This summer, the University Library says goodbye to three stellar employees: Sydney Bufkin, who completed her Mellon Digital Humanities Fellowship, and retirees Carol Blair and Dick Grefe.
Normally, we would celebrate our friends with a cake-filled fête. Because in-person celebrations aren’t possible due to Covid-19, we celebrate their contributions digitally…until we can safely gather together again.
In this post, we recognize Digital Humanities (DH) Fellow Sydney Bufkin. Since 2015, the University Library has hosted a Digital Humanities Fellow as part of our DH initiatives supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. For the past three years, we have been lucky enough to have Professor Sydney Bufkin in this role. Sydney was a familiar addition to the library. In her previous role in the English Department, Sydney regularly collaborated with librarians to bring information literacy skills to her classroom.
As DH Fellow, Sydney combined her pedagogical expertise with digital research methods to support faculty research and student projects—in and outside of the library. Within her first month, she was on the road to the Institute for Liberal Arts Digital Scholarship as a team member on Stephanie Sandberg’s Understanding Human Trafficking project. She worked closely with Emily Cook, research and outreach librarian, to develop a new library curriculum for working with the first-year Writing Program. Sydney also played an important role in the development and launch of the library’s Digital Culture and Information minor, serving as our in-house expert on assessment.
In addition to the day-to-day work of teaching, coding and consulting, Sydney led two major campus initiatives. In the 2018-2019, Sydney led the campus-wide initiative “Rewriting the Code,” a year-long initiative aimed at inspiring women at W&L to explore careers at the intersection of technology and the humanities. With the help of Kellie Harra ’18, our Mellon post-baccalaureate fellow, Sydney designed and organized two workshops on HTML, CSS, and Python. The demand for the workshops was so high, they were repeated in Winter Term. The initiative culminated in a forum featuring a full day of panels and presentations from six early-career women working in technology. Not only did this remarkable initiative bring together students, staff and faculty from across the university, it inspired a number of women to pursue the Digital Culture and Information minor and take more Computer Science courses.
Beginning in 2018, Sydney served as Institutional Lead for a multi-institutional grant from the Associated Colleges of the South, “Pathway to Diversity: Uncovering Our Collections,” to locate the history of desegregation and integration at W&L and three other ACS institutions in our archival collections. As part of this project, she supervised two summer research students and worked with faculty members to integrate primary sources into their courses. In 2019, the project received a second round of funding to create a shared online repository for the material. To highlight student contributions to the project, Sydney planned and hosted a multi-day “Curating Our Collections Institutional History Symposium” at W&L in late 2019.
Finally, we must acknowledge Sydney’s continual advocacy for non-tenure track faculty within the library and the entire university. Her willingness to speak up in any and every meeting brought needed attention to the employment conditions of contingent faculty. We are grateful for her dedicated work over the past three years to improve the lives of her students and colleagues.
*Written by Digital Humanities Librarian Mackenzie Brooks