Member Spotlight: Suzy Cater

Suzy CaterSuzy Cater, a doctoral candidate in modern French and francophone Caribbean literature at New York University who is on the academic job market this year, created her own site on the Commons just a few weeks ago. Below, she talks to us about why she decided to take the plunge and create her professional Web presence on the platform.

Why did you decide to create a personal Web site on the Commons? How much time did it take?

While I’d helped to develop Web sites before, for things such as graduate student conferences, I’d never created one of my own. More and more professionals seem to be setting up their own sites, though, and I was eager to give it a go and to talk about my work on an open, online platform. I chose to use the Commons because I’d heard a lot about it being well adapted to the needs of academics seeking to establish an online presence. As a French literature specialist, I thought it seemed like a great idea to connect my Web page to the major online discussion forum for modern languages. I took my time playing around with the design of the site, but it wasn’t an arduous process: it probably took me a couple of evenings in total to set everything up.

You’re quite accomplished! How can a Web site help you showcase those accomplishments in a way that a job application can’t? 

Thank you very much! The two things that most appealed to me about setting up the site were (1) the potential to expand it and ultimately to link it to other digital humanities projects and blogs in my field and (2) the openness of the medium, in terms of allowing my research to be accessible to people from many different contexts, within and outside academia. I like the fact that with an Internet connection, anyone who is interested in the literature that I work on can now find this site and have access to more resources.

Do you have HTML or design skills, or had you used WordPress before? What might you have to say to people who think they can’t possibly build a site to showcase their work?

I had used WordPress before, in the context of teaching, but wasn’t an expert in it. However, MLA Commons helpfully made the undertaking very easy, by having lots of step-by-step tutorials to assist in designing the site. There was also no need to know how to code, which makes things much simpler! I would thoroughly recommend the process to other researchers, since creating and customizing your site is not only fun (and it is useful to share your research with a broader audience) but also offers an opportunity to cultivate technology skills that can subsequently be transferred to other projects and scenarios.

Engaging with a Larger Community

Looking to convince a potential employer of the broad appeal of your research? If you’re willing to go beyond a static Web site and update your content on a regular basis, consider adding a blog. This will allow you to demonstrate the extensiveness of your research interests through curated links, comments on recent articles and development in the field, and occasional forays into ancillary but relevant matters. Questions? Ask them in the comments or e-mail us at commons@mla.org.

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