Digital Identity: What to Put on a Faculty Website

What should a faculty member or advanced graduate student put on a faculty website?  In this post, I’ll cover what you might want to include in on a basic professional website.

Why Have a Professional Website?

There are a few reasons why you might want to create your own professional website. Having a professional website can let you be more in control of your own digital identity — it’s very difficult, if not impossible to remove information about you from the Web if you didn’t put it up yourself.  However, by creating and updating your own website, you can greatly increase the chances that when someone does a Google search your own website comes up at or near the top of the results rather than, say, the Rate My Professor page about you.

Creating a professional faculty website is also a great way to get started using the web as a “producer” of content rather than just a user.  If you’re someone who has any anxiety about writing for such a public-feeling audience like the Internet, making a website about yourself can help alleviate that anxiety — because if you write and control the stuff on your own website, you can always change something or take it down if you want.  By running your own site, you quickly realize that it’s not such a big deal after all, being on the Web.

Some General Things to Keep in Mind Before Getting Started

Regardless of what point you’re at in your career, what field you’re in, and what your ultimate goals are for putting yourself on the Web, you will want to tailor the content of your website.  Like I’ve said, you’re the one in control of everything on this site, so you should make it what will serve your needs best.  A few things to keep in mind while considering your website and to get you started:

  • Where are you in your academic career? Are you a recent PhD or graduate student who will be looking for a job soon? Are you an early-career academic who will be going through the tenure process soon?  Or are you tenured and using your site to solicit invitations to give talks at other institutions? Keeping those questions in mind will help you focus the reasons why you would want to have a presence on the Web and tailor your content accordingly.
  • What field are you in? How do scholars in your field use the Web?
  • What do you hope to accomplish through your website and who do you imagine your audience(s) to be? Colleagues? Prospective students? Current Students? Interested members of the public?
  • Do some Google searching of colleagues in your field, Department, or professional school at other institutions.  Seeing what kinds of professional pages other successful academics have can be a great way to get a feeling for the kind of website and content you would like to have on yours.
  • Do you want to have your website hosted on your institution’s servers, using their services (at W&M this might be TribeVoices, or the College’s WordPress installation)? Or, would you like to have a website hosted by a service not via W&M (WordPress is an excellent and free way to easily set up a website)? Remember that whichever way you choose, you should think about one place that will be your “main” professional site, and you can provide links to that site in other places, like your department’s faculty directory, your FaceBook page, etc.).
  • What kinds of information do you want on your site, and how will you organize it?  Below are some suggestions of pages that you could consider.

Homepage

This page is the main page of your website. And, if you want, it can be the only page to your website, if you’re only interested having a minimal space on the Web to maintain. But, you might want to think about including one or all of the following pages that I’ve seen academics often include on their websites.

Nikola Tesla’s “About” page would have a brief bio, an image, and contact information like an email address.

About Page

On your About Page, you should probably include an image, a blurb introducing yourself, as well as contact information.

Curriculum Vitae Page

You should probably include your CV on your website.  Although you could just provide a PDF copy for visitors on your site to download, I recommend that along with that you include a digest version of your CV as text content on this page of your site.  This way, you can include links to professional organizations, etc., as well as also allows the visitors to your site to have quick access to information without downloading something.

Publications Page

If you want to have a publications page separate from your CV page, you can have one with links to books, articles, digital projects, and other things you’ve written.  If you hold the copyrights to your written work, or have permission to do so, you could also include downloadable PDFs of articles and other written work.

Research Page

Including a couple of paragraphs on your research is important to include on your website.  But, you may want to think carefully about your audience when you write this section.  Since this is a website, you could all kinds of people visiting your site with different levels of familiarity with the vocabulary of your field.  Thinking about whether or not you want to write a research blurb that is accessible to these different people is important, so keep this in mind when explaining your research — I’m sure we all know how easy it can be to write something that is perfectly intelligible to ourselves and other scholars within our fields, but indecipherable to others.

Teaching Page

What courses do you typically teach? What is your teaching “philosophy”?  Include on this page a short paragraph about your teaching more generally, as well as a list of course titles and brief descriptions of the courses you teach.  You could also include example syllabi as downloadable PDFs.

Tesla’s “News” page includes information on an upcoming research presentation and a demonstration of his Tesla coil .

Links or News Page

The last page that I have to suggest is if you have other digital content that you want to link to from your personal site or news of upcoming talks. This page can be a catch-all for miscellaneous things that you do that didn’t fit elsewhere in your site.  For example if you have a blog or write posts for someone else’s blog you could include the necessary links and information here.  Or if you do social media professionally, you could include a link to your Twitter feed or FaceBook page.  If you’re doing a talk somewhere or have recently done one, you can include information on it here.

 

Ultimately, you can include anything you want on your faculty website, but assume that anything you say on the Internet is public information. Never put information that you want to keep secure on your website, i.e. your home address, cell phone number, sensitive research data, or unpublished research or articles that you don’t want the everybody who uses the Internet to have access to.  Other than that, keep in mind that your website is something that you create to serve your needs.  All the above suggestions are just starting points — have fun with it!

About Kim Mann

Kim Mann is the editor and a writer for the Academic Technology Blog. She earned her BA in English from the University of Minnesota in 2003 and her MA in American Studies from William & Mary in 2009, and her PhD in American Studies at the College in 2014. Her research is on technology, the interface, and the body in mid-twentieth century science fiction.