At the beginning of our Praxis Fellowship in August, we were excited, overwhelmed and everything in-between. After wading through the initial awkwardness of introductions and building trust, we found relief in realizing that most of us felt exactly the same way. Similarly, while we did our best to warn the Scholars’ Lab staff of our inadequacies, they met us with support, love and confidence in our potential.
As most of us were new to coding, our initial crash course was both rewarding and frustrating. Those frustrations and growing pains would become our greatest assets when we were tasked with creating a project that would walk newcomers through a similar process of our choosing. Additionally, our group was able to bond over our own unique struggles within the academy. In some sense, we had all experienced the toxicity that is promoted and perpetuated in academia, while also understanding the anguish of being excluded by the ‘gatekeepers.’ In a reality that often rewards a good performance over authenticity, we wanted to foster a space where our fellows could be their authentic selves without being chastised. It was these common struggles that became the guiding light of our project, which manifested into the creation of Your Name Here, to help guide our fellow graduate students through the often arduous process of creating an online presence.
On the technical end, Your Name Here guides users through the environment set-up (the software and tools you need to create a website) and offers detailed instructions and tutorials covering the basics of HTML and CSS. It is within these lessons that our own struggles at the beginning of the academic year paid dividends. We are not preaching from above, but rather speaking from our own experience. Similarly, our writing prompts embody our own experiences and frustrations with the academy. They are intended to help a user to embrace their authentic self and to help them find the courage to share their own unique personal or professional (or both) thoughts and experiences with the world. Our site’s design, which was brilliantly created by Jennifer Marine and Jeremy Boggs, personifies our approach to this fellowship — embracing the magical, radical and whimsical. More broadly, every component of our site is informed by our lengthy group discussions throughout the year.
While Your Name Here is designed to walk a newcomer through the technical process of site creation, our writing prompts and insights are useful for scholars of all technological experience levels. After pouring over a number of personal websites for inspiration, our group leaned towards what we viewed as a nonconformist aesthetic, but we created a site that will benefit users from all approaches. Whether you want to highlight your academic accomplishments and educational experience, or you’re compelled to share your favorite podcasts and the astrological meaning of the time you were born, our project aims to embrace all methodologies.
Not surprisingly (especially for academics), we all would have preferred more time to fine-tune our website—a dilemma most cohorts face. Nonetheless, our entire cohort (along with the Scholars’ Lab staff) gave everything that we had to produce a final product. Much like the approach we are attempting to promote, our site is perfectly imperfect. Our sincere hope is that new users will gain some technical skills while feeling genuinely supported, and to feel encouraged enough to share their own experience, strength and hope (online).