Meet the Social Academics, My Interview Guests of 2019

Meet my 2019 interview guests: grad students, postdocs, faculty, researchers, and alternate academics

This blog post is about the awesome people I featured on The Social Academic in 2019.

Leigh A. Hall, Greg Loring-Albright, Jazmine Benjamin, Echo Rivera, Daisy Shu, and Jessica Doble, Sophie Arthur, Walter D. Greason, Lauren Smart, Norman Eng, and Melanie Bruce

Pictured above, this year’s interview features are Leigh A. Hall, Greg Loring-Albright, Jazmine Benjamin, Echo Rivera, Daisy Shu, and Jessica Doble, Sophie Arthur, Walter D. Greason, Lauren Smart, Norman Eng, and Melanie Bruce.

That’s 4 graduate students and postdocs, 5 professors, and 2 alternate academics.

I’m Jennifer van Alstyne, and welcome to my blog about online identity in the HigherEd world. This is The Social Academic.

About the interview series

When I decided to interview grad students and faculty, I was nervous. I didn’t know how well it would go.

And, I was dedicating a lot of my time to sharing these interviews: booking, the interview itself, transcribing, creating the post, doing backend stuff like SEO. Then there’s the graphic design, social media posts. The newsletter.

It’s important to me to help the academic world see the benefits of social media.

And one of the ways I wanted to do it was by introducing you to people like you who use social media in different ways to talk about their academic work and lives.

But first, I want you to know a few things:

There isn’t a right way to use social media.

There are practices we can do to make it easier, and more effective.

There are also things we can do to make social media more enjoyable.

Alright, let’s meet the social academics of 2019.

Leigh A. Hall

Leigh A. Hall

When Dr. Leigh A. Hall reached out to me on Twitter about appearing on The Social Academic, I was excited.

She was doing some great videos on YouTube and creating resources for Teaching Academia.

Dr. Leigh A. Hall holds the Wyoming Excellence in Higher Education Endowed Chair in Literacy Education at the University of Wyoming.

Her research centers on helping adolescents improve their academic reading and writing abilities.

“…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.”

Leigh A. Hall

Check out my full chat with Dr. Leigh A. Hall.

Greg Loring-Albright

Greg Loring-Albright

It’s important to me to feature graduate students and faculty. First up, was Greg Loring-Albright, who is all about games.

Greg Loring-Albright is a PhD student in Communications, Culture and Media at Drexel University. He’s balancing grad school and game design.

Greg’s research focuses on board games as mediated communication, and games and play in tabletop and urban spaces (i.e. LARP, scavenger hunt, room escape). He even designed a cool card game about Moby Dick called Leviathan.

“Find a gateway person. I’m sure you have a better way to think about this because you think about these things all the time, but the notion of the sort of node of the network.

When I was getting connected with game scholars and game designers on Twitter, it seemed like there were a couple people who sort of just kept coming up. So I friended those people, and then I looked at who they talked to and I friended those people.

I just snowball-sampled, to use a term from my discipline, into oh, now I’m in the conversation.

Now I’m somehow, sort of by the exposure of these people. Like, nobody told me oh, this is an important person to follow.”

Greg Loring-Albright

Check out my full chat with Greg Loring-Albright.

Echo Rivera

Echo Rivera

Alternate Academics are so important. Especially when they help out the academic community. That’s why I was so excited to share my interview with Echo Rivera.

Dr. Echo Rivera can help you have amazing presentations. As owner of Creative Research Communications LLC, she helps academics and scientists communicate with beautiful presentations, reports, and visualizations.

Echo is all about sharing research and data in ways that make an impact.

So what I do is I help academics and scientists, and people like that, basically communicate their work more effectively, and creatively.

Right now I’m focusing a lot on helping people create amazing slide presentations or beautiful reports, infographics, things like that.

It also includes fun stuff like research comics, illustrations, things like that because…

Basically I just want to help everybody not have their hard work go to waste.

And use every tool at their disposal to get heard and make the kind of impact they want to make so nothing just sort of gets lost in the void.

Echo Rivera

Check out my full chat with Dr. Echo Rivera.

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Jazmine Benjamin

Jazmine Benjamin

Jazmine Benjamin shared how networking on Twitter has helped in our interview. She talks about how she uses social media platforms differently. Instagram is split between work and family. “Twitter is more work.” Facebook, more family.

