Doesn’t everyone at some point think to themselves “I should start a blog!”? If not a blog then a podcast. Their friends roll their eyes… and for so many good reasons: blogs take a lot of time and energy for one. Two, it seems as though everything that could be written on a blog has been written on a blog. At best, most blogs barely reach beyond the so-called “curator’s” parents and friends. I would know, I’ve curated a few of my own! (Here’s the current one. You call it simple; I call it manageable.)
I kept my first blog as part of my independent study PXD practicum when I was a student at EMU. The conditions of my practicum were: bike across the US, stop at churches to facilitate conversations about sustainable transportation and petroleum-fueled armed conflict and keep a blog to chronicle the trip and document the content from our conversations. Believe it or not, the blog was the most difficult part of the whole practicum! I spent too many stressful hours sitting at remote middle-American library computer stations trying to create original content as quickly as possible. It was more exhausting than the biking! I also realized that I needed a mentor with an editorial eye. My haste was clearly conveyed in my writing and my posts were rife with spelling errors. I learned quite a bit that summer, but one thing in particular that most people already knew: a good blog is hard work.
Yet, you would be surprised EMU professors suppose that a departmental blog would be a good thing. “Students can practice writing for a public audience”, they say. “We faculty can share content outside of the bounds of our courses”, they suppose. And “imagine how we could attract prospective students and increase our digital footprint”, they exclaim!
To give them credit, our professors usually know better and these romantic notions rarely come to fruition. Which is why this first post on this blog is bold! Either we think we have a unique and worthy reason to pursue this laborious and risky endeavor, or we are stubborn and doomed to fail. I believe the first is true, which doesn’t mean the second isn’t.
We think this blog is worth a shot and we have preempted many of the pitfalls that beset inexperienced bloggers. To start, we have contacted and scheduled contributors months in advance and we have established an editorial process to guide contributors toward effective posts. We believe that blog writing practice can be beneficial to our students. Good succinct writing is an essential tool for mobilizing people for community action, fundraising, and many other objectives that PXD students will aim for throughout their careers (this is why I was inclined to practice blogging during my own PXD practicum). To this end, we have also solicited contributions from faculty, alumni, and community partners to serve as models for our student contributors and to further illustrate the impact of the PXD program at EMU.
As you might imagine, given my experience as a blogger, I am the first person to advise against starting a blog, but I am optimistic about this project and excited to be a member of the team overseeing it. I believe that members of the PXD community have unique stories to tell and I think the team of people supporting this project have a vision and are motivated to bring it to fruition. So, I’ll take a moment to give a grateful shout-out to EMU’s web developers Holden Byler and Laura Lehman, who helped us get the site up, running, and looking good, Tim Seidel who crafted the vision for the blog and provides academic oversight, and to all the all the contributors who have agreed to write posts this fall. Thank you all and thank you to the readers of this first post! I hope I’ve disarmed your skepticism and made a preliminary case for your readership. I think our contributors keep you coming back!
If you are a member of the PXD community and would like to contribute a post, we welcome submissions! We are particularly interested in posts that highlight the intersections of the Peacebuilding & Development curriculum, current events, and personal experience. Please send them to email@example.com.
Ben Bailey is a PXD alumnus and the Office Coordinator for Department of Applied Social Sciences at Eastern Mennonite University.