The Community

For more than a century, the mighty Bethlehem Steel anchored Lehigh University’s hometown, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Now that Bethlehem Steel is gone, the city is experiencing economic, social and cultural transformations while in transition to a post-industrial future. Like other American cities, Bethlehem confronts issues of immigration, education, religion, economic hardship and revitalization, and the complexities of ethnic, racial and class diversity. In South Bethlehem, the area of town where the Bethlehem Steel plant stood, where the past and present day population is comprised of residents of many different nationalities and identities, and where Lehigh University is situated, all of these issues are especially evident. Lehigh is committed to working with and in its community of Bethlehem, and the Mellon Digital Humanities Initiative provides a focus on collaborative approaches to documenting social change and spurring meaningful inquiry within a community.

Photo Credit: Michael Bartz

The Initiative

The Mellon Digital Humanities Initiative for Engaging Undergraduates with the Local Community, also referred to as the Mellon Digital Humanities Initiative or MDHI, is funded through a generous 3-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The MDHI will run from 2015 to 2018. Its objective is to promote the incorporation of digital technologies across the humanities for the purpose of fostering meaningful interactions between Lehigh faculty and undergraduate students and the surrounding community of Bethlehem, with a particular emphasis on South Bethlehem. The MDHI will meet these goals by supporting innovative curriculum development, offering workshops to equip more faculty with enhanced skill sets in digital humanities, nurturing partnerships with community organizations, hosting a film and lecture series, and encouraging undergraduate humanities research. The MDHI provides grants for off-site training, course development and community partnerships projects for faculty and awards research grants for undergraduate students. All of these activities are designed to encourage Lehigh faculty and students to broadly explore the creative possibilities, pedagogical promise, and social, cultural and political implications of using digital forms to bridge scholarship and community engagement.  MDHI also works in collaboration with the Documentary StoryMaking Minor- a collaboration between Lehigh University, Muhlenberg College and Lafayette College.

Photo Credit: Janice Lipson "Faces of the SouthSide, Teen Photography Program Steel Stacks" 2010, archival digital print, courtesy of Lehigh University Art Galleries Teaching Collection.