But, Jazmine says she thinks Twitter is her favorite. Though, it’s a close tie with Instagram.

Jazmine Benjamin is 2nd year PhD student at University of Alabama Birmingham in Cellular and Molecular Biology. She works in the lab of Dr. Elizabeth Sztul, which focuses on “protein degradation and membrane trafficking in the context of the secretory pathway.”

I asked Jazmine what advice she had for someone just joining Twitter.

Just join. And be patient.

When you join, I think it gives you the opportunity to ‘check’ the things that you’re interested in. But just kind of take some time to explore and click on headlines that interest you.

Kind of follow through threads that look interesting. And just follow people.

I have probably 3x more people that I follow than I do followers.
I’m not someone who gets really wrapped up in how many followers I have.

But the people who I do follow that follow me back, we often at some point end up interacting with each other.

That has led to some really valuable relationships.

Jazmine Benjamin

Check out my full chat with Jazmine Benjamin.

Daisy Shu

Daisy Shu

I met Daisy Shu during my webinar for the Association of Research in Vision + Opthalmology (ARVO) Science Communication Training Fellowship program. I was talking about how to use Instagram to share your research.

I asked Daisy to appear on The Social Academic, because she’s awesome at social media storytelling. I’m so glad I did, because she had some great advice for you.

Dr. Daisy Shu is a postdoc at Harvard’s Scepens Eye Research Institute. She studies the role of metabolism and mitochondria in retinal eye disease. And, she’s passionate about science communication.

While we talk about Daisy’s social media journey from first hearing Hugh Kearns speak, to a social media event run by Franklin Women. Daisy’s been inspired by professional development, and her friends.

I would have to say that create an account now. Like as soon as possible. Then you can get the name you really want. It’s all about not delaying it.

Sometimes I feel like it’s really easy to just sit on it and think I’m going to plan it out thoughtfully, and carefully, and create the personal Instagram feed that encapsulates myself.

But the more you sit on it…and I felt like I did that with my Twitter when I actually started it. I didn’t really engage and post things until 2017.

So I felt like the thing is just to start. And through starting you’ll develop your own sort of feed organically. And you’ll meet other people and they’ll inspire different sorts of posts. And it’s only through actually doing it that you can learn exactly what social media is all about.

Daisy Shu

Check out our full chat for more advice from Daisy.

Jessica Doble

Jessica Doble

Jessica Doble uses social media as a PhD student, and as an editor. A friend of mine in real life, I wanted to share Jessica with you because her research is all about fandom and online communities.

Jessica Doble is a PhD candidate in English at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. She focuses on digital media and the reception of popular texts in the context of community.

She uses social media personally. She also uses social media as Arts Editor of the literary journal, We Were So Small. And, she manages the Facebook page and Twitter for Louisiana Folklore Studies.

I asked Jessica her favorite social media platform, and why.

I like Instagram because it doesn’t feel so much like posting into the void.

I still kind of struggle with the way Tumblr functions, I think.
And so Instagram seems much more user friendly, and straightforward.

I like the way Instagram lets you follow hashtags.

And you can kind of expand your community in cool and productive ways.

Jessica Doble

Check out my full chat with Jessica Doble.

Sophie Arthur

Sophie Arthur of Soph Talks Science on The Social Academic

Sophie Arthur loves curiosity. As a science communications officer for the London Institute of Medical Sciences, she helps researchers communicate their work through a variety of mediums.

In this chat, we talk about authenticity on social media, and why Sophie loves Instagram. I also ask about her popular blog, Soph Talks Science and why you should follow it!

…I try to create content that really would suit anyone. I’ve written posts about writing a children’s book about writing about science. Which I hope that will be relevant to mums or dads with young kids who want to expand their horizons a bit.

I try to write travel posts that have a bit of science-y, tech, engineering spin on it. I also talk about PhD stuff.

But when I profile scientists around the world, as you mentioned, I try to ask them questions that aren’t just about their job. And try to see what else they do, outside of the lab, outside of the office.

Sophie Arthur

Check out my full chat with Sophie Arthur.

Walter D. Greason

Walter D. Greason of Monmouth University on The Social Academic

Walter D. Greason teaches future educational leaders as Chair of the Department of Educational Leadership at Monmouth University.

Monmouth is my alma mater, so I was so excited to chat with him about his prolific social media life.

With a Twitter community of over 26k, Walter has some great advice on engaging new audiences.

