she created a website, a social media campaign, and interpretive materials for the project, including an exhibit on Omeka [Hemmingway 2020]. She also designed and led a weekly open workshop series that drew student volunteers from across campus. During the second internship, she developed another Omeka exhibit [Hemmingway 2021] and organized several virtual workshops and other outreach events.[10]
Victoria Farfán Lasso, a visiting student from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Colombia, also completed an internship focused largely on outreach for an existing project. Farfán Lasso built the website of the oral history project Voces y Caras: Hispanic Communities of North Florida. She was supervised by Dr. Constanza López Baquero, associate professor of Spanish, who started Voces y Caras 2012 and whose students contribute to the project each spring as part of a course for Heritage speakers of Spanish.[11]
Pamela Martínez undertook an internship focused both on outreach and organizational development. She assisted in the creation of a website and social media presence for an international scholarly cooperative, the Alliance for Digital Research on Early Latin America (ADRELA). Her work involved corresponding in both English and Spanish with scholars throughout the United States and Latin America.[12]
The internship of Trevor Cheatham, a graduate student in the Master of Arts in International Affairs, concentrated on the creation of project content. Cheatham helped to expand the project Enviro Rights Map, led by Dr. Josh Gellers, associate professor of political science. Cheatham gathered and incorporated material related to the right to water. He developed his own methodology for finding and evaluating provisions related to water rights from the constitutions of nations around the world, and added this information into the site.[13]
International studies/political science major Zariah Grant completed an internship focused not on creating new content, but rather organizing and preparing existing material. Grant served as a research assistant for the Viola Muse Digital Edition, under the supervision of Dr. Laura Heffernan, associate professor of English and chair of the Digital Humanities Institute (2019-2021), and Dr. Tru Leverette, associate professor of English and director of the Africana Studies Program. As the first student to contribute this faculty-led project, Grant worked on the cataloguing and transcription of archival materials related to the fieldwork that Muse conducted for the Florida Office of the Negro Writers' Project in Jacksonville the 1930s.[14]
The experience of information science major Rachel Bennett was likewise oriented toward readying existing project content. Bennett assisted in developing and implementing a markup scheme for an interactive edition of a Spanish bibliography of the East and West Indies from 1629. She worked under the mentorship of Dr. Karthik Umapathy, associate professor of information systems.[15]

New Project

A student in this scenario has been tasked with conceptualizing, designing, and potentially implementing something entirely new. A mentor provides guidance to help the intern determine the objectives of the project, consider methodologies and tools, make a plan for managing the design of the project and limiting its scope, and aids in gaining access to resources.
As this model focuses on the creation of a new undertaking, the emphasis is likely less on technology or implementation, and more on matters of project development. A finished product, beyond perhaps the creation of an ideally working prototype, is generally not the focus. This model may involve the highest level of mentor involvement, as students must be coached through the difficulties of starting a project from scratch, and may need assistance changing course and revising their plans. This is the model involving the most uncertainty, so the experience must be designed so that constructive failure can be an acceptable result.
This model can be divided into two categories, depending on whether the project has been initiated by the student or by the mentor. By “student-initiated,” I refer to a project for which the original concept came from the intern, even if the mentor played a role in helping to develop or shape that idea. Conversely, by “mentor-initiated,” I refer to projects for which the mentor has put forth the original idea, although student collaborators may end up helping to determine the direction of the project in important ways.


