Research News

Provost-appointed working group to assess digital support services, projects

Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Susan R. Wente (Vanderbilt University)

A new working group will evaluate Vanderbilt’s digital project resources and services and make recommendations aimed at supporting the university’s current and future needs, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Susan R. Wente announced today.

Digital services and project support enable the creation of a range of tools and products including online content and videos, digital collections and archives, dashboards, research gateways, data visualizations and more.

The provost has charged the working group with evaluating current digital services and available project support, assessing future needs and developing a report with recommendations on the best path forward.

“With cutting-edge discovery and learning happening in all corners of campus, every school, department and discipline has a need for a range of digital technologies,” Wente said. “We have made progress over the past few years in expanding digital literacy and making needed investments. We need to go a step further and take stock of any gaps and identify opportunities to enhance and coordinate our resources. At the end of the day, we want to enable our faculty, staff and students to pursue their work with the latest tools and methods.”

A number of university units provide support for digital services and projects across campus, including the Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries Digital Scholarship and Communications Office, Center for Teaching, Advanced Computing Center for Research and Education, Center for Digital Humanities, Data Science Institute and Research IT Service.

The working group on digital projects and services will be led by Douglas C. Schmidt, associate provost for research development and technologies and Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Engineering (Computer Science).

headshot of Douglas C. Schmidt
Doug Schmidt, associate provost for research development and technologies (Vanderbilt University)

“We plan to coordinate our efforts and share any findings that can help the university more fully support our outstanding faculty and students,” Schmidt said. “One of our goals is to develop a sustainable model for digital services that benefits current and future research and education across disciplines.”

As the group develops its comprehensive set of recommendations, it will seek input from multiple stakeholders, including students and staff. “There might be opportunities for students to benefit by providing technological assistance on faculty research, as one example,” Schmidt said. “We also want to empower the staff by being able to link together different educational technology groups.”

Members of the working group are:

Douglas C. Schmidt (chair), associate provost for research development and technologies, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Engineering, School of Engineering, Data Science Institute co-director;

Ellen Armour, associate dean for academic affairs, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Chair in Feminist Theology, director of the Carpenter Program in Religion, Gender and Sexuality, Divinity School;

Gautam Biswas, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Engineering, professor of computer science and computer engineering, School of Engineering;

Carwil Bjork-James, assistant professor of anthropology, College of Arts and Science;

Corey E. Brady, assistant professor of learning sciences, Peabody College of education and human development;

Edward K. Cheng, Hess Professor of Law, Law School;

Heather Johnson, associate professor of the practice of teaching and learning, Peabody College;

Catherine Gavin Loss, associate professor of the practice of leadership, policy and organizations, Peabody College;

Ryan Middagh, senior lecturer in jazz studies and director of jazz studies, Blair School of Music;

Ole Molvig, assistant professor of history, Arts and Science;

Lynn Ramey, professor of French, Arts and Science, faculty director of the Digital Humanities Center;

Jonathan Waters, senior lecturer of cinema and media arts, Arts and Science; and

Betsy Weiner, senior associate dean for informatics, Centennial Independence Foundation Professor of Nursing, professor of biomedical informatics, School of Nursing and School of Medicine.

Biswas, Brady, Molvig, Ramey and Johnson are also part of the Computational Thinking and Learning Initiative, one of the 2019 Trans-Institutional Programs (TIPs) award recipients. Computational thinking and learning is an approach that frames problems and develops solutions with computer/digital methods and relies heavily on a variety of digital tools and resources.

The Digital Projects and Services Working Group will propose a model for coordinating and aligning resources across these groups and recommend what additional or new services might be folded into the Computational Thinking and Learning Initiative. Participants in this TIPs initiative will engage with the group in a strategic planning process.

Schmidt is also serving on the Online Education Committee to ensure coordination since online courses and programs rely heavily on digital tools to produce course content.

The working group plans to issue a report to the provost by the end of March 2020.