In this chat we talk about his work with racisim, urban design, and critical media studies. And we talk about how that intersects with his social media life. Like with the creation of the Wakanda Syllabus.

So I had been working on questions around the Black Panther character as far back as 1998-1999. I had worked in kind of exchanged ideas with the writers starting around 2002 or 2003. And I taught a class on the Black Panther in 2003.

Yeah. So we spent a lot of time from my 2003 to like 2010 exploring the possibility of maybe one day there could be a feature film. And so it was absolutely miraculous when, when we saw the character appear in the Captain America: Civil War, not Civil War, Winter Soldier movie.

And then we knew the opportunity was on us. And so we started putting a lot of ideas together.

And for my part, I did the Wakanda Syllabus to give the audience a way of understanding the importance of the character and the way his world had evolved over the last 40 years.

Walter D. Greason

Check out my full chat with Walter D. Greason.

Lauren Smart

Lauren Smart of Southern Methodist University on The Social Academic

Not everyone I interview loves social media. And that’s a good thing, because it’s realistic. It’s one reason I was excited to chat with Lauren Smart, a journalist and professor of practice at Southern Methodist University.

Lauren has thought about the role of social media in her life, and the lives of her students.

A lot of my colleagues will use like Twitter, especially as an assignment for the classes where they send them out and have them actually use it as a reporting tool in the sense that they’ll take a photo of something that’s going on and explain it or, or they’ll poll their followers to get some information about a story they might be working on. I’m finding myself doing that less and less.

I think it’s tied up in my own personal interest in privacy online…I found it harder and harder to justify…assigning young people the need to post on social media.

Just because I feel like it’s overstepping some sort of boundary. It’s just something I have been thinking a lot about when I put together assignments that used to have you know, ‘now send this out on Twitter!’

I think that for me, I don’t think I should be forcing them to do that.

Lauren Smart

Check out my full chat with Lauren Smart.

Norman Eng

Norman Eng of EDUCATIONxDESIGN on The Social Academic

This chat with Norman Eng as so fun. We talk a bit about his business, EDUCATIONxDESIGN, and then delve into the world of self-publishing.

Norman teaches teachers at the undergraduate and graduate levesls, “and I get them ready to work in public schools.”

He also has some awesome books and training to help you.

So I founded EDUCATIONxDESIGN as a way to help academics communicate more effectively, whether it’s to students, to readers, audience members that are at a conference or just in general, the larger public.

The thing is that academics, like they know a lot of stuff, but they never really learn how to leverage that expertise. And so, you know, they spend their whole time focusing on content, right? Like on research, on data, not always realizing that people don’t always care about information per se.

You know, there’s so much of it out there. And if you really want to change lives, right, whether your discipline is in business, in science, medicine, philosophy, whatever, you have to design your content. I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about.

You have to design your content and yet you have to package it in a way that resonates. And so that’s what I do with my business.

My books teach professors how to teach and how to present to audiences. And I also have an online course as well that does the same thing, as well as my coaching, and workshop training for faculty and for universities. So that’s, that’s what EDUCATIONxDESIGN is about.

Norman Eng

Check out my full chat with Norman Eng.

Melanie Bruce

Melanie Bruce is an entrepreneur who also teaches marketing. Owner of The Leveraged PhD and The Ecopreneur Coach, Melanie wears many hats.

In this interview, we chat about her popular Instagram channel. And, work-life balance. We also talk about her awesome social media challenges.

Really it has been an evolution. I’ve been particularly on The Leveraged PhD, I’ve been doing it for quite some time, so I try and share things that I think that my followers would be interested in.

I share things that I need to hear right now or that I wish that I had known 10 years ago when I was starting my PhD.

Just anything that I think will have value to anybody.

And even if it’s just that one person, sometimes I’ll share something that I think is really important to share because I know that there may, there might only be one person who, who needs to hear that today or needs to think about it from a different perspective.

And I don’t really care if it gets the likes, or the shares, or follows. But if it makes an impact for one person, then that’s success. That means I’ll share more of that type of content.

Melanie Bruce

Check out my full chat with Melanie Bruce.

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Jennifer van Alstyne View All →

Jennifer van Alstyne is a Peruvian-American poet and communications consultant. She founded The Academic Designer, LLC to help professors, researchers, and graduate students manage their online presence. Jennifer’s goal is to help people share their work with the world.

Check out her personal site at https://jennifervanalstyne
or learn more about the services she offers at

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