In Spring 2020, the University of Miami (UM) team joined the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) in conducting human subjects research, following in the footsteps of their 2019 pilot project focusing on the role of the humanities in society. Because our team is a bit smaller than UCSB’s, all of the research assistants at UM were involved in the process. We spent the Fall 2019 semester planning and creating a Qualtrics survey based on UCSB’s work, and we all learned a whole lot more about IRBs (Institutional Review Boards) than we ever expected to as humanities scholars! Our goal in distributing the survey was to collect experiences, thoughts, and feelings towards the humanities at the local level. Doing so not only allowed us to gain a complementary perspective on the data we had analyzed through topic modeling of millions of articles from major US newspapers and social networks such as Reddit and Twitter, but it also to spread the WE1S logo all over campus (and the email inboxes of students and colleagues!), raising our visibility within the UM community.
The survey went live in January at the start of the 2020 semester. We distributed flyers across the campus, inviting volunteers to participate via QR code or by visiting the WE1S website. Participants were entered in a raffle to win gift cards. We also held weekly “tabling” events in January and February, where we could chit-chat about the project with our community, explain our goals, and share a couple of snacks with our students and staff (Oreos were definitely the ‘Canes favorites!) (see photo below).
Many students stopped by between classes to check out our table and have a look at our proposal. Over five hundred undergraduates, graduate students, staff, and faculty took our survey, which gave us a much better picture of the humanities in our community. It was a challenging but ultimately fulfilling task!
We also solicited volunteers for a series of focus groups in order to supplement the information we had gathered from our survey. The focus groups were a huge success! We were able to conduct three focus groups, each with five to six participants, before the semester moved online due to the COVID-19 virus. The first two focus groups welcomed non-undergraduate participants (grad students, faculty, staff, and administrators), and the third featured undergraduates.
These focus groups were a nice, collaborative occasion where participants could express and compare their opinions about the humanities in a friendly environment while sharing a healthy and tasty lunch together. 😊
We really enjoyed the participation of our community in the WE1S project, and we are looking forward to sharing our results with everyone involved. Once again, on behalf of the WE1S project and of the UM Team: Thank you ‘Canes!
This research was carried out with IRB approval from the Human Subjects Committee in the Office of Research at UM. Many thanks for their help and guidance.
Francesca Battista is the U.Miami team’s fearless and much-needed scientist, who has recently begin a Ph.D in Science and Technology Studies at Virginia Tech. Francesca holds a PhD in Quantum Physics from the University of Lund (Sweden) as well as a Master’s in Public Communication of Science and Technology from the University of Buenos Aires.
Ashley Hemm is a fourth-year English PhD student at UM, where she studies speculative fiction, fan studies, and digital humanities. She’s the 2019-2020 UM Project Manager, and positive that she will never have this much fun over Zoom again.