Professors Who Blog #1: Dean of Graduate Programs Al Sturgeon
November 14, 2016 | By Alexa Brown -- Technology has widened social and career circles by providing new platforms on which humans are able to connect. The blogosphere itself is a vast and ever-growing outlet, full of topics ranging from personal to political to practical. Not exempt from the craze? Academia. That's right, Pepperdine Law professors have blogs of their own, with unique topics and a rather impressive readership. In the days ahead, we are going to highlight a few professors with blogs of varying styles and topics: How long have they been at it? Do they have any advice on maintaining one? Should you blog?
First up is Dean of Graduate Programs, Al Sturgeon, with his blog titled "Starting to Look Up." With 3,301 followers and twice-weekly posts, this blog has become both a discipline and a space to share meanderings with friends, family, and the Pepperdine community.
When did you first begin blogging?
About 10 years ago. My first blog was actually a group blog, with about six or seven of us total, but it wasn't long before I started my own personal blog. l did that for about five years ('06-'11). Right about the time I graduated Law School I stopped for a few years, and then started again in May of '15.
What topics does your blog cover?
It's meant to be an inspirational blog. I suppose it's more personal, and about things that I notice in the world, whether current events or things that I experience in my own personal life that I think is worth sharing.
Your blog is named Starting to Look Up, with the words "inspiring positive change" underneath. Tell me about that.
First off, it's hard to find an original name! It begins with the subtitle really. During the time I was the Helen Young Fellow for Pepperdine, I was able to spend time with a leadership coach. We spent time finding my personal "brand"-- focusing on discovering who I am at my core. As a result, it was made aware that I truly like to make things better, whether through speaking, writing, teaching, or whatever that may be. The actual title came from an Anne Lamott quote which I have in the "About" section of my blog:
"Emerson said that the happiest person on earth is the one who learns from nature the lessons of worship. So go outside a lot, and look up. My pastor says you can trap bees on the floor of a Mason jar without a lid, because they don't look up. If they did, they could fly to freedom."
– Anne Lamott
It lends to the idea that in law school or in life in general, it can be easy to look down and get trapped without seeing the bigger picture.
How has blogging affected your career?
I've had colleagues and Deans of Students' at other schools email me every once in a while about something I've written, just saying they relate. President Andrew K. Benton has commented on my blog before which is supportive. Professor Brittany Stringfellow Otey, who does our legal aid clinic, has been encouraging by discussing with me how hard it is to be authentic and be yourself in a work environment, where you feel like you need to be constantly discussing your discipline. She mentioned that it would be refreshing and good for students and others to expand on their creative outlets as well.
Do you feel blogging gives you an outlet you may otherwise lack in other areas of your life?
Yes. Emeritus Ron Phillips has mentioned before that all of us have a creative side that should be utilized. He actually writes songs throughout the year and puts out an album around Christmas time. Within one of those annual letters, he essentially mentioned that whatever creative manner you have, you ought to do. That's what writing is for me, my creative space to do something.
Would you suggest blogging to others?
Certainly to some! I'll just reiterate that it helps me notice the world; for similarly situated people it might also help. For others it might be journaling privately or a different type of creative outlet. Blogging forces me to pay attention to the world and creates conversation and relationships to people. The only downside may be that it is like a garden, and you do need to tend to it.
You publish on your blog twice weekly. Have you had any difficulties following through with that schedule?
A little bit at times when things are busy. I'm a really organized type of person though, so I find that I expect it and others expect it. Often times Saturday will roll around, which is when I normally write, and even if I haven't thought of any material yet I'll sit down and write. It's actually often with forcing myself that I find good content materializes.
What advice would you offer others who have considered blogging?
Well, WordPress is free! In all sincerity, it's worth a shot. There's no harm in trying and similarly there is no harm in stopping. I've had to remind myself at times that certainly people are reading these posts, but the whole world is not depending on me.
On another note, realize that it is a permanent record, and people are reading it.
Thank you to Al Sturgeon for offering insight and commentary into the world of blogging. Check back soon for a look at yet another professor who will speak to their experience of writing on the inter-web.