Meet Our Team: Jay Brodeur and Andrea Zeffiro, SCDS Co-Directors

Meet Our Team: Jay Brodeur and Andrea Zeffiro, SCDS Co-Directors

Jay Brodeur and Andrea Zeffiro are the Sherman’s Centre’s Administrative Director and Academic Director. They do…well, everything. As Co-Directors, Jay and Andrea lead the Graduate Residency program, work to bring high-level digital resources to McMaster, enhance digital literacy and knowledge on campus, and more. Learn about our incredible Co-Directors in this super-sized Q&A.

JB: Most people are likely aware that you split your time between two roles: Faculty member in Communication Studies and Media Arts, and Academic Director of the Sherman Centre. What they may not know is what is involved in being the SCDS’s Academic Director. Take us through a week in your life in the Sherman Centre: What kinds of things do you work on and with whom do you collaborate? 

AZ: As Academic Director I administer, facilitate, manage, mentor, promote, champion, consult, and incite. More tangibly, a conventional week in the role has me collaborating with a core group of the Centre’s research associates, meeting with SCDS staff, brokering connections between researchers and staff, engaging with and mentoring graduate students, supervising the Centre’s postdoc, responding to emails, and attending a variety of meetings. The other things I work on in this role are more difficult to categorize, like identifying emerging trends and areas of research that challenge current digital scholarship norms and practices. Overall, these endeavours are slow-building and are often many months or years in the making. 

Collage of graduate resident portraits
Andrea Zeffiro is also the driving force behind the Graduate Residency, which supports graduate students pursuing innovative digital projects. 2023 Residents are pictured above.

AZ: Members of the campus community interface with you in different capacities because of the institutional initiatives you lead as Associate Director of Digital Scholarship Infrastructure and Services in the University Library. Tell us about the work of the Administrative Director, not only what you do, but more importantly, what you find most rewarding being in the role.  

JB: I think I’ll start with what’s rewarding, because that’s probably more interesting than my day-to-day activities! What’s most exciting and energizing to me is the opportunity to connect things—whether people, teams, services, or infrastructure—to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Within the Sherman Centre (and the Library, generally), we invest a lot of time building connections across campus with the belief that doing so creates opportunities for new ideas, collaborations, and relationships to emerge that are fulfilling to the people working on them and better for the users (whether faculty, staff, students, community members) who need them. I’m very proud of how the Sherman Centre has developed and adopted this philosophy and I think it has informed the way the Library approaches many of its institutional initiatives. And the best part of bringing people together is the opportunity to work with and learn from the diverse groups of incredibly talented and dedicated people. I end most of my days completely saturated with new information, which is incredibly satisfying and rewarding in and of itself.  

In terms of my day-to-day work, they are mostly spent establishing and supporting those connections, and making sure the Centre’s services, staff, and space have what they need to be successful. Honestly, it’s a lot of meetings and emails, though I occasionally find time for other rewarding activities like developing and delivering workshops and doing some hands-on project work. 

Computational Text analysis workshop poster
Jay Brodeur recently collaborated with SCDS Affiliate and Educational Developer Devon Mordell on a workshop on Computational Approaches to Text Prep and Analysis.

JB: As mentioned above, you wear two distinct “hats” at McMaster. How do you manage your time and effort between these positions? How does your work in one capacity inform, complement, or improve your work in the other (if at all)?  

AZ: Certainly, it helps to have some overlap between the roles in terms of research threads. In the last few years, I’ve collaborated with SCDS colleagues on the social media data ethics workshops and the development of a project questionnaire, the feminist data/AI module, a contribution to Where learning deeply matters: Reflections on the past, present, and future of teaching and McMaster University, and a report on interdisciplinary data competency training, which stemmed from a SSHRC-funded workshop series in collaboration with Spark: a centre for social innovation, and a contribution  

Nevertheless, there’s friction between the hats I wear. At the core of my research and teaching are questions about how scientific and technical knowledge is produced, distributed and utilized and how outcomes of this knowledge disproportionately impact people. So, my work is inherently critical of many tools and practices central to digital scholarship. Yet, as the academic director for the Sherman Centre, I advocate for integrating digital tools and approaches in research and teaching.   

