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Skidmore College
Center for Leadership, Teaching and Learning (CLTL)

Visual Literacy Forum—Project Vis

Mission Statement

Project Vis, a multi-year initiative sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, seeks to enhance the ability of faculty and students to create and understand visual media and to increase visual literacy throughout the campus community. Through Project VIS, funding from the Mellon Foundation supported the development of the John B. Moore Documentary Studies Collaborative (MDOCS) and the Program in Media and Film Studies, two central homes for visual studies on campus, as well as the Visual Literacy Forum, which supports visual literacy across campus through a range of workshops and programming.

In its final year of Mellon funding, Project Vis is excited to join the CLTL to support faculty work both inside and outside the classroom on visual material and visual literacy. Project Vis seeks to enhance the ability of faculty, staff, and students to create and understand visual media, and to increase visual literacy throughout the campus community.

Project Vis promotes:

  • a network for faculty teaching courses with visual content and otherwise engaged in visual studies
  • faculty and staff collaboration with external specialists to supplement our own expertise
  • partnerships with other institutions and organizations
  • faculty and staff development and student learning opportunities that build on existing strengths, to encourage and expand visual media and literacy
  • support for students as they transfer and apply their visual knowledge across courses and disciplines
  • the integration of visual literacy in the context of Skidmore’s Goals for Student Learning and Development
  • the development of a mechanism for assessing visual literacy

Steering Committee

  • Paul Benzon, Project Vis primary investigator; visiting assistant professor of English and media and film studies; and associate director, media and film studies
  • Jordana Dym, professor of history director of the Documentary Studies Collaborative
  • Kristie Ford, professor of sociology and director of the Center for Leadership, Teaching and Learning
  • Katie Hauser, associate professor of art history and director of the Media and Film Studies Program


Visual Literacy Mentoring for Course Development

As part of the Center for Leadership, Teaching, and Learning’s mission to promote excellence and innovation in teaching, Project VIS is offering a new form of support for course development around visual literacy this spring. We will be facilitating a program that pairs mentors experienced in visual literacy with faculty members who wish to revise an existing course to be taught in Fall 2018 in order to incorporate more visual literacy. In revising existing course offerings, faculty might seek to transform course design, assignments and assessment, lecture and discussion materials, and any and all other course components to make visual literacy a more central part of their teaching.

  • Faculty interested in serving as mentors should have experience teaching courses involving visual literacy, although they need not have been past recipients of Project VIS support for course development. By Friday, February 2, interested mentors should submit a statement of approximately one page to Paul Benzon ( outlining their experience with visual literacy in the classroom and what they might be able to offer as a visual literacy mentor to other faculty.
  • Faculty who would like to revise a course to be taught in Fall 2018 to incorporate deeper and more rigorous work with visual literacy should submit a statement of approximately one page to Paul Benzon ( by Friday, February 9 outlining the course they wish to revise, how they might transform it, what benefits and values these transformations might bring, and how a mentoring relationship might specifically help them to make these changes. With this statement, applicants should include a past (i.e., unrevised) syllabus for the course they wish to revise. Preference in the selection of mentees will be given to applicants who have not previously received support from Project VIS.

Mentors and mentees selected for the program will be paired according to individual experience and interests, and will be responsible for working together in several ways over the spring semester:

  • Attending a kickoff lunch to discuss common questions and goals and share sample course materials.
  • Meeting in assigned pairs at least three times over the spring semester to discuss specific elements of course development and the integration of visual literacy. After each meeting, each mentor and mentee will submit a short reflection on the conversation.
  • Attending an end-of-semester best practices event to discuss their work together.
  • Mentees will also submit a revised syllabus and/or other course materials for the revised course.
  • Upon completion of the mentoring program, mentors and mentees will each receive a $500 stipend.

Off-Campus Workshops and Training

Funding is available for off-campus training and workshops related to visual literacy. These funds are not for regular conferences but rather for training and workshops that will teach new skills in visual literacy and enhance new forms of understanding around visual material. Priority for this support will be given to applicants who have not previously attended such workshops.

  • Project VIS will support travel to the Visual Resources Association Foundation’s upcoming workshop entitled “Learning to Look and Looking to Learn: A Workshop on Visual Literacy,” to be held at the University of Kentucky, Lexington on March 2.
  • We also offer funding for other workshops on a case-by-case basis; if you find a promising opportunity, please contact Paul Benzon to discuss the possibility of support.


Lauren Klein, "Data Feminism"

Date: Monday, April 9
Time: 6:30 p.m
Location: Emerson Auditorium

With their ability to depict hundreds, thousands, and sometimes even millions of relationships at a single glance, visualizations of data can dazzle, inform, and persuade. It is precisely this power that makes it worth asking: "Visualization by whom? For whom? In whose interest? Informed by whose values?" These are some of the questions that emerge from what we call data feminism, a way of thinking about data and its visualization that is informed by the past several decades of feminist critical thought. Data feminism prompts questions about how, for instance, challenges to the male/female binary can also help challenge other binary and hierarchical classification systems. It encourages us to ask how the concept of invisible labor can help to expose the invisible forms of labor associated with data work. And it points to how an understanding of affective and embodied knowledge can help to expand the notion of what constitutes data and what does not. Using visualization as a starting point, this talk works backwards through the data-processing pipeline in order to show how a feminist approach to thinking about data not only exposes how power and privilege presently operate in visualization work, but also suggests how different design principles can help to mitigate inequality and work towards justice.


Project Vis works closely with the MDOCS DocLab to provide a range of support to faculty and staff projects incorporating visual material, including workshops and classroom support for visual media software, one-on-one consultations on video production and storytelling, and technical and institutional support and guidance for innovative courses incorporating visual media production.