Why the iSchool?

The primary reason I decided to joined the faculty at UIUC’s School of Information Sciences was the incredible colleagues I would have the chance to work with—so many of whom research and teach at the precise intersection of the humanities, media, and technology where I would locate my own work. One of those new colleagues is Zoe LeBlanc, who also started this fall. I’m a huge admirer of Zoe’s digital history research and pedgogy, and so am thrilled to be working with her to bolster the iSchool’s already-impressive offerings in digital humanities.

The second most compelling inducement to the iSchool was the chance to work with students in a richly interdisciplinary department—students whose work perhaps sits somewhat awkwardly across academic departments, as mine does. Now that we’re tumbling headlong into fall, I know that many people are planning grad school applications and drafting their materials. A few days ago I posted a short Twitter thread about how our pipelines to graduate school are so shuttered that students never consider programs where they might thrive, simply because they and their advisers are entirely unaware of those programs. In particular, I know there are many humanities students whose work, whether in digital humanities, critical bibliography, book history, or media studies—to cite only fields my work crosses—would thrive in the iSchool, if they would only apply to a school with “Information Sciences” in its name.

Since Zoe and I are both new iSchool faculty looking for graduate students with whom we might work, we decided to write a brief post together, “Why Should Humanities Students Consider an iSchool PhD?” which I’ve republished in full below. When Zoe cross-posts on her site I will link to her version as well. This post is our call, in short, to those prospective iSchool students coming from humanities disciplines and compelled by questions of technology, media, and culture that are central to the iSchool’s curriculum.

I would add to the general comments in our collaborative post that I’m particularly keen to hear from prospective Ph.D. students working on topics in book and periodical history (broadly construed), histories of text technologies (analog and digital), viral media and culture (likewise), and/or machine learning in digital libraries. In the most capacious possible terms, if you want to study how technologies of production, reception, remediation, and interpretation shape texts’ meanings within historical communities, or how the complexities of historical texts pressure modern scholarly infrastructure, then I would love to hear from you.

Why Should Humanities Students Consider an iSchool PhD?

By: Ryan Cordell and Zoe LeBlanc

Have you ever wondered how we can use computers to study culture and the past? Are you interested in the intersection between humanities and information technology? Have you maybe heard of digital humanities (DH) and wondering what it might mean or how you might pursue further study in this area?

Well if you answered yes to any of these questions, then you should consider applying to the Ph.D program at School of Information Sciences (iSchool) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Rooted in its long history as the #1 school for library and information sciences in the United States, the iSchool faculty are experts in a range of humanities subjects, including medieval history, historical newspapers, children’s literature, the history of genre, and computational approaches to culture. From the outside, “information science” might sound like a branch of computer science. Though some of us like to code, we are also committed to studying how information technology—whether codices or computers—shapes society and culture. For example, the iSchool offers courses and supports students working in:

What sets the iSchool apart is that we offer the opportunity to combine humanistic research with robust training in computational methods and systems that will prepare you for a unique career trajectory in our digital and data-driven society, whether in academia, nonprofits, the public sector, or beyond.

We invite you to learn about ongoing research projects at the iSchool, get to know our current PhD students, explore our courses, and to consider how your work might thrive in our interdisciplinary community. If we can help your decision-making, feel free to request more information (or contact professors you might work with directly).

Students accepted to the iSchool’s Ph.D. program are guaranteed five years of funding in the form of research, teaching, and service assistantships, which include tuition waivers and stipends. We also offer travel support. When you’re ready, here’s where you can review our requirements and apply. We especially encourage applications from students from historically underrepresented minority groups.