Recent alumna Alyssa Baer shares her story and advice for students interested in the Digital Humanities program.
Graduating at the top of her class, alumna Alyssa Baer proved herself as an accomplished student through her work in the public health major and her minor in digital humanities and technology. Her many accomplishments during her undergraduate career earned her widespread recognition and the honor of being a student speaker at BYU's 2021 commencement.
Baer received recognition as a Ballard Scholar for Social Impact and the 2020 BYU Health Promotion Student of the Year. She committed herself to research and service opportunities during her time at BYU, especially through her many leadership positions at BYU’s Center for Service and Learning. Baer travelled to Zambia, Africa, as part of a program evaluation internship with a local non-profit organization called Mothers Without Borders. She also wrote her thesis for the BYU Honors Program based on her experiences and work there.
We sat down with Alyssa to talk about her experience in the Digital Humanities program, her advice for students interested in combining their passions into an undergraduate degree, and her plans for the future now that she's graduated.
Q: What made you decide to get a minor in digital humanities?
A: "I grew up immersed in the arts and have always loved having a creative outlet. In high school, I took a few graphics classes and enjoyed working with Adobe products. When I started at BYU, I gravitated toward the public health major and knew that’s where I wanted to be—but I also wanted to add some creativity back into my day. I've appreciated working in disciplines that were so different from one another and finding how they can work together. I found that as I learned design, coding, etc., I was better able to convey health information and promote community programs in my major projects. The digital humanities minor was a good fit because it focused so heavily on developing the technical skills I was wanting to learn."
Q: How have the skills you gained from digital humanities applied to your career or work experience?
A: "In almost all of my digital humanities classes, I was the black sheep—the life sciences major in a humanities college. So for a lot of my class projects, there wasn’t a direct application to my career. However, in my first class in the minor, I started to work with the professor more—bringing in projects I was doing in my public health classes and internships to learn how I could apply the same skills and techniques to different subject matter. Taking that initiative in that first class really set a foundation for finding applications outside of class to connect my major and minor. For the past almost three years, I’ve been interning—and now working—for a nonprofit organization called Mothers Without Borders. I came into the organization at a unique point where they were experiencing extreme growth but didn’t have a staffed graphic or web designer. I had the chance to bring together my knowledge of program planning/evaluation and my knowledge of print/web publishing to help fill that gap. Since coming on, I’ve created the organization’s first professionally printed annual report as well as flyers, mailers, webpages, stickers, etc. For me so much of my minor focused on finding ways to communicate information through technical skills—I just chose to apply it to the nonprofit/social impact sector."
Q: What was the most important thing you learned from your experience in the Digital Humanities program?
A: "I would say there were two things that I’d deem 'most important': 1. The importance of interdisciplinary work. There were many times that being in the minor was challenging—I found I thought about and approached questions very differently from the humanities lens, which was frustrating. I am really grateful for that experience though. It pushed me to consider other viewpoints, produce a variety of projects, and see how working with multiple disciplines can strengthen our ability to reach our audience and instigate change. 2. The importance of intentionality. Taking classes that focused on such detailed work helped me to develop a critical eye and to see how important it is to be intentional about how and why we go about the way we convey information. I’ve really enjoyed bringing a more intentional mindset into the projects I work on!"
Q: What would you recommend for students who are considering joining or are already in the Digital Humanities program?
A: "I would recommend going beyond the assignments in the classroom and actively applying the skills to your other classes, internships, and jobs. Some of the most beneficial experiences I had was solidifying those skills by actively using them as I learned them. I would volunteer to take the 'design' aspect of other class projects so that I could practice and learn how to apply those skills to a range of projects and audiences."
Q: What are your plans for the future now that you're graduated?
A: "This summer I’m enjoying a short break from school while I work full time for that same nonprofit—Mothers Without Borders. I oversee the evaluation of our programs on the ground by designing data collection tools, collecting and analyzing data, and reporting on our findings to recommend future growth and improvement. I’ll be traveling to Zambia this summer to help roll out some of these projects. I am also continuing to heavily support the organization’s brand and graphic design. In the fall, I’ll be beginning my Master of Public Health with a concentration in Maternal and Child Health at The George Washington University in Washington, DC. I’m hoping to focus on community program development and evaluations supporting women and children (both locally and internally), and I hope to add on public administration, business, and design electives throughout my program."
To learn more about the digital humanities minor, click here.