Social Media Blues

As I struggle to put together my e-portfolio to meet the assignment deadline, I realize that I am accruing another platform/presence that will need my attention. I already quit maintaining Facebook, I have deleted Linked-In, I run an uninspiring twitter account, I have a limited use for Snape, I also have a blog that I have to keep up with, and now an e-portfolio. Somewhere in there I also go to school at Virginia Tech. A quick Google search on social media and academia will return with tons of links to articles saying how important that social media presence is. There is a useful site that collates a bunch of the sites and platforms together ( Anyway, the common themes seem to be that it is a useful way to network with people and connect with the next generation. It is a great way to promote yourself and your work too. So yes, there are many benefits to having a social media presence. In making the e-portfolio, I’ve had to make some professional development moves such as thinking about teaching and research statements.

However, I do know that I am actively ignoring the use of social media for my own benefit. Initially, using social media to promote yourself sounds boastful; but, that is probably more a result of my own upbringing than anything. I need to be my own biggest hype-man, so I can get over that. There are occasional lulls in what I would deem shareable content from me; but, I could fill those gaps with sharing other people’s work and ideas. I do have a genuine fear do trolls and attacks on social media. At this stage in my career I would rather keep a low profile and not be saddled with that type of baggage. However, I don’t work on a controversial topic nor do I run that hard hitting of a Twitter account. Honestly, I just don’t want to do it. It makes me feel hard-headed, but I have my reasons.

A career in academia is not a 9-5 job. You can try to make it seem like it is, I don’t answer e-mails after 5 pm or on weekends. Social media is a fast platform and it needs prompt replies. I don’t want to have to be engaging with the world 24/7. If you’ve ever spent time in western Nebraska, you quickly realize life goes on when you lose a cell signal. It feels great to be there and not worry about anyone or anything else. Maybe I could run my social media presence 9-5 on weekdays. That effort level doesn’t seem engaging enough and very half-hearted. I would rather not do something than knowingly do it poorly. Does anyone have any success stories with social media and how it was helpful for them?

Free speech as an academic

In class this past week, the topic of free speech was touched upon. How it is a difficult area to navigate as an employee of a university. Separating your personal beliefs and your representation of your employer. Virginia Tech president Tim Sands was used as an example as a person who has an exceptionally narrow line to walk in regards to the things he says. For him, it would seem to be impossible to express a thought as Tim Sands, and not have that be equated to being the position of the school. I’d like to believe there are things that he personally disagrees with, but has no forum to discuss those issues in. I probably won’t ever want to be that big of a player at a university. However, a recent episode of free speech at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln did involving a graduate student, hits a little closer to where I am in my career.

This episode involved a student advocating for Turning Point USA, an organization that has disagreeable principles with other people. In response to this student’s attempt to recruit new members, other students and a faculty member had a mini-counter protest. Undoubtedly a one versus many scenario would make the one feel uncomfortable, and there were accusations of harassment. What gets this interaction more attention is the fact that some of the accused harassers were employees of the university, including a graduate student. Both parties are entitled to their opinions and the freedom to express them, but it seems that when you are paid by the university you have to play by a different set of rules. As a bit of a shock to myself, the graduate student ended up in a bit of hot water. She wasn’t terminated, but ended up being reassigned to a role that didn’t involve teaching. The reality hasn’t really sunk into my head that even though I perceive myself to be a small fish, my actions may have a broader impact than I might realize. It saddens me some to think that during my career, I may not be able to fully speak my mind or engage in every conversation that I may want to. I don’t want to have to make those decisions of who is talking, me or me on behalf of my employer.

Has anyone had an experience where they have felt strongly enough to say or do something, even though there are potential consequences to your actions? It is a strange line to walk, balancing what you believe to be right versus your career aspirations.


Two schools, two statements, one goal

I was feeling a bit nostalgic, so I decided to look up the mission statement of the school I went to for my Bachelor’s degree. Concordia College is a small liberal arts school  in Moorhead, Minnesota. The college is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The mission statement is: The purpose of Concordia College is to influence the affairs of the world by sending into society thoughtful and informed men and women dedicated to the Christian life. While not part of the mission statement per se the mission statement is further developed: In particular, the mission highlights our commitment to the Lutheran Academic tradition shaped by Martin Luther’s convictions. Theses include

  • Freedom to search for the truth, with nothing off limits for inquiry and critique
  • Education in the liberal arts as the best preparation for leadership
  • Excellence in all we do
  • The engagement of faith and learning as a creative dialogue, where inquiry and scholarship enlighten religious life and faith practice enriches the education experience
  • Intellectual humility in the face of the paradoxes and ambiguities of life

I include the extra bit of the mission statement, as I find them valuable to me the first bullet point in particular. While Concordia is a private school that is affiliated with a church, this point says it is okay ask questions of anything, including my religion. Being in a scientific field, this helps as I struggle with what I learn in my studies and what I was told growing up. It tells me that it is okay to ask questions and offer critiques of the stories that I was told. By answering these questions, I am not only enriching my academic desires, but also my faith. I have been striving to try and remove the dichotomy that exists in my mind that faith and science should not be mixed.

I compare the mission statement of Concordia to that of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. UNL is the land-grant university for Nebraska. The mission statement of UNL is rather lengthy, but the first sentence of it suffices. The role of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln as the primary intellectual and cultural resource for the state is fulfilled through the three missions of the university: teaching, research, and service. The rest of the statement page goes into detail how the university strives to meet their mission. The school seeks to achieve this by educating the citizens of Nebraska, researching ideas that have benefits to the state, and engaging with the stakeholders of the state. The language of this makes it abundantly clear that the university was created by the people of Nebraska for the benefit of the people of Nebraska and beyond.

It is interesting to see where these institutions derive their calling from and how that is reflected in their mission statements. Concordia has an air of a calling to a higher power by sending forth men and women dedicated to the Christian life. UNL seems to be implying that they are the resource of the state and it is their duty to fulfill their obligations to the state. While there might be some differences between a religiously affiliated school and land-grant, they both work to achieve a similar goal, in this instance.