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August 2017


Dear Abbot Pennings,

What is the digital commons?

Nicole (Dunbar) Poley ’14


Dearest Nicole,

I am so glad that others besides myself find aspects of this digital age to be perplexing! My dear, when I first learned that the college was intending to share its intellectual riches via such a thing as a digital commons, I imagined that it would be similarly beyond my understanding, nurtured as I was in the age of pen and ink.

But as my dear friends at the library kindly revealed to me the mysteries of this new repository, my quickening interest outpaced my trepidation. Indeed, this new way of sharing the scholarly and creative work of our institution seems positively Norbertine. At the heart of this initiative lies nothing less than generosity, collaboration and international reach. Knowledge is spreading around the world in just the same way as our own dear Norbertine order grew. Just as the order planted new communities, so our digital commons plants new ideas.

I am told that the Digital Commons @St. Norbert College showcases the intellectual excellence of the college by curating and sharing content that includes faculty and student research; “open education resources” – valuable materials for all teachers and students; and official campus documents. You can imagine how delighted I am to learn that it is also a fine means of sharing the archival material that draws both from our dear college’s history and its treasured Norbertine heritage. Our staff assures me that the commons provides a platform (do you see how I begin to understand the terminology!) in which the scholarly and creative output of the college is more readily available and accessible for the greater and enduring good.

My dear Nicole, I have become so emboldened as to explore the commons for myself. Bless my soul, there have been whole afternoons in which I have quite lost myself amongst its offerings. I do encourage you to try it for yourself!

What a marvelous world we do live in, to be sure – a world unimaginable in my youth, where the remarkable work of our faculty, staff and students can be stored for the ages and, what is more, where these works of scholarship can be so freely made available to our fellow scholars around the world.

Responses to “Ask the Abbot” questions are penned by St. Norbert College staff in the name of Abbot Bernard Pennings, O.Praem., who founded St. Norbert College in 1898. 

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