Scholars look to enhance learning with tech

The HASTAC Scholars fellowship program has chosen three students to be a part of their program. Luis Alicea, Ashley Wilson and Robert Del Mauro will present their research proposals on April 11 in Space 154 of the Walsh Library.

The Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory (HASTAC) is an organization seeking to find inventive ways to introduce teaching and learning methods to students. The program is highly selective. According to the Seton Hall website, the program has inducted 800 students, globally, since it began in 2009.

Cody Dunn/Staff Photographer

Dr. Mary Balkun, chair of the English department, and Dr. Marta Deyrup, head of technical services at the Walsh Library, are co-chairs of the Digital Humanities committee and are credited with introducing the HASTAC opportunity to campus.

Deyrup and Balkun had been talking about the need for a collaborative, inclusive digital humanities program, which led to the establishment of the Digital Humanities Committee. They had then sent out an announcement for the opportunity to work with Digital Humanities and the HASTAC Scholars program; those who wanted to apply had to submit a project proposal.

Ashley Wilson is in the first year of her master’s degree in strategic communication. Her project focuses on how virtual reality can alter the way people in different cultures perceive others. With the help of Dr. Renee Robinson, professor of communication, Wilson said she hopes participants will learn more about people, cultures and biases by meeting new people and opening themselves to discussions.

Her inspiration to focus on diversity and inclusion lies with social media bringing transparency to many issues on race, gender, social class and sexual orientation. With such problems coming to light, Wilson said she believes it is important for institutions to help fix these problems.

She said there have been so many incidents where organizations haven’t been aware of cultural insensitivities and end up creating conflicts.
Wilson said she hopes that attendees can see that technology is one of the safest ways to accomplish goals.

“If we can just understand what makes each other unique and embrace differences from what we’re used to, then we can move forward and accomplish change for our communities and society as a whole,” she said.

Luis Alicea is a third year graduate student pursuing his Ph.D. in organic chemistry. His research proposal involves combining hip hop with science, which he is working on with his advisor, the chair of the department of chemistry and biochemistry, Dr. Cecilia Marzabadi.

He was introduced to the concept by his mentor at Columbia University, Dr. Christopher Emdin. Alicea had taken a class on hip hop and science with Emdin, and then decided to incorporate the clever fusion into the classroom.

He explained that his project involves taking songs by various rap artists, and creating science-related lyrics. The students would cipher, or create rhymes, based on science content.

“A lot of students are into the hip hop culture,” Alicea said. “The way that you are going to relate to them in the classroom is relating to them through music.”

According to Alicea, the integration of hip hop and science is unique, and not a lot of research has been published about the two together.
“There is a lot of pedagogy on how to teach science, but not a lot of pedagogy on how to teach science with hip hop,” he said.

He will be re-implementing his research this summer in the Upward Bound program, where he teaches science courses to high school students. Overall, Alicea said he hopes that his students take pride in what they learn. To him, hip hop lyrics are a form of poetry, and are a fresh way for students to learn material according to the latest trend.

Kristel Domingo can be reached at

Author: Kristel Domingo

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