Who Do You Amplify?

What women outside the White House can learn from those in the White House.

October 20, 2016

I've been thinking about the way that women in the White House have worked to amplify their ideas. These women made sure to make a point, repeat it, and give credit to the original person. This “amplified” women’s voices in the White House, and apparently it has worked well. How do you amplify your colleagues or yourself? Academics tend to promote themselves and others in different ways, but many still find the idea of having to promote distasteful. Let's assume that you don't? What are the tactics that you use? And, think about which tactics have failed miserably.

When I put my course together, I often will review colleagues' new articles and books to see if there is something that I can adopt in my course. I view this as a form of promotion--the promotion of their scholarly work. This can include their work on blogs, op-eds or Twitter, as I think it's important for our students to see different type of scholarly engagement in the course of a week's reading material. I want students to also see their professors’ names in the syllabus since they might not know that Dr. Amy Verdun is a well-known Europeanist and has published numerous articles and books. Our students tend to see us in one way—as their professor or instructor of record and might not be familiar with what we do in the other parts of our academic lives.

I also am mindful of the type of examples I use in class or the images in my slide deck. I want to promote a myriad of ideas to engage some hearty class discussion. This is a form of academic community building, and the students can see the philosophical engagements between scholars in the sub-field. These scope and method debates are important to their learning in the sub-fields of Political Science and Gender Studies. I am noting these two disciplines, as these are the two that I am most familiar with as an instructor.

Thinking about who you promote also might offer you a chance to think about some blind spots in your syllabi, article, book project or your conference panel that you're coordinating. Does everyone look like you? Is your project diverse in terms of ideas, philosophy, training, region, gender, and race? I know that we can use more categories here. However, this is a start for thinking about who you promote. I have had the promotion fail when the book or article was weak. And, when this has happened, I am honest with my students.

I want to amplify good ideas and provocative ideas that get my students to think and to respond to within their assignments, but after class, too. A good class should stick to them and return the next term or a year later. Our amplification of others is important, and so are the silences. And, if you are thinking about putting a panel or other project together, think about the composition of the colleagues and their work. Right now is a good time to review your syllabus for next term or next year.


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