Domain of One’s Own at MSU: Promoting Digital Presence and Public Scholarship

Domain of One’s Own at MSU: Promoting Digital Presence and Public Scholarship

This session described the “Digital Presence and Public Scholarship Fellows program” at Michigan State University, which offers faculty and graduate students a structured way to manage their online presence through regular workshops, consultations, and office hours.



I attended this session because I had read a little about the digital fellows program at MSU before the conference, and I was interested to hear more about it. I was curious to hear about what worked and didn’t work, and get some ideas for what we might do at Middlebury in the same vein. See the slides to the presentation here:

Visitors and Residents Online

The session started out with a mapping activity that, surprisingly, I had done before. Several months ago, my boss shared a link to an article that described “Visitors” and “Residents” in an online context. I thought it was a fascinating idea and wanted to learn more.

I watched the videos below, did the mapping exercise described, and discovered an additional mapping project that was equally interesting to me.

Visitors and Residents Explanation

Example of Mapping your Visitor/Resident Online Activity

Sidebar: The Internet Mapping Project

Draw a map of the Internet as you see it. More here:

Internet Mapping Project

Activity: My Personal Map

At Domains, I was reminded of all of the above, and I appreciated the chance to try the activity again.

In short, a Visitor treats the web as a series of tools. You go there for what you need, accomplish that task and leave, with no social trace. You might pay bills, buy a plane ticket, or look up a movie time.

Resident treats the web as a series of spaces. You live out a portion of your life online, such as commenting on posts, blogging, uploading and sharing videos and photos. You leave a social trace when you go offline, and you are seen as an entity in the online space.

Most people have a mixture of Visitor and Resident modes, and use online tools that cover the range of Visitor/Resident and Work/Personal, often with a lot of overlap.

This is the map I created in the Domains session. You can see that some tools that people would consider “Resident”-focused are ones that I use more in the Visitor mode. I also have a very fuzzy line between “work” and “personal,” as well as a conundrum because I have “work” that is not work I do for Middlebury, so I kind of have two different work modes and am not sure how to differentiate them. (click image to see bigger)

Evelyn's Visitor/Resident Map
Evelyn’s Visitor/Resident Map

Kristen and Maddie explained that they use this activity with their Fellows to start the discussion about their online identities. It helps them see where they are, and helps them focus on anything they might want to change.

What Do Fellows Do?

They then got into the nuts and bolts of the program.

“A core component of our program is the Digital Presence and Public Scholarship Fellows program, which takes 25 faculty members each semester and provides them with weekly programming and co-working sessions that are scaffolded to get them to the digital resident status by the end of the semester.”

~ Quote taken from their Conference Proposal

I appreciated seeing the structure they put in place for a variety of workshops, consultations, office hours, meetings, lesson topics, co-working times, and the like.

We have a lot of these types of offerings already through the Digital Learning Commons where I work, but we have nothing regular that is all in support of one main goal—to manage your online presence. I’d like to model this idea in some way for the upcoming semester.

Example Faculty Sites

They shared a few sites from some of their Fellows. We didn’t get into them during the session, so I checked them out afterwards.

* Note: One thing that is important to me is that the content is great, not just the initial look of the site. As I wrote this post, I had to remind myself of that, because I was tempted to just “look” at the sites and not actually read anything that was there. In order to fully appreciate the work that people put into their domains, sometimes you have to actually sit down for 10-20 minutes and take in the content.

Margot B. Valles | Website:

Medieval Literature, Jewish Literature

What I loved about Ms. Valles’ site was her “Teaching Philosophy Statement.” It’s listed as 2015-16, but I imagine it’s not too different now.

I’d like to quote some of my favorite parts from it, below:

“I found that I was struggling to explain or convince students that there is any relevance or meaning in studying the legends of King Arthur today…

“I built a new syllabus that had as its centerpiece the construction of fictional personas whose stories the students would create and complete over the length of the course… To provide an element of both fun and additional challenge, there were times when their hero’s adventures would have to change based on the roll of a die. When students’ characters successfully beheaded their first giant, they were knighted with an in-class ceremony, which I’m proud to say made it onto one of MSU’s snapchat stories. They were also asked to use our online discussion forums to determine aspects of our class-court-culture (e.g., In our classroom/kingdom should slavery be legal? Should a knight’s primary loyalty be to his/her ruler or lover?). Students who had never been “good” at writing were composing novellas! Students who had never done anything creative were making comic books based on their heroes’ stories. One student filmed a puppet show version of his character’s tale that must have taken hours to simply film and edit, let alone create the puppets, the stage, etc. In other words, students were all in. When at the end of the course I asked students why people are still telling the same stories, especially focusing on King Arthur, they had no trouble coming up with answers that were meaningful to them.”



Casey L. Henley, PhD | Website:


I liked that Dr. Henley’s site shows how multi-faceted her work is. She describes her role as a Professor, Web Accessibility Liaison, Faculty Outreach Coordinator, and Web Designer, among other interests and responsibilities.

When I read some of her descriptions, it reminded me of the work I’ve done on our Monterey campus, getting to know our faculty (Read more about it here »).It constantly amazes me how much our educators do besides teach. I’d like to use her site as an example of how they can also share more publicly. I think a lot of people would be interested to see some of the incredible research they’re doing and ways they’re contributing to the campus, greater community, and world, that might be hidden right now from mainstream knowledge.

Carrie Symons, PhD | Website:

Teacher Preparation and ESL

I love all the little personal details that people share. Dr. Symons is pretty technical and to-the-point on her site, but she sprinkles a few gems throughout, including this:

“A few years ago, a family friend found a record of Amelia Symons and her infant son, James Edward, my great grandfather, on the 1889 England to America ocean liner passenger list. Their final destination was Michigan, where they joined her husband, Thomas Symons, who had preceded them to America the year before. With my husband and I now living in East Lansing, Michigan, it seems my family lineage—beginning with those who emigrated from Great Britain to the U.S.—has come full circle.”


It sounds like this is a constantly evolving program, and there’s always more that can be done. I didn’t take too many notes on their challenges or future plans, but I know that both exist. (But that’s the case with everything, isn’t it?)

It was good to see what another school is doing in this area, get a framework to start from, and collect some contact information of people I might be able to reach out to in the future if I have more questions.

Extra Take-aways

As I dug into links and followed rabbit trails through the Internet to write this post, I want to share a few additional resources/ideas/take-aways that I discovered that are only related to this session because that’s where the initial spark came from:

Do you have any take-aways, conclusions, or thoughts you’d like to share? Please be in touch; I’d love to hear what you have to say!