Foundation system

USM receives National Science Foundation grant for Project Mapping Freedom’, funding 30 undergraduate students

A digital humanities project at the University of Southern Mississippi has received a grant from the National Science Foundation that will allow 30 students to live and work in Hattiesburg for three summers to map the granular process of emancipation in Mississippi during the Civil War and through the Reconstruction period to visualize the journeys of liberated people to citizenship.

The project, titled “Mapping Freedom”, combines digital humanities with science, technology, engineering and math by focusing on the use of mapping technology, including Geographic Information System (GIS) .

The $352,596 Site Grant for Research Experiences for NSF Undergraduates allows for an eight-week paid research experience ($600 per week + $250 per person travel), in addition to the housing and meals provided, for 10 undergraduate humanities students from any Mississippi school beginning summer 2023 and continuing through summer 2025.

“We are fortunate to host this REU at a university that is so supportive of the collaborative research that defines the digital humanities,” said Dr. Susannah Ural, project leader and director of USM’s Center for Digital Humanities. “My colleagues and I are excited to begin working with undergraduate students across the region and are grateful to the NSF for the support that makes this possible.

Although “Mapping Freedom” is a stand-alone project, it is an extension of Dr. Ural’s “Civil War and Reconstruction Governors of Mississippi” digital documentary project which digitizes over 20,000 letters written to governors of Mississippi during the period civil war and reconstruction.

At least half of the students working on this research will be from underrepresented groups across Mississippi, including racial and gender minorities, first-generation college students, veterans, or other minority groups. There is evidence that disadvantaged students are more likely to enter and stay in science and engineering fields if their first interaction is with material they recognize and find socially significant.

In addition to the Urals, other project leaders include co-PI Dr. Beddhu Murali, associate professor of computer science; Elizabeth La Beaud, Digital Lab Manager and Deputy Director of the Mississippi Digital Library; and Dr. Joslyn Zale, research associate and head of USM’s Certified Sport Security Professional program.

Learn more about “Mapping Freedom” or submit an application at