Internships in this category are often the continuation of student projects that began in a class setting. For instance, English major Sarah Dumitrascu built an experimental digital edition of a selection of an advanced typescript of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings's 1938 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Yearling, an undertaking she initiated in a summer digital editing course. Her project presents a version that allows the reader to explore Rawlings's revision process by isolating the various layers of typed and hand-written changes reflected in Rawling's draft. To do so, she developed a methodology for identifying and representing visually those different moments of revision.[16]
In other cases, the project may not have originated in a previous class, but exposure to methodologies in such a setting provided a starting point. Following his experiences in a summer digital editing course, for example, history major Chad Germany developed The Civil War in St. Augustine as part of an internship with the St. Augustine Historical Society Research Library. This digital archive gathers images, letters, poems, and other textual material related to St. Augustine's role as an outpost for both the Confederate and Union armies. Germany worked under the mentorship of Bob Nawrocki, chief librarian at the St. Augustine Historical Society, as well as faculty mentor Dr. Charles Clossman, associate professor of history.[17]
In a similar fashion, exercise science/Spanish major Emilia Thom participated in a summer digital editing course in Spanish, and then developed a project of her own as the basis of her internship. Thom constructed a prototype edition of archival materials related to interactions between colonists and Indigenous groups during the Second Spanish Period in Florida. She selected and transcribed the documents, marked them up, and published them online through coloniaLab.[18]
Another example, but one that does not deal with an editing project, is that of international studies/vocal performance major Sarah Redlhammer, who created a prototype for an interactive map of heavy metal in a global context. Titled Mapping International Metal, Redlhammer's project involved developing a methodology for gathering data that would allow her to visualize the geography of the genre and its movement across borders. She built upon knowledge gained in a GIS course, and received guidance on her project from Dr. Chris Baynard, associate professor of geography and GIS.[19]


Internships in this category frequently come about when a faculty member recruits a student or students in response to a particular need or opportunity.
International studies/Spanish major Paulino Estévez-Ancira and Spanish major Melinda Peacock assisted in creating a prototype for a digital edition of Fernando de Montesinos's seventeenth-century manuscript “Ophir de España,” held at the University of Seville. Working from a transcription prepared previously by project leader Dr. Nathan Gordon of Adrian College, they translated a section of the document, and marked up both the transcription and translation for online publication. In the process, they also helped to identify shortcomings and oversights in the editorial criteria and project documentation.[20]
International studies majors Natalie Holland and Christopher Wilson and international studies/Spanish major Sarah Hollingsworth developed Visualizing Refugee Jacksonville, a web resource exploring the experiences of refugee communities in North Florida. They designed objectives for the project and conducted research through oral interviews and use of the participatory method PhotoVoice. They built a prototype website through which to display the visual and textual materials they had gathered, and documented their efforts in a how–to guide for students who might continue this project in the future.[21]
International studies/philosophy major Rebecca Weiner designed and built the Embroidering for Peace and Memory Digital Archive, another undertaking led by Dr. López Baquero. The project documents the embroidery pieces produced by students, faculty, staff, and community members as part of the Embroidering for Peace and Memory project, a week-long annual event at UNF since 2012. Weiner created digital photographs of over 200 pieces, developed a taxonomy for tagging them according to thematic and geographical factors, and built a website to make those materials available.[22] International studies/Spanish major Angelic Fleites later worked with Dr. López Baquero to develop a social media campaign for this project, based in part on Weiner's work.

General Observations

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the question of delivery method did not arise for these internships. Experience has shown, however, that any of these models can work in a virtual format. Seven of the example internships discussed — those of Dixon, Dumitrascu, Estévez-Ancira, Grant, Hemmingway, Peacock and Pechillo — have been completely virtual due to the restrictions imposed in response to the pandemic.[23] The internships of Dixon, Dumitrascu, Pechillo, and Peacock, in fact, took place before I ever met those students in person.
Most of the examples mentioned here involved a UNF faculty member as supervisor, but these models can function for opportunities based also beyond the campus. For instance, the experiences of Germany; Holland, Hollingsworth, and Wilson; and Estévez-Ancira and Peacock, all involved supervision by mentors or advisors both at UNF and other institutions.
Regardless of the model employed, having students work in teams can often be a good strategy. This was the case with Mills and Wilson; Holland, Hollingsworth and Wilson; and Estévez-Ancira and Peacock. In all instances, the students were responsible for different materials and tasks, but they were able to assist each other in generating ideas, formulating questions, solving problems, and ensuring the accuracy of their work.

