Why Have a Personal Academic Website?

Written by Jonathan Aragon, M.P.H., PhDc., Teaching Fellow and Doctoral Candidate

We have long lived in a web connected world, but recent events have pushed us to shift even those things we did in person to the web. So now that your office or other workspaces might be collecting dust, check out this timely post on creating a personal academic website, and stay visible and accessible.

Even beyond the pandemic, in whatever the new normal is, thinking of your professional web presence through a personal academic website might be a smart move to make. And it’s very doable with easy-to-use templates on website builders like WordPress, Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace.

From among many reasons, here are my 8 reasons for having a personal academic website.

1. It gives you a home for all that you do 

You might have many social media profiles or even a faculty profile page at your institution. So why go to the trouble of creating a website?

As far as social media goes, your audience may currently have to visit many different social media sites in order to see all that you do. LinkedIn to endorse skills, Twitter to see posts, YouTube for videos, and Instagram for photos. But a website makes all this – and more – visible from one place at one convenient URL instead of needing to share many different handles.

One link for all that you do – in your email signature line, on your CV, in any professional profile page – makes sharing easy.

Faculty or organizational profile pages are often restricted to one page or just a short bio. But a personal academic website gives you a link that you can add to any institutional profile page in order to share more. If you are adjunct teaching, you rarely have an institutional page. Additionally, you might change institutions or organizations and it makes no sense to share links to your profile in previous organizational pages. For all these reasons, it is far better to make the source of all your content come from your personal site, because those permalinks will not change. You can share those links and trust they will follow you wherever you go.

2. It gives you richer professional visibility 

A personal academic website gives you real-estate on the web and speaks for you around the clock. Like owning a piece of real property, what you can build on it is only limited by your imagination and willingness to learn. This gives you quite an advantage when it comes to creating visibility for who you are as a teacher-scholar, in making your work known to other professionals, and to your students.

You can take your work that is behind the scenes or limited to a niche audience and make it known more broadly. If you are a graduate student positioning yourself for the job market, sharing your website can say more about you than you can say in the span of a brief interview. Unlike CVs, a website allows you to give richer details to the work you do.

Furthermore, you can control web content that is associated with your name. This is important because the more you produce public content the more the public will associate your name with your work. Many entrepreneurs know this but struggle to find their niche. As a scholar, you already have an area of expertise, a focus, and target audience. All that is left is to think like an academic entrepreneur, and a website is a great place to start. You might be doing amazing things behind the scenes, but if no one can see it, it does your scholarship and career little good.

3. It broadens the audiences you connect with 

A personal academic website can help you broaden your audiences beyond your immediate circle. If your current network is limited to academics and students you know, your website can expand this to new audiences academic and non-academic who may very well benefit from your work. This will also help you to learn how to present your work is ways that are more engaging for non-academics. In sharing what you do and are interested in on your website, you also open doors to inviting connections and collaboration

4. It makes you aware of your assets and gaps  

Building a website makes you more aware of your assets and reveals gaps in your professional profile.  For example, you might realize that while you have a lot to say about the research you do and are excited about, you do not have very much in the way of community engagement. Or while you have taught many classes, you have not kept track of some of the amazing projects your students have done that would be great to showcase on a website to inspire future students. This prompts you to take steps to develop that aspect of yourself.

5. It signals web literacy

In addition to content, you have on your website, the presence of a website itself signals that you are web literate. With college classes moving online, along with all aspects of work in research and other areas, this kind of literacy is highly appealing to search committees and in post-doctoral settings, and will give you a distinct advantage over those with no web presence.

6. It is an engaging way to connect with students 

A website helps you to connect to your students on a more holistic and personal level. Your website will help your students learn more about you as a scholar, a teacher, and a person. It can help close the distance between you. It also establishes your scholarly standing with your students, helping build trust in your guidance and also creating connections and interest in your discipline. You can also leverage your website to create public facing projects for your students. The broader the audience for your students’ work, and especially when they have an authentic audience, the more engaging and exciting learning can become.

7. It facilitates access to and use of many useful web tools

A website will give you access to many different tools such as PDF preview in a web browser, online forms, forums, public comments, and the ability to track engagement. In learning some of these tools for your own website, you also pick up useful competencies for academic and other professional work purposes.

8. It is fun! 

This is important; the more fun you can have with you work the better. A personal academic website will give you the rare opportunity to be as creative as you like in a world where everything has formatting requirements.

If this has piqued your interest in getting started with creating your personal academic website, here are some websites to check out that can inspire you to roll up your digital sleeves and begin. 

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