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Thursday, June 5, 2014

My life as a blogger

This was my dinner and its mushroom at the annual President's dinner. The mushroom is CLEARLY in the shape of the Trinity tower. Mine was the only one like this. I think there is a story there. Don't you?
Editors note: Recently I wrote my 250th Dean's List blog post. I wanted to celebrate this milestone, because frankly, who else would? Now it might seem arrogant to interview one's self, and I will own that. On the other hand, I think I have demonstrated a willingness to embarrass myself (can you say "piano"?) and self-disclose very private things, like my love of 1960's bubble gum pop (can you say Petula Clark? And yes, clearly lip-synching...). So I think I have earned a right to be self-indulgent.
Q: So, I guess this is the obvious question - why do you blog?

A: I think it is important to communicate with students and parents in a way that humanizes the administration. I used to write columns in the Trinitonian and do a call-in show on Tiger TV. When blogging became a thing I thought 'hey, I can do that!' It lets me write at my own pace and when the spirit moves me. I also want a forum to add nuance to topics and to even correct misinformation.

Q: So how does the spirit move you?

A: I have a lot of weird thoughts. I keep most of them to myself. But sometimes I may see something, hear something, wonder something, and an idea just takes on its own life. Grieving Yolanda is a good example. I seriously thought the things I wrote, so just typing it out isn't necessarily work. It is just reporting what you think. Once I get an idea though, I have to write it, even if I am busy with other things. I can go weeks without posting and then do three in a row. Weird.

Q: So when do you write?

A: I compose most of my posts when I am running. The trick is remembering between the end of the run and when I can write.

Q: What do you love and hate about blogging?

A: I love Trinity! And I love the little stories that happen here that often others aren't privy to. We (not just Trinity) do so much in terms of manufactured copy with a positive spin. Sometimes for me the joy around here is in the little things and the people. I like to chronicle these things from a non-sanitized perspective.

Q: And hate...

A: I wouldn't say I hate anything about it. I guess you do kind of make a deal that you need to be personal when you blog. Otherwise you are part of the noise. So when you try to develop a voice or take a stand you put yourself out there to criticism.

Q: Really?

A: Well, yeah. I always felt like the worst way to be a Dean would be to not be known. I don't think there is anything special about me. But, I want students to know who I am. When the chips are down, I want them to turn to me for help or at least for a referral. So you have to find ways to be out there. Blogging is one way. The downside is when people have an issue with the administration they have a real person to attack.

Q: So please tell me why do it?

A: Some days, I don't know. I think the important thing is to be transparent. Our students really, really want to hear the truth and don't want to be condescended to. On the other hand, when you speak your truth, you open yourself up to criticism. It would be a lot simpler for me to keep my trap shut. But I don't want to be vanilla in that way. Sometimes it seems to me I am my own worst enemy...

Q: How has your blogging evolved?

A: Some of my early posts were simple news shorts. The more I did it, the more I developed a voice. I have also gotten bolder since I realized I am just a guy at a small school in Texas with a small audience.

Q: Any favorite posts?

A: Actually, yes. They are the ones about people. I just love the the unusual saga of the McCormick-Masse family. I continue to be inspired by a young woman named Chelsea Castillo and another named Catherine Found. How people cope with tragedy sometimes amazes me. The post about Alex Reinis was very personal to me. I never knew Alex, and his death makes me sad. I got to know his parents and friends after he passed and they are wonderful people. Again: courage. I was also inspired by Karyna and her pure guts. I am glad she let me write about her.

And it may seem strange, but this woman Louise, the census taker, just cracked me up. I also like this post because Butch Newman is one of the best guys ever. The story about these twins, who we let graduate even though one didn't attend here, was really cool. It was not like us to make an exception like this. I credit President Brazil for saying "yes."

Q: Well aren't you special?

A: NO! See, I was afraid of that. I love to blog but it is because I love the material. I have a unique vantage point based on my job. Trinity is special and so are its people. That's the point.

That's really the point...

Note: Thank you to my consultants Susie Gonzalez and Mike Fischer, who try to save me from myself.