Graduate fellows share their project experiences and results

Emory Libraries/Laney Graduate School fellows for the 2020-2021 academic year, clockwise from top left: Halley Riley, Xanda Lemos, Kemal Budak, Anastasiia Strakhova, and Abbey Heller.

Graduate research fellows for the Emory Libraries and the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship (ECDS) shared the results and their experiences from their 2020-2021 projects at a recent presentation.

Emory Libraries partners with the Laney Graduate School each academic year to sponsor the fellowships, which provide graduate students with immersive and meaningful experiences. The fellows worked in the areas of digital humanities, Instruction and Engagement, Research and Engagement, data services, and the Rose Library. Their work often involved adapting in-person projects that benefit other students to an online environment due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

Kemal Budak, the Robert W. Woodruff Library and Emory Writing Center fellow, is a PhD candidate in sociology. His fellowship for the Woodruff Library focused on running the virtual dissertation and thesis bootcamps for graduate and undergraduate students; for the Writing Center, he worked with tutors and students.

Budak’s work included:

  • Fostering a sense of closeness among the students attending the bootcamps, with the small group building relationships by sharing about their projects and future goals.
  • Helping to launch and market an honors thesis bootcamp in February for about 15 undergraduates called the Long Night against Procrastination, with a raffle and breakout rooms, that may be repeated in the fall
  • Mentoring Writing Center tutors and giving presentations on annotated bibliographies and tips for writing the required second-year sociology paper

Budak said working with tutors in the Writing Center has given him a deeper understanding into the students’ writing process. The experience has affected the introduction to sociology course he will teach this summer. “I’ve changed some of my criteria for grading based on things I’ve learned being a tutor,” he said.

Abbey Heller, the Woodruff Library Research and Engagement Fellow, is a Ph.D. candidate in the political science department. She worked with the E-book Assessment Committee and the Collection Management Team.

Heller’s work involved:

  • Analyzing the usage and cost effectiveness of a variety of Emory’s e-book plans and subscription journal packages as well as the challenges these analyses presented and the creative solutions the teams developed
  • Cleaning and combining the data from different publishers, running multiple analyses, and giving data-driven presentations
  • Updating documentation and best practices so the analyses can be duplicated in the future

As a result of her work, the Libraries will have more comprehensive data and analysis on which to base package purchase decisions. Although the two teams have done this work before, Heller’s research allowed them to dive deeper. “This sort of analysis allows us to really tailor our collection and make sure it’s meeting the needs of the Emory community,” Heller said. “It was also fantastic practice using my data science skills to provide custom solutions, which I think is going to be a large part of my career going forward.”

Xanda Lemos, the ECDS fellow, is a PhD candidate in Latin American history. She spent the academic year working as a managing editor for the open-access digital journal Atlanta Studies and learning to adapt deadlines and the review process in the COVID-19 environment.

Lemos’ work included:

  • Overseeing the publication process, including soliciting articles and images, reviewing submissions, and copy-editing articles
  • Collaborating with a team of people that included an editorial board as well as authors, researchers, designers, and editors
  • Balancing article deadlines with the pandemic challenges that affected authors and the editorial board review process. The journal also began using peer reviews for the articles, which affected deadlines as well. “It’s a frustrating process, but also very rewarding,” she said.

One of the most rewarding experiences was the publication of an article on the 60th anniversary of a school bombing in Atlanta, which included a timeline, audio clips, and a historical photograph. The authors wanted to use a Getty Images photo; when the nonprofit journal didn’t have the money to pay for use of the photo, the authors paid for it.

Halley Riley, the ECDS Data Fellow, is a PhD candidate in Behavioral, Social and Health Education Sciences. Working with ECDS data services librarian Rob O’Reilly, Riley provided data and analytic support and assisted with doctoral dissertations, masters theses and undergraduate research.

Her work included:

  • Consulting with individuals across the University on data-related questions, identifying data sources, and providing one-on-one support for data cleaning and analyses. Riley supported quantitative work for researchers doing work on public health topics in the US and in other countries, including COVID-19, nutrition, and HIV care.
  • Leading workshops such as “Analysis of Complex Survey Data” in fall 2020, and co-leading “Creating and Presenting Data” and “Finding and Using Health Data” in spring 2021
  • Helping students adjust to working with raw data

Riley said she learned data is messy – files are constructed differently, and inconsistent coding is used with text and diagnoses, for example, depending on the source. “Students use clean data in methods courses, but this makes them unprepared to deal with messy data in the real world,” Riley said. ECDS is an invaluable resource because the staff can help fill in the gaps in methods curriculum for students, she added.

Anastasiia Strakhova, the Anne and Bill Newton Graduate Fellow at Rose Library, is a PhD candidate in the history department. She worked with Rose’s instructional archivist Gabrielle Dudley to organize two projects offered to the Laney Graduate School students annually—the grant writing workshop and the archives bootcamp on conducting archival research during the pandemic. Both workshops prepare students for securing archival research funding and conducting their dissertation research.

Strakhova’s work included:

  • Adding video sessions with experts to the workshops to explore aspects of applying for grants, such as how to find collections and grants; examining the grant process; and why grant applications get rejected
  • Expanding the LibGuide on archive and library grants to include the video workshops and other relevant resources
  • Facilitating bootcamp discussions for Laney graduate students about the challenges of accessing materials from various archives during the pandemic, and what they can find online if an archive location is closed

“In the second grant session I suggested, which Gabrielle supported, the students workshopped their grant proposals so they can get some feedback and see what other people say about what they write,” Strakhova said, which was highly beneficial to the students.

For more information on the Emory Libraries/Laney Graduate School fellowships, please visit the Libraries fellowships employment webpage.