The Social Academic interview series starts off with literacy professor Leigh A. Hall
This year, I’m chatting with faculty and graduate students as part of a new interview series all about social media and the HigherEd world.
My goal is to highlight the awesome work you do, and talk about how academics use social media now.
I’m Jennifer van Alstyne. Welcome to The Social Academic. I chat with Dr. Leigh A. Hall about how she uses social media to help grad students and new faculty navigate academia.
Meet Dr. Leigh A. Hall
Jennifer: OK, welcome. So, today are we are here with Leigh A. Hall of Teaching Academia, and we’re going to be talking about social media.
So, I’d love to hear a little bit from you, Leigh. And if you could just tell me a little bit about yourself and about your work.
Leigh: Sure. So, currently I am a Professor in Adolescent Literacy at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, WY. This is just my second year here.
I was at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill for 12 years prior to coming out here. And, you know on the one hand I feel like I have this very dual life. I have this very traditional academic kind of life, because I’m always teaching, and doing research, and getting grants, and writing articles.
But I feel like you know as technology has developed, and as social media has developed, that it’s really…I don’t want to say my responsibility. But I really think it’s our responsibility collectively as academics to be engaged on social media. I mean there’s any number of things that we can share. I don’t really think there’s any one right thing to share. You can share your research.
What do you share on social media?
Leigh: Yeah, I don’t really share my research a lot. I kind of use it as a platform to try to mentor and support others. But I think there’s a lot of things that you can do with it. And I’ve just sort of been navigating that, and trying to figure it out.
Jennifer: Yeah, that’s one of the things that I try and talk about a lot, is being able to share what you feel comfortable sharing, not necessarily only sharing your work or only your personal life. And just finding the audience that works best for you.
Leigh: Yeah, right. I think there’s any number of ways that we can join as academics, and any one of those is right if it works for you.
Jennifer: Absolutely. So, what do you most share on social media if you don’t talk about your work much?
Leigh: Yeah, and I’ve tried talking about my research. It’s just that I think for me, what I found was I think it’s about connecting what you’re going to share what you’re passionate about talking a lot about.
And it’s not that I’m not passionate about my research. I am. It’s just that what I’ve found when I’ve looked back over my life is that, as a first generation college student, I somehow got a PhD.
And there was a lot of happy accidents along the way, and I was really lucky. I was really fortunate. And I didn’t always know how lucky and fortunate I was to have the kinds of mentors that I did.
And so that’s what I’m trying to do. That’s what I’m passionate about.
That’s what I try to use social media for, and in general, is to help people, doctoral students, or beginning Assistant Professors navigate these waters so that they can career they want to have. Whatever that is.
Jennifer: Right. And on social media, do you talk a lot about the kind of courses, and the videos that you are creating as resources for people? Do you share the resources that you create on social media?
Leigh: Yeah, absolutely. I share my videos all the time, without being too annoying hopefully (laugh).
Jennifer: There’s always that chance that people will get annoyed, but you know what? There’s people that love those videos and who are counting on them to get advice.
Leigh: Yeah, I hope so. Yeah, so I make the videos and I just sort of messed around with YouTube for a while. I don’t know how many years. Several years.
And finally, back in this last January, I decided you know, I need to either really get serious about it, or just move on. And so I decided to really invest some time, take some courses, learn how to do it better. Even though they may not…there’s still always room for improvement.
Jennifer: Yeah, of course.
Twitter is great for connection
Leigh: But they’re much better now than they were in January, or a year ago. So, I’ve been really focused on that for the last year. And I’ve been using Twitter mostly to share that on, and connect with other people.
Jennifer: Twitter is such a great platform for that. And I find that people in academia that are on Twitter are looking for advice, and looking for conversation. More so than I expected, because I really only joined Twitter just last year.
Leigh: OK. Yeah. I have found that academics and educators as a whole are really involved in Twitter and it’s a great way to connect with people. That’s how I found you!
Jennifer: Yeah, absolutely.
Leigh: You were asking people if they would like to sign up to have these discussions and that’s one of the things that I do on my YouTube channels.
When I saw that, when I saw you doing that, I thought, oh, I need to post broader on social media to find academics to bring them on my channel as well. So you then, also pushed me and inspired me to do something a little bit different that I wasn’t already doing.
Jennifer: Oh my gosh. I think we’re always inspired by each other and definitely the ability of other people that I’ve seen to connect with their audiences in different ways has really been an inspiration to me as well.
Blogging with a long-term plan
You have a really extensive blog. Do you find that blogging is something you have to schedule time for in any way?
Leigh: Yeah, so the thing with blogging is, I haven’t updated that blog in a while, if you look at the last date. I started that blog really before I started YouTube. I might have been doing YouTube intermittently.
But I had a yoga blog a long time ago that had done really well. And it had kind of ran it’s course but I was still really interested in blogging. And so I wanted a space, because I was at the University of North Carolina at the time, and it is a heavy research institution.
Leigh: And it’s not that teaching isn’t valued, but we don’t talk about our teaching very much there.
