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Tech Students Class Project On Death Penalty Aims Global

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Tech Students Class Project On Death Penalty Aims Global

A Tennessee Tech class project detailing death penalty data across the state could turn into a much broader project.

Associate History Professor Troy Smith said six students in his Digital Humanities class created a website compiling data on the state’s death penalty history. He said the site breaks down how many people are put to death per county, what crime they committed, and where they committed that crime. Smith said the students were awarded a grant from Tech’s Center for Rural Innovation to continue with their work.

“They blew me away with what they were able to do mostly working on their own, just in the second half of one semester,” Smith said. “And their work ethic, their creativity, and the way that they’re able to work together.”

He said the students are pursuing federal grant opportunities to expand the site into an intricate study of crime in rural Appalachia. He said entities from across the country and even across the globe could use the site as a template for understanding how crime works in rural areas.

Students at Tennessee Tech are using grant money to turn a class project into a global resource.

“You can get an overall view of the state and see where they all are,” Smith said. “And zoom in on a particular county, then zoom in on a crime and get all of the relevant statistics about the crime as well as a couple of new items about the crime. It’s pretty impressive.”

Smith chairs the committee that turned Digital Humanities into a new minor at Tech, and this was the first semester that the core class was offered. He said for this project, he acted as a government agency and students pitched project ideas as they would as professionals. He said at the semester’s conclusion, five of the six students involved with the project told him the potential for the project reaches far beyond the classroom.

“There really was no element of, ‘We’re going to support one side or the other, but rather, we’re going to provide all of the relevant facts so that people can look at them and decide for themselves,’” Smith said.

Samuel Harmann, Olivia Howell, Maggie Kinsley, Sabastian Mocza, April Riley, and Evan Ward all participated in the project.


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