University Libraries awarded $1.2M to support borderlands studies, HSI initiatives

Two students sitting at a table looking at a laptop computer.

The Digital Borderlands in the Classroom program will support undergraduate student research on the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, and is supported by a $1.2 million grant from the Mellon Foundation to University Libraries.

The University of Arizona has received a $1.2 million grant from the Mellon Foundation to establish a four-year initiative and faculty fellowship program to support undergraduate student research on the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, in alignment with the university's Hispanic-Serving Institution initiatives

The grant was awarded to University Libraries, which will use it to create a program called Digital Borderlands in the Classroom. The program will allow UArizona faculty members to participate in a fellowship program that features a one-week summer institute created and hosted by University Libraries. Workshops, hands-on instruction and introductions to digital and archival methods of scholarship led by library experts and other instructors will help faculty members develop assignments and learning modules for students regarding various aspects of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands.

Through a competitive application process, a cohort of faculty members will be selected each year in 2024, 2025 and 2026 to attend the summer institute. Successful applicants will receive an award of $9,000, training through the summer institute and ongoing consultation throughout the academic year.

"Digital Borderlands in the Classroom advances several university-level priorities and the institution's strategic plan," said Shan Sutton, dean of University Libraries and principal investigator for the Mellon grant. "This project continues to strengthen our collective commitment to undergraduate student research, HSI initiatives, digital literacy for students and borderlands studies."

Primary goals of the project include facilitating student research on the borderlands and integrating library services into the classroom through faculty collaboration.

Another notable aspect is the incorporation of the student experience into the classroom.

"Our proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border has shaped the University of Arizona's core strengths as a leading research university, and it informs our mission as a land-grant institution," said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins. "I am proud the Mellon Foundation has recognized our expertise in library science with this generous grant so we can offer rich opportunities to our students interested in digital literacy and the U.S.-Mexico borderlands."

In addition to designing assignments to enhance students' digital literacy and archival literacy, the $1.2 million, multiyear grant provides faculty opportunities to bring together the cultural knowledge and experiences of the university's diverse student body, including students who grew up in the borderlands region.

UArizona was designated a Hispanic-Serving Institution in 2018, and the largest, most diverse class in the university's history – with 49% of first-year students self-identifying with ethnicities other than white – started classes this fall.

"We're excited to continue to extend archival research to undergraduate students by introducing and working with the unique resources from the U.S.-Mexico borderlands collections in Special Collections," said Verónica Reyes-Escudero, the Katheryne B. Willock Head of Special Collections and co-principal investigator. "It's important to provide affirming experiences by fostering student engagement with historical documents that reflect contributions from the students' own communities or by engaging them in interrogating other materials through their own knowledge or experience."

To share the assignments created by institute participants with other institutions, the grant project will include the creation of a Digital Borderlands Anthology, an open and freely accessible educational resource that documents successful course integrations. A one-day symposium at the end of the project will bring together borderlands scholars and instructors from across the country.

"The project builds on our previous Mellon-funded Digital Borderlands project, which supported faculty research on the borderlands with library service integration," said Megan Senseney, head of the research engagement department in University Libraries and co-principal investigator. "Now we're building on the momentum by working with instructors to actively engage students with U.S.-Mexico borderlands research through digital projects and classroom assignments that will appeal to them."

The call for applications for the summer institute opens on Oct. 24. The application deadline is Jan. 19, 2024. Information sessions will be held on Nov. 3, Dec. 7 and Jan. 9 for interested faculty members to learn about the project and application process.

"We're strengthening the libraries' roles as key contributors to student learning and faculty research across academic disciplines," Sutton said. "By leveraging a broad range of digital scholarship methods and our distinctive archival collections, we want to give students an opportunity to not only learn about the borderlands as a place, but also learn from each other and their own experiences as part of developing these skills."

More information about Digital Borderlands in the Classroom is available on the University Libraries website.


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