Logistical Aspects


Because all these models share characteristics, some general learning objectives can apply to all. These relate to communication skills, cross–disciplinary engagement, teamwork, and collaboration, as well as reflecting critically and constructively on successes and failures. Some examples include the following:
  • explain project goals,
  • solve problems through research, experimentation and collaboration,
  • report accurately on time spent by task,
  • assess strengths and weaknesses of work produced, and
  • articulate personal impact of learning experience orally and in writing.
Objectives specific to the differing models can also be identified. To do so, we can regard the three models as representing a spectrum. At one end is Model 1, which focuses on the application of specific methodologies in the context of an existing endeavor. Objectives in this context may deal more with the development of particular skills. Desired outcomes might include the ability to do the following:
  • analyze historical or social context of materials under consideration,
  • explain project methodologies,
  • apply project methodologies in processing of materials under consideration,
  • identify problems discovered in the application of project methodologies, and
  • propose ways to improve project processes.
In the middle, Model 2 is grounded in an existing project, but also involves tasks related to design and process management with respect to a specific aspect or feature. In this case, appropriate goals for learning might balance the attainment of particular skills with creative and critical abilities. Some possible outcomes might be to:
  • identify a problem to be solved,
  • describe a potential solution,
  • indicate appropriate tools and methodologies,
  • articulate a work plan,
  • develop a proof-of-concept prototype,
  • critique that prototype,
  • implement proposed changes,
  • analyze results, and
  • determine next steps.
At the other extreme, Model 3 emphasizes the design of something entirely new and the management of related processes. In this case, desired outcomes might be more oriented toward the development of capacities for creative thinking and project solving. These might include the following:
  • select materials to be examined,
  • identify questions to be answered in relation to those materials,
  • design an approach to answering such questions,
  • indicate appropriate tools and methodologies,
  • articulate a work plan,
  • develop a proof-of-concept prototype,
  • critique that prototype, and
  • determine next steps.

Semester Structure

The implementation of these internship models allows for flexibility and will vary by the nature of the project. With that in mind, I offer here a general structure that can be used as a point of departure.
For each internship model, at least one preliminary meeting prior to the beginning of the semester is needed to plan, set expectations, and handle any necessary paperwork. In all cases, the initial week can be an orientation period, which may involve more meetings for planning and training. The bulk of the semester can be organized into work time, punctuated by the completion of timesheets and weekly or biweekly status reports and meetings. The final weeks of the semester in each case should be dedicated to finalizing the students’ work, as appropriate, and reflecting on their students’ accomplishments and learning.
The following is a possible structure for the three types of internships. Because many aspects of the three models are identical, the distinguishing features of each are highlighted in bold. This outline assumes a 15-week semester, and so will need to be adjusted for terms of differing lengths.
Model 1 Model 2 Model 3
Before semester A preliminary meeting to discuss internship, provide initial orientation to project, set schedule for meetings and deadlines, discuss timesheets, status reports, etc., and sign agreement. A preliminary meeting to discuss internship, provide initial orientation to project, set schedule for meetings and deadlines, discuss timesheets, status reports, etc., and sign agreement; also, a preliminary brainstorming/design meeting. A preliminary meeting to discuss internship, provide initial orientation to project, set schedule for meetings and deadlines, discuss timesheets, status reports, etc., and sign agreement; also, a preliminary brainstorming/design meeting
Week 1 Orientation to project, training session(s) Orientation to project, brainstorming/design session(s) Orientation to project, brainstorming/design session(s)
Weeks 2–12 Training, as needed; weekly or bi–weekly timesheets, status reports, and/or status meetings. Weeks 10–12: focus on refinement and proofing of work. Training, as needed; weekly or bi–weekly timesheets, status reports, and/or status meetings. Items due: week 3, plan or proposal; week 6, initial prototype; week 9, revised prototype; week 12, second revised prototype. Training, as needed; weekly or bi–weekly timesheets, status reports, and/or status meetings. Items due: week 3, plan or proposal; week 6, initial prototype; week 9, revised prototype; week 12, second revised prototype.
Weeks 13-15 Final timesheet, completed work, reflective paper. Possibly: public presentation, recruitment and training of successor. Final timesheet, completed work, reflective paper. Possibly: public presentation, recruitment and training of successor (if development of this aspect of project to continue). Final timesheet, completed work, reflective paper. Possibly: public presentation, recruitment and training of successor (if project to become ongoing).
Table 1. 
As suggested by this outline, the items to be delivered by students in these internships can vary, depending on the type. Most commonly, however, students will be producing proposals; periodic reports and/or learning journals; prototypes, possibly in various stages; and reflective papers.[24] Tasks that might take place towards the end of the semester include public presentations and assistance in recruiting and training students to continue project work in a subsequent semester.
Ideally, the interns themselves can play a role in determining the structure of the semester. Some requirements may apply in all cases, such as the completion of a given number of hours and the submission of final reflections. Many other aspects of what the intern does and how they do it could be decided collaboratively.