Space to talk about teaching
Leigh: And I wanted a space to talk about my teaching, to share you know, what I was doing with my class. Because, as professors we just don’t get to see what’s going on in each other’s rooms.
And also as a way to reflect on my practice and sort of talk about you know, here are my teaching goals, here’s what I’m working on, here’s what I’m struggling with. Here’s things that went well. Here’s things that flopped. You know, that sort of stuff, and just really make it all public.
In part it was to help other people. But it also was helpful to me because it gave me this space to really sit down and process my teaching. You know, I found it to be really valuable.
I did have to set aside a time. I had to have…it wasn’t always the same days or times every week. Because our schedules don’t always allow for that. But in general it was. In general it was. But at the very least I always had time blocked off on my calendar to be able to get that done.
It’s the same thing with the YouTube videos now. It just looks a little different. But you know, you have to block a certain period of time, or it’s not going to get done. Or it’s not going to get done well.
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Scheduling for Leigh’s blog and YouTube channel
Jennifer: Do you also schedule time for social media, or is it just for the videos and for the blogging?
Leigh: So, the blogging I schedule. The videos I’m very mindful about scheduling time for when I’m…there’s different steps for the videos.
Leigh: I will sit down and shoot. Now I have it a lot better, under control (laughs). I learned some things along the six months.
Jennifer: You found a process that works for you?
Leigh: Yeah. I thought I had a good process when I started. But it turns out I did not. It was not efficient.
But now what I’ll do is I’ll come up with a series of topics and map out about 5-7 videos and I know what those videos are gonna be. I’ll sit down and shoot them all at once, and that will be one morning or something like that.
But then I have to go back a separate time and edit and process them. And then I’ll have to go back a third time and I’ll do thumbnails for them.
Jennifer: Yeah, I have that process of splitting up those tasks into different periods of time.
Leigh: Yeah, I do too. That’s worked a lot better for me. And then, you asked me something. What was it that you asked me?
Social media scheduling is needed
Jennifer: Do you schedule social media?
LEIGH: Oh, social media. Yeah! No, I need to. So I’m definitely really good about looking at it in the morning. And sometimes in the evening, just to sort of flip through and see. Not for sharing purposes. Not for me to share my own work but for me to just sort of see what the conversation is going on. What are people talking about, kind of a thing.
But I think that I would be a lot better off if I was little more mindful about that because what happens then is that I’m then sort of just – maybe I looked at it, maybe I didn’t – so, you know. I wandered off and did something else. I think I would be much better if I scheduled it at least a little bit.
Jennifer: Yeah, do you schedule your posts at all, with a program?
Leigh: Oh yeah.
Jennifer: What program do you use?
Leigh: So like the YouTube videos, this last from August they’ve gone out every Monday and Friday.
Jennifer: OK, so on a regular weekly schedule.
Leigh: And then starting in January my goal is to have them go out I think Monday, Wednesday, Friday. So just three a week.
Jennifer: Oh, wow. So upping the amount and having more regular, every couple of days. That’s really nice.
Leigh: Yeah. And the reason is supposed to be 3 is a really solid number for YouTube. I mean you at least want to do one a week. Three is supposed to be the optimal number. Or, so I’ve hard. But we’ll see.
If anybody is interested that is listening to this that wants to get started. Like I certainly didn’t get started with three a week. I didn’t even get started with two a week.
I did it for probably three or four months regularly before I could handle two a week.
Jennifer: Right, yeah. Definitely have to build up to that kind of, especially if you’re new at it.
Jennifer: How did you get into YouTube in the first place?
Leigh: You know I’m not sure. I did some stuff when I had my yoga blog. I did some stuff that I had recorded and put on YouTube. But that was just really just sort of screwing around.
And then at some point I know I decided to start sharing some of the things I had taught. I was teaching a Research Methods class. And so I sort of thought well, I could take an assignment that I did and, you know, share it with people. And put it out on YouTube.
And I think that’s kind of how I got started. Is I wanted to try it out.
Jennifer: You wanted to share something that you were doing in a kind of similar vein of your blog in the video format.
Jennifer: That’s so interesting.
Leigh: Yeah. And I just wanted to play with it. So that’s kind of how I got started. And then I was alternating between like making more regular videos and kind of letting it fall to the wayside.
And then making more videos and you know, whatever. Until I just said I had to make a decision. I either do this or I don’t (laughs).
Jennifer: Yeah, definitely in social media too it’s about figuring out what schedule or what amount works for you and trying to stick to it instead of being sporadic.
Leigh: Yeah, yeah.
Conferencing, committees, and resources for the new year
Success at Academic Conferences
Jennifer: What do you have planned for the New Year?
LEIGH: So previously I was sort of just making videos. But now I’m getting a lot more focused. I have three series sort of mapped out.
Jennifer: That is so needed.
Leigh: Yeah. And it was something I had realized I had not talked about at all. I don’t think I had a single video on my channel.
Jennifer: Oh that’s so interesting.
Leigh: That’s what I thought! I don’t know how I missed that. So we’re going to talk about how do you find an academic conference. It’s how to identify the best conference for you. How to write a winning conference proposal. Thinking about choosing sessions.
