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Each week, I receive email messages from communications professionals asking if I’d be interested in including their clients in my “3 Questions” series. Ninety-nine out of 100 times, I’d say the answer is no.

In order to potentially generate some new Q&As and perhaps cut down on unproductive emails, I thought I’d share the criteria I use in deciding whom to interview.

No. 1: Relationships

Almost always, the conversations in the “3 Questions” series are with colleagues with whom I have some professional relationship. These are discussions with people in my network. They are extensions of conversations that started during in-person meetings, conferences, or through email or Twitter.

The postsecondary ecosystem is large, but the subgroups within higher education are small. In the world of online education and learning innovation, we all tend to know each other. The “3 Questions” series is a chance to bring the discussions that learning and innovation people are having to a broader audience.

In some instances, the “3 Questions” series provides an opportunity to broaden the conversation with colleagues outside my learning innovation network. An example is the series of Q&As I’ve been doing with academic library colleagues. All those interviews started as email exchanges and later morphed into Q&As.

The takeaway message is that the conversations in “3 Questions” are between existing colleagues. I almost always have to know you through some professional connection or activity if we are going to move forward with an interview.

No. 2: Nontraditional Academic Careers

The colleagues that I tend to want to interview are nontraditional academics. I am deliberately trying to use the platform that Inside Higher Ed affords to highlight the contributions of alternative academics, learning professionals and other nonfaculty educators.

Part of my motivation for interviewing nontraditional academics is curiosity. As someone who trained as a sociologist, I’m fascinated by how people navigate career and family life. Nonfaculty educators invent as much as they follow a career path. There is no map to follow, and we are making things up professionally as we go along.

How many of you are in academic jobs where you are the first person to fill the role? How many of you trained for the higher ed job you are doing today? It is those stories of colleagues navigating unclear and liminal academic career paths that I try to highlight.

No. 3: Diverse Colleagues

Another area of intentional focus in the “3 Questions” series is to represent the diversity of the nontraditional educator population. We need to hear more about the experiences of early-career colleagues, as well as educators from populations that remain underrepresented in academic leadership roles.

An additional area of diversity in the “3 Questions” series is the inclusion of educators inside and outside universities. A reality often missed is the overlap in values between educators who work at schools and those who work at companies.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t be critical of the growth of nonprofit/for-profit partnerships in core areas of teaching and learning. Only that the way forward is through respectful dialogue, listening and transparency.

My hope is that the conversations with colleagues that I have through this “3 Questions” series will continue and expand, as these Q&As are some of the pieces that I most enjoy working on.

If you or your colleague meets the three criteria outlined above, I hope we can be in touch.

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