New Hire to be Core Participant of Critical Diversity in Digital Age Initiative

Sharon Leon has accepted a position as Associate Professor in the Department of History in MSU’s College of Social Science and will be a core participant in the College of Arts & Letters’ Critical Diversity in a Digital Age Initiative. Her employment is effective August 16, 2017.

Sharon Leon
Dr. Sharon Leon

“I'm looking forward to teaching digital history and working with the great team that is forming at MSU. This exciting group will have the opportunity to research, write, build, and teach in the spirit of openness and collaboration that has become central to my understanding of what is core to moving the digital humanities forward,” Leon said. “I anxiously await the work that we will do together, focusing on using digital methods in just, critical, and intersectional ways to answer important questions about the past.”

The goal of the Critical Diversity in a Digital Age initiative is to advance the recognized strengths of Michigan State University in the digital arts and humanities through a focus on questions of race, inclusion, cultural preservation, global interconnectedness, and engaged scholarship.

“In collaboration with MSU College of Social Science Dean Rachel Croson, we are pleased to welcome Dr. Leon to the Michigan State University faculty. Sharon brings 13 years of experience in transformative public DH work at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media with her to MSU,” said Christopher P. Long, Dean of the College of Arts & Letters. “That experience and her national profile as a leading digital historian will help shape our efforts to advance engaged scholarship in Critical Diversity in a Digital Age, an initiative rooted in the imaginative spirit of collaboration Sharon's work has long embodied.”

As part of the Critical Diversity in a Digital Age initiative, Leon will develop research programs and curricula and seek external funding focused on digital theory and practice and issues of social justice with regard to race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, and religion.

“Having the opportunity to join a creative group of scholars who are invested in using digital methods in the service of doing critical, intersectional scholarship is very exciting,” Leon said. “I am particularly encouraged by institutional commitment that Michigan State University has made to supporting this work, which demonstrates that the University really prioritizes human-centered, open, collaborative digital scholarship.”

Leon comes to MSU from George Mason University where she currently serves as Associate Professor of Digital History and the Director of Public Projects at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (RRCHNM).

At RRCHNM, she oversees collaborations with library, museum, and archive partners from around the country. She directs the center's digital exhibit and archiving projects as well as research and tool development for public history, including the Omeka family of projects.

During her time at RRCHNM, Leon has worked on 36 projects supported by 19 different public and private funders, including the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Getty Foundation, and Institute of Museum and Library Services National Leadership Grant for Libraries.

“After many years of managing platform and software development for the digital humanities, I am looking forward to sharing and collaborating with committed faculty, students, and staff as I focus my current research on slavery and religion, and digital public history more broadly,” she said.

Leon received an NEH-Mellon Fellowship for Digital Publication for the 2017-2018 academic year and will use that to continue her work on two projects on digital public history and slavery in Maryland. The projects are titled: “Re-Presenting the Enslaved Community Owned and Sold by the Maryland Province Jesuits” and “User-Centered Digital History: Doing Public History on the Web.”

“The History Department is thrilled that Sharon will be joining our department and participating in cross-college initiatives at MSU,” said Walter Hawthorne, Chair of the Department of History. “Sharon holds a place among the best digital historians in the world. She will solidify our reputation as the best program nationally for digital history, contribute to our digital teaching lab, and advance the agenda of our partners in Matrix, MSU's digital social science and humanities center.”

Leon has a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Minnesota and is widely published. Her first book, An Image of God: the Catholic Struggle with Eugenics, was published in May.