What is a public scholar?

Public scholars think about how to take their work beyond the academy. That might mean writing an op-ed in the Washington Post, developing a think piece for New Republic, or shaping your book for readers outside your field. Your public engagement might bring your research to a wider audience or you might make the most of your critical and creative skills by publishing a personal essay related to your experience as a writer, a researcher, an instructor, an administrator, or a thinker. Or you might develop a digital project that makes your grant-funded research available around the world. There are many ways to be a public scholar.

Why would I want to think about myself as a public scholar?

With buzzwords like 'engagement,' 'outreach,' and 'impact,' faculty are now encouraged to reach out beyond campus. But becoming a public scholar isn't just about administrators' schemes. Writing for readers other than your academic peers can push you to sharpen your thinking, refine your argument, and ask bigger, more meaningful questions. Understanding yourself as a public scholar can help you sharpen your approach to academic articles and books as well. Opening your work up to these possibilities often results in writing in a way that feels less anxiety-producing and more enjoyable.

Work from experts who can write intelligently for a diverse readership is increasingly in demand. Beyond well-known outlets like the New Yorker, Harper's, and Smithsonian, newer publications like The Conversation, Zócalo, and Vox's The Big Idea invite scholars to share their expertise. The Op-Ed Project helps "underrepresented experts take thought leadership positions in their fields," and the NEH Public Scholar Program was developed to support academics and independent scholars who want to write the kinds of books that end up on NPR and the BBC.

How can you help?

I help you find a new voice and a new way of thinking about writing. I help bring out your brilliance and find new directions for it.

We'll work together to discover what you want to achieve as a public scholar and make a plan for how to best achieve it. We can talk about how to leverage your accomplishments into other kinds of writing, how to avoid 'dumbing it down' pitfalls, and how to find the 'big idea' in what you already do. If you have an academic book coming out, you might want to develop a spin-off piece for mainstream press outlets. If you're applying for a grant, you might want to place a tie-in article that shows your research has the potential to make an impact. 

I can provide insights about working with the press office at your institution, make suggestions for how to read like a publicly engaged scholar, and introduce you to programs that help academics gain a public foothold. When you're ready, I can connect you with a journalist coach who can offer advice on how to shape your op-ed, essay, or article and help you place your writing in the right publication for you and your career.

How does it work?

We'll work together via phone or Skype in as few or as many sessions as you like, and how we work together is tailored to your own goals and ideas. We'll begin with an initial free session. 

How do I get started?

Fill out the form to set up a free consultation to talk further about how Writers and Scholars can help you.

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