Dana Sajdi, an associate professor of history at Boston College, received two grants—the Teaching, Advising, and Mentoring Grant and the Innovations in Graduate Education Grant—this past May, with plans to change the way we learn about history.
Sajdi said she plans to use the grant money to create a podcasting studio for the history department and hire experts to train students in the medium. Rather than traditional textbook learning, she proposes the use of modern communication mediums—such as podcasts.
“We have to understand that this electronic revolution is also going to mean that we will be teaching differently and we will be learning differently,” Sajdi said in an interview with The Heights. “I think the administration should be aware of these changes, and I’m hoping that we become pioneers of new teaching and learning methods.”
Teaching, Advising, and Mentoring Grants are given to faculty members who have new and creative teaching or advising ideas. The grants are awarded annually and are worth a maximum of $15,000 each.
The Innovations in Graduate Education Grant is worth up to $10,000 annually for up to three years. It is awarded to faculty members pioneering new technological or interdisciplinary programs for graduate students.
Sajdi said she worries about the limited job opportunities available to graduating humanities students and advises humanities departments to be more creative in preparing students to successfully enter the workforce.
“We are at a stage where the academic market and the economic landscape is changing so much that we have to prepare ourselves,” she said. “It’s no longer the way that we have been trained and the way that we know how to approach jobs.”
Instead of holding on to previous methods, Sajdi urges humanity scholars to be open-minded to a change in how history is shared in society.
“We can either sit around and insist on using print and writing monographs like academic books that only a few specialists will be able to read, or we prepare ourselves to deal with the changing market and have our students transfer the rigor of academic work out into the public domain,” she said.
While there is a growing market for history podcasts, Sajdi said it is being led by non-historians.
“Now we have to come to terms with the idea that the knowledge producers are not solely in universities—they’re everywhere” she said. “So if you look at podcasts, there are hundreds and hundreds of history podcasts, so history is being produced everywhere, and not all of them are being produced by professors or students but by amateurs.”
Sajdi said through classes such as Podcasting the Ottomans, a core history class she teaches at BC, students will gain skills to help them break into the podcasting field.
“The only thing that we have to train our students to do is create, execute, and edit a good podcast and teach them how to be able to tell a story to a larger audience, which is a slightly different skill,” she said. “This is what these two grants are about for both graduate and undergraduate students.”
Sajdi said she has hope for the future of humanities. She believes that with new technological advancements, historians will be able to share and connect with larger audiences. “There are many, many, many people who are thirsty for history,” Sajdi said. “The fact that the academic landscape is changing does not mean that history is gone.”
Featured Image by Steve Mooney / Heights Editor