Introduction to Kathryn McDonald — First Time HASTAC Scholar 2019-2021

Hello, everyone!  My name is Kathryn McDonald, and I am in the first year of my Master’s in Library and Information Science through the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.  I am an online student and live on the north Oregon coast.

I am excited to meet everyone in this program, and I think that the best way to introduce myself is to tell the story of why I went back to school.

In 2018, I had earned dual bachelor’s degrees in Computer Science and Anthropology and was working as a data analyst for my county’s mental health clinic.  While I loved the day to day work of actual data analysis, I was feeling frustrated and confined by the hierarchy and politics of office life (I can’t begin to enumerate how depressing it is to report declining statistics and have no power to change those numbers).  As I was debating pursuing an advanced degree, news broke that children were being separated from their parents at the border.  I still don’t understand why the entire country didn’t stop when this happened.  I didn’t see action being taken around me, and I also didn’t know what action would be most effective.  Then, I saw an article in Wired magazine about the Torn Apart/Separados Project.  It was the first time I had seen an academic project so public-facing and rooted in current eventsm and also the first time I had heard the term “Digital Humanities”.  I reached out to the project Gmail and asked if they needed help with data analysis, and to my surprise, the project team was very welcoming and encouraging.  I contributed to Volume II of the project by mashing datasets together and calculating new fields.

When the project ended, I knew that this kind of work was what I wanted to do.  I talked with various academics and confirmed that library and information science was likely to align best with my interests and skills.  One librarian heavily encouraged me to attend DHSI, and in the summer of 2019, that’s exactly what I did.  At the last minute, I switched into Amanda Phillips and Anne Cong-Huyen’s “Intersectional Feminism” class, and I am so glad that I made that decision.  Their class introduced me to queer theory, critical race theory, intersectional feminist theory, and so much more.  Because I had been working in a computer science-adjacent field, I have been in touch with the technology, but not the theory.  I would love to dive deeper into these theoretical frameworks and learn more about research methodologies so that the projects I want to build will have a solid foundation behind them.  I am very interested in community-based projects, and I want to learn more about what Public Humanities is and whether I fit in that field.

I live in a rural area, and my entrance essay for the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign talked about bridging the divide between academia and the public.  I do not intend to move after graduation; instead, I want to focus my efforts on the community I live in and connect organizations around Oregon that are doing transformative work.  I hope that the people I meet in this program will help me learn how to navigate the complicated world that lies at the intersection of digital projects, and I also hope to develop my coding skills by applying them to projects.  I am interested in #transformDH, #critlib, FemTechNet, and how to get involved in these communities.

I am very excited to be part of this program!  I plan to attend DHSI 2020 and would love to connect with people there.