Connection Established examines university teaching, life, and governance during the COVID-19 pandemic. In an interactive digital story, it asks users to make choices that engage issues of equity, accessibility, and mental health. And in an accompanying manifesto it urges a whole-person approach to teaching, learning, and labor.

Project History

Connection Established was created by the tenth cohort of Praxis Fellows during the 2020-2021 academic year.

This year’s Praxis team members know one another as faces on computer screens, kind WhatsApp messages, and pings on Slack. We know one another’s pets and we’ve seen inside one another’s homes, but we haven’t met one another in person. This is because, like many UVA students, staff, and faculty, we have met remotely on Zoom during the 2020-2021 academic year. For this reason, we’ve been intentional about building community among ourselves and outlining how we want to work together. Our charter is a reflection of our commitments to integrity, community, equity, and play. Connection Established, similarly, grew out of these commitments, as well as our ever-present concern for the broader university community. We are anxious for each other and ourselves, and beyond this, there is grief everywhere we turn, even if we have not yet been able to acknowledge it fully. So we respond with kindness and intentionality. We respond with this project.

Connection Established is inspired by the digital teaching and learning practices that became necessary after the University of Virginia announced that it would be moving all classes online on March 11, 2020. Connection Established is also inspired by the work of Cait S. Kirby, whose game September 7, 2020 explores many of the themes that are central to this project. The COVID-19 pandemic pivots on individual days – on the painful disruption of knowing that, in the space of 24 hours, our lives can change drastically. We bring this knowledge of a day’s impact to this project and ask that you, too, consider the magnitude of a single day.

Our project website makes ample use of the handwriting and illustrations of praxis fellows:

This is Emma’s handwriting.

This is Elise’s handwriting.

This is Crystal’s handwriting

This is Savanna’s handwriting.

This is Grace’s handwriting.

And this is Aaron’s handwriting.

We wanted the project to feel handcrafted, because it is – Connection Established is shaped by the hands, intentions, experiences, and biases of its makers. While we remain remote from each other, we extend our hands to each other and to you.

Project Goals

The goals of Connection Established are to:

  • Create empathy-driven community
  • Compel action and decision-making
  • Remind each visitor to this site of our interconnectedness


The 2020-2021 Praxis Fellows are Grace Alvino, Emma Dove, Elise Foote, Crystal Luo, Savanna Morrison, and Aaron Thompson.

Grace Alvino helped write and edit Connection Established’s story and drew many of the illustrations you see on this site. She is a Ph.D. student in the English department.

Emma Dove helped develop the website, worked on making the project’s story in Twine, and made stickers from other talented folks’ illustrations. She is a Ph.D. student in the joint program in Art & Architectural History.

Elise Foote helped develop the website, worked on making the project’s story in Twine, and often kept beautiful notes during group meetings. She is a Ph.D. student in the English department.

Crystal Luo penned the manifesto, drew many of the illustrations you see on this site (including the animation on its home page), and pushed us all to think more deeply about equity and labor. She is a Ph.D. student in the History department.

Savanna Morrison helped write and edit Connection Established’s story, drew many of the illustrations you see on this site, helped ensure the project’s accessibility, and pushed us all to center unknowing and contemplative pedagogy. She is a Ph.D. student in the Music department.

Aaron Thompson gathered the data that underpins this project and led the way on making the project’s story in Twine. His cat, Lev, also helped. He is a Ph.D. student in the Slavic Languages and Literatures department.


Connection Established was made possible by the tireless efforts and unyielding support of the Scholars’ Lab faculty and staff, and the faculty and staff of the broader UVA Library. Special thanks in particular to:

Brandon Walsh, for your constant encouragement and mentorship, for leading the Praxis Program in healthy directions, and for caring so deeply about pedagogy.

Shane Lin, for sharing your boundless knowledge of DH history and praxis, for your sense of humor, for helping us host movie nights on Discord, and for sharing many excellent pictures of Hazel.

Jeremy Boggs, for centering accessibility and care for others in your design thinking and teaching, and for being an excellent Dungeons and Dragons Master.

Amanda Visconti, for generously sharing Maple with us on Zoom meetings, for modeling healthy and equitable leadership, and for sharing knowledge and events with us generously.

Ronda Grizzle, for leading conversations that helped us form bonds as a group, for helping us ground our charter in our shared values, and for sharing your vast knowledge of project management.

Arin Bennett, for sharing your expertise on augmented and virtual reality with us, and for helping us understand what was possible (and what wasn’t – yet!)

Ammon Shepherd, for teaching us about all of the great work that Makerspace does.

Drew MacQueen, for sharing your vast knowledge of mapping with us, and for writing a beautiful blog post that led the way for us to start blogging, too.

Will Rourk, for sharing your expertise in 3D data and virtual objects with us. We hope to put the knowledge you shared to good use in the next iteration of Connection Established.

Laura Miller, for sharing insights on budgets and management with us.

Alison Booth, for generously sharing your knowledge of textual DH methods and disciplines with us.

Brandon Butler, for teaching us about intellectual property, copyright, licensing, and user privacy – and making it fun!

Lauren Work, for teaching us about project sustainability (and how to enable closed captioning while presenting using Google Slides)!

Connection Established also benefited greatly from the input of:

Jason Bennett. Thank you for sharing your knowledge of Twine and interactive fiction with us.

Mackenzie Brooks. Thank you for sharing your experience in developing the Digital Humanities at Washington and Lee University.

Jackie Huband. Thank you for your technical support and helping to facilitate the data processing for the project.

Katina Rogers and Cihan Tekay. Thank you for giving us hope for the future of the academy, and for reminding us that we all have levers we can pull.

Catherine DeRose. Thank you for generously sharing your time and insights about the Yale Digital Humanities Teaching Fellowship curriculum with us.

Trina Hyun, Denise Lim, Gavi Levy Haskell, Emily Yankowitz, Helen Yang, and Micah Siegel, Yale Digital Humanities Teaching Fellows. Thank you for so kindly sharing your experiences in integrating DH methods in classroom settings.

The Scholars' Lab

The Scholars’ Lab was established in 2006 by the University of Virginia Library as a site for the practice of experimental scholarship in all fields informed by digital humanities, spatial technologies, and cultural heritage thinking. The Scholars’ Lab is a place where faculty and students can explore digital resources, find expert help, and collaborate on innovative research projects. The SLab also hosts events such as workshops, talks, and roundtables, and sponsors the Praxis Program and the Digital Humanities Fellows Program.

The Praxis Program

Each year, the Scholars’ Lab funds a cohort of doctoral students from across the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences to serve as Praxis Fellows for the academic year. During the fall semester, fellows receive training in digital methods and tools and collaborative project management. During the spring semester, fellows conceive, develop, publish, and promote a digital project. This year, the Scholars’ Lab charged the Praxis Fellows with creating a project focused on digital pedagogy.

The Praxis Program operates in a spirit of open-source development. We have therefore made all of our files and source code available on GitHub. Connection Established is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0, so feel free to share and adapt the project with attribution if used for non-commercial purposes.