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Sample Cover Letter to R1 University

X College Letterhead

October 1, 2014

Chair, Digital Studies and Social Justice Search Committee American Culture
R1 University
123 Street
City State Zip

Dear Chair of the Search Committee,

I am pleased to submit my application for the position of Assistant Professor of Digital Studies and Social Justice in the Department of American Culture and Residential College at the R1 University. I am a cultural geographer engaged in research on the digital and urban dimensions of queer spaces. My doctorate in [Program] informs my critical approach to American studies, which is grounded in the humanistic social sciences with an emphasis on social justice. I believe that my teaching and research, focused on digital studies and methods, queer theory, and gender and LGBTQ studies, will complement the goals of your department.

My own work challenges the notion of the oppressed as invisible by demonstrating alternative ways that marginalized groups produce and sustain social spaces in urban and digital environments. I have done this through 22 publications: 10 peer-reviewed articles and 5 book chapters published to date, and the co-edited, interdisciplinary volume, [title]. Based on research from my dissertation, my current book project is [title]. It is a historical geography of contemporary lesbian and queer society and economies in New York City, drawing upon in- person and online mixed methods with lesbians and queer women, and archival research spanning the same period. Rather than taking the traditional approach to LGBTQ spaces as merely bars, neighborhoods, and cities, I put forward new theoretical arguments around the production of queer urban space foremost through the space of the body. This theoretical contribution to American studies affords a way to argue against labeling these women as “invisible” while challenging visibility politics as the best solution for securing justice in the city. Portions of this project are forthcoming in Journal 1 [URL] and Journal 2 [URL]. Academic presses at Duke and Columbia, among others, have expressed interest in reviewing the book, which I will complete this spring.

My new research project, [title], extends this earlier research into GIS and geoweb mapping techniques and other data visualizations. The [TITLE] emerged from  over 3,000 NYC-based places that I collected and mapped from archives of lesbian-queer organizational records and media publications spanning 25 years. To my knowledge, each dataset is the largest of its kind in existence and the only “big data” available on LGBTQ urban spaces. The range and breadth of these data inform my design of the participatory, interactive [title] web-interface in which LGBTQ people can share their stories online in their own words and images. The [TITLE] will be a unique contribution to community planning efforts in cities across the US, and I will continue to analyze this dataset as it grows in order to publish findings with academic audiences. For an in-progress glimpse into the project, see [URL]. My interest in queer digital studies led me to organize, with [name], the [Workshop] at W University in association with the Smith Institute for Media, the first gathering on this topic from which new networks, projects, and ideas continue to grow. Given my strong record of publication and the focus of my work on how digital cultures can reflect and affect inequalities, I am confident that I can make significant contributions to R1 University ’s innovative research program.

Like my research, my teaching is inspired by a humanistic social science perspective that applies theoretical concepts to real world issues, using the actual practice of research to bridge the gap between urban, digital, and classroom environments. As a member of a new initiative of [Studies] at X College, I collaborated on digital humanities courses, while developing an interdisciplinary approach to studying digital society in a liberal arts environment. In my course Digital Societies, students work in groups of interrelated interests and then individually scrape data on a social justice hashtag of their choice, including topics such as #hashtag1, #hashtag2, #hashtag3, #hashtag4, and #hashtag5. The curriculum I developed bridges cutting-edge debates on topics such as privacy and surveillance to processes of gathering, cleaning, and organizing social media data. I and my co-instructor then guide students to produce data visualizations in applying spatial, statistical, and network analysis software to their data. Students draw upon critical theoretical approaches to new media and society to develop arguments from their graphs and maps. For the outcomes of the students’ work, see [URL]. My students comment that they are excited to learn about the social sciences in ways that connect to the material and digital spaces of their everyday lives. As with all of my teaching, this course extends students’ abilities to critically examine the social structures that inhibit and enhance social justice in urban and digital spaces.

I have had the opportunity to involve myself in the daily life of a leading undergraduate institution like the Residential College and a cutting-edge graduate program like American Culture. These experiences have allowed me the chance to get to know and mentor my undergraduate and graduate students and graduate peers as individual scholars with their own passions, intellectual investments, and insights into the issues we study together. My range of teaching experiences have prepared me to lead courses on American studies, digital studies, urban studies, social stratification, and LGBTQ studies. At R1 University , I would be enthusiastic to teach in any of these areas as needed, and to develop new courses for American Culture and the Residential College, as part of the Semester in [City] program as well as those that support the college’s relationship with nearby communities.

As a scholar whose work draws heavily on both digital studies and studies in the material world, I believe strongly in the importance of meaningful engagement across disciplinary boundaries to work toward social justice. The panels I have organized at major conferences and talks given with diverse programs reflect this commitment. These include my upcoming talk in [Program] at Y University; and recent talk in the [Program] at Q University and consistent participation in the American Studies Association meetings. This dedication also emerges in my work organizing on-campus events with students such as hackathons, which bring professors and students together in an informal space to work on all things data. Furthermore, I see teaching and research as a practice of public engagement. As one of 18 invited scholars, I helped to launch the US LGBT Advisory Council of [Government Agency] that offers direction for the selection of future national LGBTQ historic monuments. These have been galvanizing experiences for me, both as a teacher and as a scholar. I look forward to being a part of a warm and engaged community that also extends its research to the public.

I would be honored to both lead and learn as Assistant Professor and join the community of scholars at R1 University where I can grow as a tenured faculty member. Please let me know if you would like any further information. Thank you for your consideration of my application.