Institutional Factors

In order to offer digital humanities internships, several questions must be answered in terms of administrative structure and process. Needs will vary according to the circumstances of different institutions, but a few considerations generally apply.
A mechanism must be in place for awarding academic credit. In some cases, a student may be able to complete a digital humanities internship through a discipline–specific internship course. This may not be a solution for students in all majors, however, and relying on departmental areas to facilitate these experiences for an interdisciplinary community of students can be problematic. A digital humanities internship course that is not tied to or administered by one specific area can therefore be advantageous.
Students need a way to count that course toward a program of study. This could be a traditional major in a disciplinary area, and in such a case, the discipline–specific internship course, if one exists, is likely already included as an elective. In the case of a digital humanities internship course, however, the situation may be more complex. If a digital humanities major or minor exists, the digital humanities internship course will almost certainly count toward those programs of study. In some instances, traditional departments may agree to honor the digital humanities internship course also as an elective toward their degrees, although likely on a case-by-case basis. Ideally, students could double–count such a course between a traditional major or minor and a digital humanities major or minor.[25]
Thirdly, a system must exist through which students can propose or apply for these internships, and upon approval, receive the needed registration permissions. If the internship occurs within a disciplinary area, this will likely be done through whatever processes are already in place. In the case of a digital humanities internship course that is not discipline-specific, however, such a system may need to be centralized. The responsible individual could be the coordinator of digital humanities minor or major, or the director of a digital humanities center or institute.
Funding for interns is desirable, particularly in situations in which the student's work can be understood as labor for a project owned by someone else. This will generally be true in all cases except possibly the student-initiated projects under Model 3. As UCLA’s Digital Humanities program states in “A Student Collaborators' Bill of Rights,” receiving academic credit for work on digital projects is not adequate: “Course credit is generally not sufficient ‘payment’ for students’ time, since courses are designed to provide students with learning experiences” [A Student Collaborators' Bill of Rights 2015].
To some extent, however, this depends on the nature of the work and the role of a given student. UCLA’s statement frames the issue as follows: “As a general principle, a student must be paid for his or her time if he or she is not empowered to make critical decisions about the intellectual design of a project or a portion of a project (and credited accordingly). Students should not perform mechanical labor, such as data-entry or scanning, without pay” [A Student Collaborators' Bill of Rights 2015]. Model 1 might involve a student doing tasks that could be understood to be mechanical, though such activities arguably correspond more to a paid student assistant position, not an internship (paid or otherwise) involving academic credit. In general, the internships contemplated in this article are of a nature in which students are regarded as collaborators, not employees, and the power to make decisions is a basic part of that role. This distinction notwithstanding, helping students secure funding to support their internships will seldom be an inappropriate or superfluous act on the part of the mentor or a digital humanities center, institute, or program.[26]
Regardless of the ability to fund students' work, a commitment should exist among project leaders to properly credit those efforts. As the 2011 “Collaborators’ Bill of Rights” states this matter: “All kinds of work on a project are equally deserving of credit (though the amount of work and expression of credit may differ).” Beyond being a question of fairness with respect to individual students, such a stance has larger implications, as acknowledging and celebrating student contributions can be a central factor in building dynamic DH communities [Off the Tracks 2011, 10].
Having on-campus forums in which students can present their work is also beneficial. At UNF, the Digital Humanities Institute sponsors a Digital Project Showcase towards the end of each fall semester, and SOARS, the campus-wide undergraduate research symposium takes place at the conclusion of each spring semester.[27] Nearly all of the interns mentioned in this article have discussed their experiences at one or both of these events.
A system for compensating faculty mentors, or otherwise incentivizing their participation, is beneficial. Such compensation might take take the form of a stipend or release time, perhaps after mentoring a given number of students. The possible options must, of course, be dictated by the particular circumstances of each institution.[28]
At a minimum, an institution hoping to enable this type of student experience must express formal support for interdisciplinary mentorship. Faculty who are subject to tenure and promotion otherwise risk being seen as not contributing adequately to their own areas, particularly when they find themselves working with students from other majors. Legitimizing such activity through explicit support in departmental bylaws and university statutes, as well as collective bargaining agreements, as appropriate, is an important step toward creating the types of cross-disciplinary spaces needed to facilitate internships like those discussed here.


