[This was included in my application for my current degree, submitted in fall 2012.]
My academic background should provide ample evidence that I am well suited to postgraduate study: two master’s degrees, an honours BA and a PhD, all with grade-point averages in the A range. That background also raises an obvious question: why would someone with four post-secondary degrees want to seek another one? The answer isn’t hard to find: those four degrees are all in the humanities and social sciences, and they therefore do not make it easy to find employment.
I have been very fortunate to land a rewarding position in educational technology at BU, showing faculty how to use technology effectively in their classrooms. I received this position on the strength of my academic and pedagogical background, more than my technical background. I hope to earn an MS in computer science in order to improve that technical side of my formation. I have already done well at prerequisite courses in Java programming and discrete mathematics, as my letters of references should attest, and am now enrolled in computer architecture and (this fall) data structures.
There are two reasons why gaining a solid background in computer science is important to me. The first is simple and mundane: I want a reliable skill set to fall back on if my position is ever cut back. The second is more interesting to me, and I hope to you: my long-run hope is to move into the field of digital scholarship. I have seen firsthand the new horizons that emerging information technologies open up for scholarly work in the humanities and social sciences. Through my philosophical blog, now running for over three years on self-hosted WordPress, I have been able to make my ideas accessible to a wider audience than traditional academic channels ever could have, and have found myself a lively group of colleagues with whom to exchange ideas. This is a world I much prefer to traditional academic journals and their gatekeepers, and it would not have been possible to do fifteen years ago when I was an undergraduate.
But I believe that the blog has only scratched the surface. There’s so much more that digital technology has the potential to do for me as a scholar — and more importantly, for other scholars in the humanities and social sciences. In the long run, I want to work professionally on new and exciting digital projects that expand the potential of others’ research at least as much as my blog has expanded mine. My previous degrees have given me the training for the content side of such work. What I don’t have yet is the tech side.
That’s where the MS degree comes in. I want the kind of wide-ranging education in digital technologies — not just programming but databases, networking, mobile technology, cloud computing, operating systems — that will prepare me to work on the technical side of digital-scholarship projects, bridging the gap between the old-fashioned world of traditional scholarship and the new digital world that is coming into being.