Welcome to The Social Academic

Welcome to The Social Academic

Welcome to The Social Academic, a blog for grad students, faculty, and researchers

This blog is all about your online presence, where I talk about personal academic websites or social media. Welcome!

I’m Jennifer van Alstyne, owner of The Academic Designer LLC. My company works with faculty, researchers, and organizations strategizing how to communicate your work online.

Here, I provide actionable advice for

  • grad students
  • faculty
  • researchers
  • scientists
  • alternate academics

and really anyone whose looking to communicate how and what you do.

I also interview people like you for the blog. I chat with awesome educators and researchers about their work, and how they use social media.

Good communication is something we need to talk about. You can advantage of the power of the internet to share their work with the world, and The Social Academic is here to help.

Subscribe today to get advice right to your inbox.

Check out a full listing of articles at the bottom of this post.

And thank you to those of you who read my blog in over 118 countries around the world.

So, what is a social academic?

social academic

A social academic is a grad student, faculty, researcher, or independent scholar who wants to communicate their work to a wider audience.

Urban Dictionary defines “social academic” as

“…what every college girl is looking for. He is the perfect balance between social charisma and academic excellence. It is important to note that a social academic cannot be too social or too academic, but rather a perfect balance between the two. This makes the social academic a rare and desirable breed of male specimen.”

Sydney: “I really like Danny, but he’s just not a social academic.”

Taylor: “That sucks, my boy is a commerce major and can do a keg stand for 3 minutes. He’s a perfect social academic.”

See the full entry here.

This is a sexist and limited definition, but the term itself is appropriate for what we’re trying to do with our online presences in academia: balance our research / writing / teaching with the social aspects of the academy and being ourselves.

Academics can be self-centered. Oftentimes we have to be as research can sometimes feel isolating, esoteric, internal. Much of our identities are based on the research and work that we do, and that makes sharing personal.

P.S. I was going to add an updated version of this to Urban Dictionary but it wanted me to make an account.

So here’s my definition.

A social academic is a grad student, faculty, researcher, or independent scholar who wants to communicate their work to a wider audience.

It’s simple. You’re a social academic if you want more people to understand what you do. And you know it takes some time and energy to do it well.

That’s who this blog is for.

Many academics struggle with sharing their work publicly

Cat hiding under a blanket

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the phrase “shameless self-promotion” on tweets sharing a new publication or award.

Imposter syndrome is real, and it effects how we talk about ourselves.

Here’s the thing, people are gonna look you up whether you want them to or not.

Dr. Karen Kelsky of The Professor Is In, wrote for Chronicle Vitae, “The fact is, you will be Googled.”

But people aren’t looking for photos of you drunk on your last vacation. Okay, well maybe there is a Google-savvy grad student on the search committee, but really almost no one is searching for this.

People want to get to know you.

And the thing is, when you start talking about your work online, especially in ways that help your audience understand, you make some pretty meaningful connections.

Your online identity is all about balance

Woman smiling

I would say a social academic is anyone who wants to be better at sharing the work they do. But when we’re talking about being a good social academic in these online spaces, that means knowing what people will find.

If someone Googles you, you want them to find

  • the basics of who you are and what you do
  • in a language they can understand
  • in just a few minutes

And that’s hard!

Those of you thinking your online faculty profile is enough, let’s just say the majority I come across are not approachable for a general audience. I mean, when’s the last time that was updated?

You need an online presence beyond the static profile on your university’s faculty page.

The Social Academic blog is all about taking control of your online identity on social media, and with online portfolios, or websites for academics.

Thanks for checking out this welcome post

Jennifer van Alstyne communications strategist

I’m Jennifer, and it’s great to meet you.

I’m so excited you found me. Please feel free to reach out to me on social media! I love hearing from readers like you.

You’ll find a full list of articles, interviews, and YouTube videos below.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The Social Academic so you get awesome advice right to your inbox.

Articles and Interviews

You can read all the articles here on The Social Academic blog (links below).

And, you can subscribe to the interviews on

Volume 1


Volume 2



Meet the Social Academics, my interview guests of last year.

Volume 3



Are you interested in appearing on The Social Academic interview series in 2021? Email your pitch to jennifer@theacademicdesigner.com

Videos on YouTube

The Social Academic is now on video! Watch the channel trailer below.

YouTube LIVE



Academic Quick Takes

Tips from Jennifer on managing your online presence

Online Presence Social Media The Social Academic Website

Jennifer van Alstyne View All →

Jennifer van Alstyne is a Peruvian-American poet and public relations consultant. She founded The Academic Designer, LLC to help academics, researchers, and writers control their online presence and share their work with the world.

She holds a B.A. from Monmouth University in English, and an M.F.A. from Naropa University in Writing & Poetics where she was the Jack Kerouac Fellow. Jennifer also holds an M.A. from University of Louisiana at Lafayette in Literature and Cultural Studies where she was one of four master’s fellows and a finalist for the Outstanding Master’s Graduate Award.

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