The internship model described in this paper promises a broad range of benefits for students. Participants can gain technical skills and a deeper understanding of methodologies used to ask questions and solve problems in a variety of fields. These opportunities provide a way to develop abilities related to critical thinking, planning, organization, and communication skills. Students can include these experiences on their resumes, and can discuss them in concrete ways when applying to jobs or graduate programs.
Faculty likewise can benefit from their role in mentoring digital humanities internships for students. Many will be able to involve students in digital projects related to their own research. Such collaborations can allow faculty to see their work from new perspectives, and can give their research greater visibility on campus. These experiences can also alter how faculty approach teaching in a more traditional classroom setting.
In a similar fashion, institutional units — programs, departments, colleges, and universities themselves — stand to benefit from having students engaged in digital humanities internships. These experiences create avenues for collaboration across disciplinary lines, resulting in experiences that can have implications for faculty satisfaction, the development of creative new initiatives, the overall quality of education, and the employability of graduates. These internships can provide opportunities for administrators to showcase the creativity and talent of students and faculty, and the quality of student/faculty interactions.
Even the most hospitable of institutional settings will likely present challenges to be overcome when attempting to offer opportunities of this sort. However, the model described here can be deployed on a trial basis without significant resources or administrative support. A small community of core faculty can experiment with offering digital humanities internships in a way that can attract attention and create greater momentum. The effort and risk involved may be justified, as the potential benefits are many. Students, faculty, and institutions all stand to gain from the implementation of experiential, project–based learning opportunities within the context of digital humanities research.


For their help in making the reflections in this article possible, the author would like to thank the following: Ali Alsalman, Dr. Chris Baynard, Rachel Bennett, Dr. Felicia Bevel, Dr. Alan Bliss, Dr. Denise Bossy, Kathlina Brady, Dr. Keith Cartwright, Trevor Cheatham, Dr. Charles Clossmann, Dr. Karen Cousins, Dr. Rosa De Jorio, Buddy Delegal, Amelia Dixon, Sarah Dumitrascu, Kalthoum Elfasi, Paulino Estévez-Ancira, Victoria Farfán Lasso, Angelic Fleites, Dr. Josh Gellers, Dr. Patricia Geesey, Chad Germany, Dr. Nathan Gordon, Zariah Grant, Dr. Laura Heffernan, Dr. Gregory Helmick, Carol Lynne Hemmingway, Natalie Holland, Sarah Hollingsworth, Dr. Tru Leverette, Dr. Constanza López Baquero, Pamela Martínez, Mariana Mendieta, Nicole Mills, Bob Nawrocki, Melinda Peacock, Marisa Pechillo, Dr. Anne Pfister, Sarah Redlhammer, Andy Rush, Dr. David Sheffler, Susan Swiatosz, Emilia Thom, Dr. Karthik Umapathy, Rebecca Weiner, Susan Williams, Chris Wilson, and Teri Wilson. The internships described here could not have happened without support from the Jacksonville Historical Society, St. Augustine Historical Society Research Library, and the Refugee Services Program of Lutheran Social Services of Northeast Florida, as well as the following units at UNF: the Division of Academic Affairs; the College of Arts and Sciences; the Digital Humanities Institute; the Department of English; the Department of History; the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures; the School of Computing; the Center for Instruction and Research Technology (CIRT); the Thomas G. Carpenter Library; the Office of Undergraduate Research; the Center for Community-Based Learning; and the Hicks Honors College.


