XA Student Finds Her Passion Through the Digital Scholarship Lab

Woman wearing a white shirt speaking into a microphone

As the first-ever intern for MSU’s Digital Scholarship Lab (DSL), Erin Campbell, a senior Experience Architecture major with minors in Spanish and Digital Humanities, had the opportunity to research a topic of her choice and use the technology provided by the lab to put together a public presentation on the topic.

Throughout her semester-long internship, which Campbell completed in Fall 2018, she chose to research human trafficking and was responsible for organizing an event to showcase this research using DSL resources.

“I had never taken a look into human trafficking research before last semester. It was something I had always wanted to research but had never done,” Campbell said. “It took hours upon hours of research and looking at data, which is all over the place because of how complex the issue is. I spent about a month doing research, and at the end of the month, I decided that the best place to start addressing the issue of human trafficking was to raise awareness in a way that would uniquely impact people.”

The DSL internship was the biggest blessing because I fell in love with the process of researching and bringing awareness to human trafficking.


What resulted was “Hidden in Plain Sight,” an event organized by Campbell and held at the Digital Scholarship Lab on January 18. The event included a multimedia experience and a panel presentation on the topic of human trafficking.

“This project is such a great example of the work that an undergrad can do through College of Arts & Letters curricular programs and in collaboration with the Libraries,” said Kristen Mapes, Assistant Director of Digital Humanities.

Through her work at the DSL, Campbell connected with a network of local anti-trafficking activists – Dr. LaClaire Bouknight, Founder of Lansing Dreamcenter and Chairman at Capital Area Anti-trafficking Alliance; Jane White, Director of Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force; and Mindy Osantowski, survivor and founder of Angels of Healing – who were all part of the panel presentation at the “Hidden in Plain Sight” event.

Four women sit in front of microphones. A woman with a cheetah print cardigan is talking
Pictured from left to right: Erin Campbell, Mindy Osantowski, Dr. LaClaire Bouknight,
and Jane White at the “Hidden in Plain Sight” event.
(Photo courtesy of the Michigan State University Libraries)

“The speakers that came to talk, their careers revolve around trafficking awareness. To be able to connect with them was incredible because now I have people in the area that know I’m passionate about the issue,” Campbell said. “It was also interesting because most of the speakers didn’t know about the technology at the DSL and noted how much it could help with outreach.”

During the event, Campbell used the DSL’s 360-degree visualization room, where she projected a sequence of colors that represented changing scenes in a performance about a young girl being trafficked.

The DSL offers space to explore different ways to integrate technology with research. The 10,000-square-foot lab opened one year ago this month and is the result of a partnership between MSU Libraries and the College of Arts & Letters. The DSL includes a 360-degree immersive visualization room, a room for working with virtual reality headsets and software, and computers equipped with Adobe Creative Cloud and Oculus for design along with mapping, coding, and other software to build 3D environments.

I hope to work for an anti-trafficking organization, which is something I had never considered before my internship at the DSL.


“It’s amazing to see technology being used for such a great purpose and bringing people together to talk about hard issues,” Campbell said. “It’s rewarding to see people immerse themselves in something that’s hard to talk about, to see them cultivate empathy and compassion towards trafficking victims, and to use that to motivate people to want to enact change.”

The “Hidden in Plain Sight” event also included a performance by MSU dancer Katie Knapp, choreographer Jordan Lampton, and actor Michael Temple.

“I read a few articles on how performance art helps people develop empathy for an issue and understand the nature of it better,” Campbell said. “I started pursuing that a bit more because of the DSL’s technology, like virtual reality and the 360 room, that allows people to immerse themselves into an issue.”

Man standing in front of a red background tying a woman's hair up
Michael Temple and Katie Knapp at the “Hidden in Plain Sight” event. 
(Photo courtesy of the Michigan State University Libraries)

Prior to her DSL internship, Campbell was searching for an opportunity to fulfill the experiential component of the Digital Humanities minor in a way that included social justice. After meeting with Mapes, Campbell was accepted as the DSL’s first intern and her internship project has ignited in her a passion she was searching for during her time at MSU.

“This is the first project that I’ve done that I was in love with at MSU. I felt a genuine passion for what I was working on,” Campbell said. “I’m graduating in May, and last year I was still figuring out what I was passionate about. The DSL internship was the biggest blessing because I fell in love with the process of researching and bringing awareness to human trafficking. Professionally, that’s my track now. After college, I plan to do a year of mission work overseas. After that, I hope to work for an anti-trafficking organization, which is something I had never considered before my internship at the DSL.”

(Photo at the top of the story courtesy of the Michigan State University Libraries)

Written by Annie Dubois