Earlier today I did a mini-webinar on academic web presence with the American Studies Graduate Students Association at Purdue. It was great to talk to colleagues outside of my usual academic communities about why it is so important to be visible on the internet. Here are some of the main points from the discussion:
What comes up when I Google myself? Put your name in quotes, your department name (e.g. American Studies) and current academic institution (e.g. Purdue) into the Google search bar. What pops up on the first page? Your Facebook profile? Your soccer stats from college? A news story about someone with your same name who did something really bad or really embarrassing?
What should pop up, ideally, is something about you as a professional. Something that ties your name to your department and institution, and ideally also says something about your research interests and outputs. This could be a standalone professional website (like this one), a page on your department’s website, your Google Scholar page, or a profile on a network like Academia.edu or LinkedIn. Ideally, it would have a clear, recent photo of you, as well.
Why is this important? At the UCLA Undergraduate Research Center, I spend a lot of my time talking to students about how to find faculty members to guide them through individual research projects. I give them the same spiel every time:
Start with the department websites. Click on “faculty.” There you’ll find a list of all the faculty in the department. You’ll see their research interests and a list of recent publications. Looking through that information can help you figure out who would be a good intellectual fit for you.
The same applies to us as graduate students. There are many reasons why people would try to find out more about you:
If they want to hire you, they will Google you.
If they want to invite you to join a conference panel, they will Google you.
If they want to collaborate you on research, they will Google you.
If they want you as an expert voice in a news story, they will Google you.
If they want to go on a date with you, they will (probably) Google you.
It is in your best interest to give all of these interested audiences the information that they need as quickly as possible.
Last summer, I developed the syllabus for the academic professionalization course that is at the core of the program. Now, I get to teach the workshops that I designed. The juniors are learning about the structure of academic careers, while the seniors are working on elevator pitches about their thesis projects. Next quarter, we’re preparing both cohorts to present their research at UCLA’s Undergraduate Research Week.
I have recently returned from the International Metropolis Conference in Milan, a week-long gathering to talk about the challenges and opportunities of international migration. Unlike most of the conferences that I’ve attended in my academic career so far, most of the attendees were not university-based researchers. Delegates came from various world governments, global NGOs, private sector businesses, and small non-profits. On the first day, for example, I went on a tour of the migrant neighborhood of Via Padova with several Southeast Asian bureaucrats, a representative from a Europe-based intergovernmental organization, and a puppeteer working with refugee children in the Middle East.
I was initially attracted to the conference because the mix of delegates seemed to open up possibilities for dialogue across sectors. While many social scientists (and social science funding bodies) want their research to influence policymaking and advocacy work, there are structural barriers to making that happen. A team of Australian researchers has argued that the incentive structures of academia don’t put much emphasis on disseminating research to broader audiences. On the other side of the equation, policymakers say that they don’t hear from researchers enough and don’t have strong professional relationships with them (Cherney et al. 2012; Head et al. 2014; see LSE blog post summarizing the project if you don’t have access to the articles). To bridge this gap, then, policymakers and academic researchers should be brought together for sustained conversation and relationship building. Continue reading “Bridging the gap between academia and the NGO and policy worlds”→