Drone next to journal cover
For an example of Andrea’s research, read her recent co-authored article on surveillance capitalism and data breaches.

I harness this friction, for example, in considerations about training opportunities, resource provisioning and scalability in support of digital scholarship broadly and inclusively, rather than in the service of specific projects or research agendas. Surveying the scope of the projects from the Centre’s graduate residents exemplifies what we strive to do: have our community define digital scholarship through their work, observations and lived experiences. We don’t have one researcher or expert on campus whose work encapsulates what digital scholarship or digital humanities are or ought to be at McMaster. Instead, we have a flourishing and ever-evolving community of practitioners pushing the bounds of digital scholarship by continuously reimagining it.  

By extension, the core values of digital scholarship, like community and collaboration, are central to how I carry out my administrative responsibilities and engage in research and teaching. Whether in the context of the Sherman Centre, the classroom or my research team, I aim to center these critical perspectives and values. 

AZ: Jay, you also wear numerous hats at McMaster. You lead multiple teams and initiatives as Associate Director of Digital Scholarship Infrastructure and Services, serve as the Administrative Director for the Sherman Centre, and teach in the School of Interdisciplinary Science. What are some threads that weave together your roles and the work you do? 

JB: If there is a single throughline with the work of the Sherman Centre and initiatives like McMaster Experts, McMaster’s Research Data Management Institutional Strategy development, and the new Digital Research Commons Pilot, it’s the commitment to developing services and resources that improve research at the institution—for both researchers (of all types) and the many groups that support and administer their work. In my mind, we’re all rowing in the same direction and there are endless opportunities to learn from each other and work together to build an ecosystem of connected systems and services that make research better. 

I’m grateful that I can still find time to teach on top of all this–it’s a lot of fun to teach and learn from the bright and motivated students in the iSci Program. And it definitely helps me in my day job, too, as it keeps me in touch with those who use our services and provides insight into their knowledge of, needs and expectations for the support we offer in the Sherman Centre and the University Library.  

RDM Insitutional Strategy Logo
The RDM Institutional Strategy has been a major undertaking for the RDM team, under Jay’s management.

JB: The Sherman Centre has changed a lot over your tenure in terms of its activities, its prominence within and beyond McMaster, and the number of colleagues who work with and in it. Looking back, what are you most proud of? Looking forward, what excites you about the future of the Centre?  

AZ: There’s just so much to be proud of! Over the years, we’ve built a robust and innovative suite of digital scholarship services and programming, including the Centre’s three core workshops series, Do More with Digital Scholarship (DMDS), Data Analysis Support Hub (DASH) and Research Data Management. We’ve nurtured a community through the Centre, including 56 graduate residents, 5 talented postdocs (soon to be 6!), and a couple of hundred undergraduate students through 10 offerings of HUM 2DH3. We’ve mentored and trained numerous research associates and student assistants and collaborated with countless faculty, staff, and students on research projects and teaching and learning initiatives.  

I’m also incredibly proud of the present version of the Sherman Centre. It feels like in the blink of an eye the team exploded from 3 to over a dozen if we include the SCDS Affiliates. This was many years in the making, and it’s a dream to collaborate with a team of shockingly talented and generous people. The next few years will be seminal. I’m most excited to observe how we continue reimagining and transforming digital scholarship through our work.  

A promotional poster advertising the Winter 2020 session of "Introduction to Digital Humanities." The poster reads "New course available: HUM 2DH3 - Introduction to Digital Humanities - Explore digital storytelling tools - Work with archival collections - Learn digital project management - Create community-engaged narratives. Register now for Winter 2020." An image shows two students working together on a computer.
An advertisement for the Winter 2020 session of HUM2DH3

AZ: What about you, Jay? You have been involved with the Sherman Centre in different capacities since the Centre’s early years. What has stood out for you over the last decade? And what excites you about the future of the Sherman Centre? 

