Professors probe the power of the blog

Author: Susan Guibert ’87, ’93MCA


If you’re a regular visitor to the land of blogs, then you’re familiar with its vast and varied citizenry: mad moms and money managers, political activists and poodle aficionados, all finding an audience and a niche online. Not surprising, then, that some Notre Dame faculty members regularly chime in and offer their own specialized expertise in the blogosphere.

“I started blogging for the same reason I wrote the book — to help students with the practical-intelligence part of their education,” says Anita Kelly, Notre Dame professor of psychology and author of the book The Clever Student, and a blog of the same name,

“I want to help my students understand their academic environment better and get the most from their professors,” Kelly says. “It’s gratifying to share these insights with students through my blog so they can struggle a bit less than I had to.”

Kelly is among several Notre Dame faculty bloggers who regularly share their expertise with students, academic peers, other bloggers and just about anyone interested in the subject.

“My blog has a steady group of followers, up to several hundred per week, and my goal is to expand to a broader, international group of college students,” says Kelly.

Her weekly topics include such items as conflicts over grades, classroom humiliation, appropriate behavior and how professors think.

“I have yet to receive a negative comment, and students have expressed gratitude for insights on particular topics, like how to approach professors for a letter of recommendation.”

Notre Dame sociologist Daniel Myers is a seasoned blogger. He’s one of the founders of an academic group blog called Scatterplot (, with seven other sociologists from around the nation who blog about, well, sociological issues. He’s also the author of the Blue Monster, his personal blog that includes commentary on academics, popular culture and current politics — all written with a humorous bent in order to engage readers — which topped 150,000 hits a day at its peak. Though pleased, albeit somewhat bewildered, with Blue Monster’s wild popularity (“I’ve been read on every continent!”), Myers is most proud of his use of blogs in a peace studies class he taught two years ago — what he calls “a total experiment.”

“I asked the students to try and ‘be peace’ in some small way every week and then blog about it,” Myers explains. “I told them to go by their own definitions of peace, because I didn’t want to push anyone into an ideological position or cause they don’t believe in.”

This experiment turned out to be life-changing for Myers and for his students.

“It forced me to do what normally I would not have had the courage to do, like helping complete strangers, reconciling strained friendships and simply restoring a little peace to my own life,” a former student says.

“The blog really tied everything together,” Myers says, “their readings, their experiences in real life, issues with their families and people who are important to them, conflicts with friends and roommates — the kind of stuff that’s critical to their development as people while they are students. It all came together through the peace blog. It was mind-blowing, really. I never had any idea it was going to be that powerful.”

Like Kelly and Myers, Darcia Narvaez, ND associate professor of psychology, is renowned in her field and is on the radar of popular publications.

“Psychology Today contacted me last fall and asked if I’d be interested in blogging for them. I decided it would be a good way for me to practice writing for laypeople, since I want to write some trade books,” Narvaez says. She updates her blog, called Moral Landscapes, about once a month at

One of her areas of expertise is moral development, so using current news stories as inspiration for her blog entries is easy: from the hair-pulling, opponent-punching college soccer player’s abhorrent behavior to television host Glenn Beck’s “tantrum morality.”

“You’ve got to link to a hot issue and put links in your blog to other websites to get more hits. When I do that I can get 1,000 readers in 24 hours, which is kind of fun,” says Narvaez, who also has written for this magazine.

Narvaez has co-authored and edited five books, including the award-winning Postconventional Moral Thinking; she also has written a chapter in the Handbook of Child Psychology. And yet, she says, “More people read the blog than anything else I have ever written.”