But then when you’re there, right. Even if you’re not presenting, if you just go, how do you make the most of it. How do you network at conferences? How do you introduce yourself to people whose work you admire but maybe you’re a little anxious about that.
How do you network, not just when you’re at a conference but when you get back? What are some things that you should do when you get back to sort of cultivate and follow up on this relationship?
Jennifer: Oh, I was just going to say I think that is such a needed topic of conversation. I feel like there’s some professional development training in grad schools about how to apply for a conference or how to find one, but there’s not ones that get down to talking about how do you connect with people. How do you decide what panel to even go to if it’s your first time? How do you even kind of connect with people after you’ve met them and maybe handed them your business card? That’s such a great topic, I love that.
Leigh: Yeah, and you know. One of the things that I do in here when I talk about networking is, not everybody’s comfortable with network. And not everybody likes it. And I get that, because it’s not my favorite thing either.
But I try to get people a variety of tips and one of them is on social media. One of them is you know, if going up and talking to people, and introducing yourself, is not your thing and you don’t like going to the networking events at a conference might have?
If they have a conference hashtag, get on there and start talking. Then you can network that way. So there’s a number of ways that people can do that.
So we’ll be diving into How to Network. That’s a good way to start off right at the beginning.
Grad School Advisors and Committees
And then the other topics that I have, or series that I have mapped out at the moment are, we’re going to talk about How to Have a Successful Dissertation Defense.
And, there’s one I don’t have a name for yet, but it is on how to foster a good relationship with advisor.
Jennifer: Wow, that’s great.
Leigh: Then one on the committee that you have to build in grad school. How do you put one together. What is it? What do you do when you have somebody that’s a problem?
Jennifer: Which happens, or someone who has to step down or…
Leigh: Yeah I have on, for the grad school committee one, how do you remove a difficult committee member or topic, for the advisor one, what to do if your advisor leaves.
My advisor changed institutions when I was in my last year.
Jennifer: Oh my goodness. Oh no! That’s right at the end, too.
Leigh: Yeah, right at the end, too. I still, to this day, tease her about abandoning me. So, yeah.
Jennifer: A good topic of discussion for your video.Interviewing academics
Leigh: Yeah. And I have more interviews. I started in the fall interviewing people on Fridays on different topics that are relevant to whatever that academic personally wants to talk about.
So we’ve had everything from How do you write a literature review, to How to be a successful international student, from a student from Columbia who got his PhD at the University of Illinois.
So really just trying to tap into what it is that that academic knows and can do really well and wants to help somebody else with.
So I have more of those coming out too. But I’m not sure yet what those topics are yet.
Jennifer: Wow. You have a lot planned.
It sounds like you are planning out really far in advance too. How long is that content calendar planned for you?
Dry erase board and wall calendar to visualize what’s coming
Leigh: So, currently in my office, I have a dry erase board that has all the content mapped out through June or July, I can’t remember. These are the dates that I want all the videos to go live. And I do that because I need to get this done in chunks of time. And when I get a batch of videos done, you know, in a way, you can kind of erase it from your mind. Because you know it’s done. But you can’t forget about what you have looming ahead of you. You have to keep that front and center so you stay on top of that.
So I have a giant calendar on my office wall that reminds me where I am from January 1st through the end of July.
Jennifer: You like having it printed and on the wall for you, as opposed to electronic?
Leigh: Yeah. I do actually. Because I can just flip around in my chair and look and see exactly what needs to happen. I can see exactly what’s been recorded or processed, or is completely done, what already has a thumbnail, or is wiped off the board. So I like it that way better than having it an online.
What I would love is, anybody who is listening to this. If there is something that their struggling with, if you want help on. You have a really good idea for a topic…What I would like to do is really be able to connect much more deeply with my audience and to build a bigger audience, and be able to reach more people that this information will help.
So if you know, you’re looking at my videos and you’re saying “this is good, but she doesn’t have anything on this topic and this is the topic I really need,” I would love to hear from people so that I can make videos that matter, that are really going to make a difference in their lives, and that can help them the most.
Jennifer: Well, thanks so much for talking with me, Leigh. It’s been lovely to meet you.
Jennifer: I look forward to seeing more from you in the future.
Leigh: Thank you.
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Bio for Dr. Leigh A. Hall of University of Wyoming
Leigh A. Hall, Ph.D., is a professor at the University of Wyoming where she holds the Wyoming Excellence in Higher Education Endowed Chair in Literacy Education. Dr. Hall’s research centers on helping adolescents improve their academic reading and writing abilities. She examines how teachers can work with diverse learners to help them improve their literacy practices within the context of the classroom.
In addition to her research, Dr. Hall views mentoring doctoral students and new scholars as an important aspect of her work. She publishes multiple videos a week on her YouTube channel where she shares insiders tips for creating careers in higher education.
Jennifer van Alstyne is a Peruvian-American poet and communications consultant. She founded The Academic Designer LLC to help professors build a strong online presence for their research, teaching, and leadership. Jennifer’s goal is to help people feel confident sharing their work with the world.
Jennifer’s personal website
The Academic Designer LLC