JB: I will start by echoing everything you’ve mentioned—I’m so impressed by what we’ve built together and excited to see what we can do with our current team! Reflecting on the earliest days of the Centre, we were a small group tasked with building a community and figuring out how to meet their needs. It was a slow and meandering process, and I don’t think it was until Paige Morgan (one of the earliest Postdocs) envisioned and coordinated the DMDS workshop series (it was called DeMystifying Digital Scholarship back then), that we started realizing how we can support a wide range of researchers and build a digital scholarship community at McMaster. It’s a model that we’ve continued to build upon to expand our community well beyond McMaster.

The Centre has also been incredibly fortunate to have excellent people leading and stewarding it over its history with the likes of Dale Askey, John Fink, and you! What excites me the most thinking about the future is the variety of established and emerging scholarship that we can support through the combined effort of all our talented colleagues. In the early days, we did a lot of learning on the fly; now, to the benefit of researchers, we have the luxury of grouping together staff to support research needs with a diversity of expertise and perspectives.  

Staff Collage
SCDS Staff, demonstrating the Centre’s increased complement.

JB: Finally, tell us something interesting or unexpected about yourself—your favorite TV show, a little-known hobby, a great recipe, whatever you like. 

AZ: I’m a classically trained pianist and taught piano for a while but fell out of regular practice during graduate school. Last winter, I was lamenting it to a friend. They surprised me with a mini keyboard synthesizer, and I’ve been making music here and there. What I’d like to do next is build a MIDI-controlled analog synthesizer. 

AZ: Ok, now it’s your turn to tell us about something interesting or unexpected about yourself. 

JB: Andrea, your musical skills are news to me, and I wish I had something equally impressive to share! I like to think of myself as Luke Wilson’s character in Idiocracy (who also worked in a Library, coincidentally)—not really exceptional at anything (though he had great hair and jawline!), but decently mediocre at whatever. I do have many useless and unexciting abilities, which mostly revolve around remembering unimportant pieces of information. If you’re headed to a 90s and 00s song lyric trivia contest, give me a call.  

Luke Wilson in a promotional image from Idiocracy photoshopped against a collage of 90s album covers
A rare photograph of Jay at trivia

JB: And finally finally, you’re about to be stranded on a deserted island with a Discman and a single CD from the 90s. What do you choose and why?  

AZ: This is a tricky question because, as you know, my love of 90s music is boundless. I choose Massive Attack’s debut, Blue Lines (1991). Every song on that album has a distinct vibe, though, Unfinished Sympathy remains a stand-out track because of Shara Nelson’s extraordinary vocals, an unmistakable drum pattern, and an orchestral section. The band’s members were very active in Bristol’s sound systems and street art scene (the rumour persists that Robert Del Naja is Banksy), and Blue Lines threads together all their experiences, influences, and cultural reference points. And I especially love that the legendary Neneh Cherry convinced them to record it and supported the band through the process.   

Massive Attack’s Blue Lines and street art by Banksy–made by the same person?

AZ: So, it’s 2000, and you just downloaded LimeWire on your Gateway2000 desktop computer. Which four songs do you queue before bed (and why), hoping they’ll all be downloaded by the time you wake up to make your 9:00 a.m. physics class? 

JB: Your attention to detail on this question is remarkable, though I was lucky enough to build my own Pentium II 350 MHz machine back then with…wait for it…15 GB of disk space! You’ve also managed to put the hardest question at the end—I always struggle to come up with favourite songs because they change by the day. I’ll do my best. 

Since I was on the campus network and thought I had enough storage space to hold the entire internet, I’m assuming that I would have been bold enough to download some long songs with copious instrumental interludes. I might be cheating a little bit by downloading songs I wouldn’t have heard of until a bit later than first term in 2000, but here it goes:  

  • The Cedar Room by Doves from the album Lost Souls 
  • Sinnerman by Nina Simone from Pastel Blues 
  • Middle East by The Watchmen from In the Trees 
  • The Great Gig in the Sky by Pink Floyd from Pulse   
album covers of Lost Souls by Doves, Pastel Blues by Nina Simone, In the Trees by The Watchmen, and Pulse by Pink Floyd
Jay’s playlist!

Thanks for telling us more about your work, Jay and Andrea! Learn more about Jay and Andrea through their McMaster Experts profiles. Contact Jay directly at and Andrea at

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