100 Posts and Going Strong

By Bill Henk — Today’s post, our 100th, apparently represents something of a milestone for a blog.  The Marquette Educator went live on August 6, 2009 — some seven months and exactly 215 days ago.  On one hand it seems like only yesterday, and on the other, it feels like an eternity.

Anyway, it seemed like a good time to update you on the progress of the blog, share what I’ve learned so far, and to reflect a little on this amazing learning experience.

I’ll start with saying that my life is very different now that I’m an official blogger, whatever that means.  The work has been challenging, but enormously gratifying, and I want to thank you, our readers for  taking the blog well beyond a hopeful  experiment to an enterprise that is vibrant and sustainable.

In case you were wondering, the blog now attracts somewhere around 3000 to 3200 views per month or 750 to 800 views per week.   Believe me, I’m thrilled with these numbers as well as the fact that our trajectory continues to rise almost every week.

Blogging Is Risky Business

Even though I’ve got quite the healthy ego, I was anything but confident about blogging.  In the time leading up to the launch of the Marquette Educator and right afterwards, I experienced some pretty hefty anxiety.  And even now, although we enjoy a solid readership, I still pay attention to how we’re doing every single day.

Going in, I had no idea what to expect as far as the number of readers who would be interested or what their reactions would be.  Anyway, a ton of time and energy had gone into preparing for the first few posts, and none of the effort would have mattered a hoot if the blog outright tanked.

No interest–no readers–no blog; it was just that simple.

In fact, one of the messages I fully expected to write carried the working title, Blog-Gone.”  I am NOT kidding.

And far be it from me to suggest that the blog qualifies as some kind of social media phenomenon.  By my calculations, on our best day we captured an eye popping .000257 of one percent of the American population!

Thanks All Around

Although I’ve written about two-thirds of the posts,  I’ve had a lot of help.  I’m especially grateful to Amanda Lloyd, our first-year teacher (pictured above right), who is the next most frequent contributor with over 10% of our posts.  Her work speaks not only to our current Education students, but to many other readers, and it often causes them to comment with well deserved praise and support.

Kathleen Cepelka and Jennifer Maney have also posted more than once, and I’ve loved what they’ve written.   For that matter, I’ve appreciated every single guest blogger we’ve had and want to thank all of them for their efforts.

This list of guests  includes my wife, Lisa, the author of a tell-all letter about life with an obsessive-compulsive blogger.  She and our daughter, Audrey, have sacrficed much of our precious time together to make the blog possible.

The other unsung hero of the blog, however, is Lori Fredrich.  We can’t even come up with a sustainable title for her in the College, because the range of her work defies labeling and keeps changing.   Suffice it to say that Lori is clearly why our Web site, our Mission Matters magazine, and the Marquette Educator all receive high marks from our shareholders.  As for the blog itself, Lori handles all of the technical aspects, provides our weekend updates and student spotlights, coordinates all of our related social media, and most of all, is my chief advisor.   She is a successful food blogger herself, and her creativity, counsel, and candor have been priceless.

I’d also like to give a major shout out to Tim Cigelske, our beat reporter from the MU Office of Marketing and Communication (OMC).  Tim first envisioned an Education dean’s blog, which by the way, struck me initially as utter madness.  After all, I had zero experience with the genre even as a reader.  But Tim believed in me, and held my hand through the first critical weeks, and he still provides invaluable advice.  I pay attention because he, too, is a successful blogger.  Anyone who can consistently blog about how running and beer co-exist blissfully deserves to be heard!  Tim continues to promote our blog through various social media pretty much any chance he gets.  For instance, look for an interview he did with me about the Marquette Educator for the new Diederich College of Communication blog

And by the way, Tim and Lori help offset the fact that I am tragically unhip.

People Matter To Readers

It’s fitting that the success of the blog be attributed to people like those mentioned above.  I say this because it’s stories about people that seem to draw the greatest number of viewers.

Although we cover weighty issues like school choice, bullying, a mayoral takeover of MPS, and Race to the Top funding, our readers often favor human interest stories — the untimely passing of a wonderful daycare provider, A Catholic school leader who came back from the dead, a former teacher who took Communion 33, 000 times, and an Education dean who found new love after the tragic death of his wife.

I’m also gratified that they’re drawn to posts that provide rare glimpses into my life as a dean, husband, and father, and not surprisingly, to those referring to MU basketball.  Even though these topics might seem like a stretch for a blog like ours, every one of them has been tied directly to Education in some way.  It’s something in which I take great pride.

Hopefully Something Special

I also take pride in the fact that the blog is unique.  As far as I know, there are only a handful of education deans in the country who blog at all, and they either post rarely or use their blogs exclusively to promote their academic units.  Only one education dean I’ve read takes on noteworthy educational issues, and none blend information, entertainment, and advocacy in the way the Marquette Educator does.

As a team, we’re proud of having avoided the trap of the blog amounting to mere musings.  Instead we aim for a level of thoughtfulness and professionalism that will bring readers back.  Many readers write to me directly, and they report that our interesting mix of topics and their renderings draw them in.  Both substance and humor play well with our audience, and they say the formatting  resembles publication quality magazine articles.

And so you know, I’m continuing to work at recruiting a diverse and distinguished set of guest bloggers, although I’ll admit that this has not been easy.  I’m making progress, though, and I’m driven to be successful, because the more they write, the less I have to!   Far more importantly, the blog and our readers simply benefit from hearing voices other than mine.

My only disappointment so far is that readers haven’t commented much on the blog itself.  Put differently, we have a lot of readers who “lurk,” but don’t remark.  I’m told all blogs experience this pattern.  No matter, I’m exceedingly grateful for every reader, but I do hope that more will start sharing their thoughts publicly. because it will enrich the value of the blog.

By the way, we have some promising posts in store for you in the weeks and months to come.  For instance, I have a three-parter on my most embarrassing professional moments that will probably ruin whatever credibility I enjoy as a dean.  But the stories are just too funny not to share.   So stay tuned.

A Final Word for Readers

As the Marquette Educator pushes ahead toward its next milestone, let me just say thanks once again for your support.   Without you, we mean nothing.  And thanks for enduring the pride I’ve expressed for work that has become a labor of love for me.


NOTE TO READERS:  On Wednesday, you’ll learn what our Top 10 posts have been.  It would be interesting to know what posts you think make up that list.  Let me just say this — I’ll be stunned if anyone can guess the top 2.  Here’s some hints: 

  • Neither post has  anything to do with basketball!
  • The top post deals with an important problem in schools.
  • History is at the heart of the second most popular post.

If you’re brave, you can leave any guesses you might have using the comment feature right here on the blog.   If you’re game but shy, you can also send your guesses to:  deanhenk@marquette.edu where I’ll be the only one who sees them.  So you know, I have a bet with Lori that no one has the guts to even try guessing!

2 Responses to “100 Posts and Going Strong”

  1. 1 lo March 9, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    Hey Bill – Thanks for the shout-out. It’s been great working with you on the MU Educator blog. Here’s to the next 100 posts! *clink*


    • 2 billhenk March 9, 2010 at 4:47 pm

      Any chance you can write the next 99? Seriously, your work has been positively vital to the blog’s success, and I deeply appreciate it. The opportunity to work with you on this adventure has been a true gift for me.


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