[1] The UNF Digital Humanities Institute (unf.edu/dhi) was founded in 2018, following the efforts of the informal UNF Digital Humanities Initiative, established in 2015. UNF is a mid-size regional public institution located in Jacksonville. Fall 2020 enrollment was 17,043 (14,662 undergraduates and 2,381 graduate students) [University of North Florida 2020].
[2] Swietzer and King's volume on internships, first published in 1999, is now in its fifth edition [Sweitzer and King 2019].
[3] The Institute was known as the Digital Humanities Initiative from 2015-2019, prior to being established as a formal entity.
[5] For more information on these projects, see colonialab.org These internships took place during the following semesters: Delegal and Elfasi, Spring 2015l; Alsalman, Summer 2017; Brady, Fall 2017; Pechillo, Spring 2021.
[6] This edition is part of the coloniaLab project Antioquia Negra Digital Archive. See colonialab.org/anda. Mendieta's internship took place in Fall 2019.
[7] Pechillo's work can be seen on the website of the North Florida Editorial Workshop, nfew.org. Her internship took place in Fall 2020.
[8] I co-lead this project with Dr. Laura Heffernan and Dr. Tru Leverette, both associate professors of English. Dixon's internship was in Fall 2021. Her work can be seen at violamuse.unfdhi.org/.
[9] I supervised Williams's internship, which took place in Spring 2018. The project uses TEI-XML and the edited documents are displayed in an adaptation of TEI-Boilerplate. See unfdhi.org/earthawhite.
[10] I was her supervisor for both internships, and she also worked closely with Dr. Felicia Bevel of the UNF Department of History, and Susan Swiatosz, head of Special Collections in UNF's Thomas G. Carpenter Library. These internships took place in Spring 2020 and Spring 2021. See unfdhi.org/earthawhite.
[12] This internship took place in Fall 2019. See adrela.net.
[13]  See envirorightsmap.org. Cheatham's internship took place in the fall of 2017.
[15] Collaborating with Bennett on this aspect of the project helped me to develop the ideas expressed in a 2018 book chapter[McCarl 2018]. See colonialab.org/epitome1629. This internship took place in Spring 2016.
[16] See unfdhi.org/nfew-editions/content/yearling.html. Dumitrascu's internship took place in Spring 2021.
[17] See http://sacivilwararchive.com. German's internship was in the spring of 2017.
[18] I was Thom's mentor for the technical and editorial aspects of this project, but in order to understand and contextualize the documents, she also worked closely with Dr. Denise Bossy, associate professor of history. See colonialab.org/et-prototype.
[19] Redlhammer developed her prototype using ArcGIS in the spring of 2018.
[20] Dr. Gordon and I supervised jointly these internships, which took place in Summer 2021. Peacock is completing a second internship with the project in Fall 2021, following a similar model.
[21] See refugeejax.unfdhi.org. These students received support from Dr. Rosa De Jorio, professor of anthropology, and the staff of Lutheran Social Services of Northeast Florida. This experience took place in the spring of 2018.
[22] See embroidery.unfdhi.org. This experience took place in the fall of 2017.
[23] Hemmingway's first internship in Spring 2020 was not remote initially, but transitioned to a remote format when the campus closed in mid-March.
[24] The assignment for a final reflections can be tailored to a specific internship, but I have found a general, open-ended prompt like the following works well: “Submit a reflective paper of 4-5 double-spaced pages addressing the following questions (in essay, not question-and-answer format): What did you learn during this experience? How has this experience impacted your future academic or professional plans? You're also welcome to include anything else you think is important as you look back on the work you've done this semester.”
[25] Some students may also be able to utilize the internship to meet requirements that are not part of a program of study. Four of the students mentioned here — Brady, Peacock, Pechillo, and Thom — completed their internships not only for credit, but also in fulfillment of the capstone requirement for the Hicks Honors College at UNF.
[26] Six of the students mentioned in this article have been awarded grants through the Office of Undergraduate Research. Four have also received funds through a fellowship program operated by the Hicks Honors College. One was awarded a departmental scholarship.
[27] SOARS stands for Showcase of Osprey Advancements in Research and Scholarship.
[28] If additional compensation or release time are not options, one possibility might be to frame the internships of a full cohort of students as a “studio course,” with one faculty member serving as instructor of record within their normal teaching load. Such an approach will depend, of course, on the viability of attaining a sufficient number of students to adequately enroll such a course. While this strategy may solve an administrative problem, however, it may also create another of a pedagogical nature, as in this scenario the instructor of record would likely function as mentor to all the students. Such an individual would need to have a broad range of expertise to mentor a truly interdisciplinary group of students.

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