View from Venus

2.2 Building Online Networks with Karen Costa

Episode Summary

In this week's episode, guest expert Karen Costa, writer at Women In Higher Ed, joins us to talk about the advantages of having a robust online network and we'll also talk about some of the challenges. We wrap up with our best tips and advice for building your own online network and at the end we'll have an assignment for our listeners- we'll ask you to try out one of our recommendations to grow your online network and share your story with us on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook and tag us @university_of_venus on IG and @UVenus on Twitter or post it on our Facebook page at and we will share, retweet, and amplify! Find University of Venus on Instagram @university_of_venus , Twitter @UVenus , and Facebook

Episode Notes

Topics Discussed in this Episode:

Resources Discussed in this Episode:

Music Credits: Magic by Six Umbrellas

Sound Engineer: Ernesto Valencia

Episode Transcription

View from Venus, Season 2, Episode 2

Mary Churchill: [00:00:00] Hello everyone, and welcome to this week's episode of the View from Venus. My name is Mary Churchill, and on today's episode, I am joined by cohost Meg Palladino and Lee Skallerup Bessette and guest expert, Karen Costa, writer at Women in Higher Ed. In today's episode, we'll be talking with Karen about the advantages of having a robust online network, and we'll also talk about some of the challenges.

[00:00:27] You will walk away with our best tips and advice for building an online network, and as always, at the end of the episode, we'll have a recommended assignment for you. 

[00:00:35] Karen Costa is a writer, educator, faculty developer and wellness advocate. She is passionate about helping faculty to succeed both inside and outside of the classroom.

[00:00:46] We asked Karen to join us on the View from Venus because we wanted to hear more about her new #HigherEdReads initiative and how she makes online networking work for her. Welcome to View from Venus. Karen, we're thrilled to have you here and we're excited to get into this conversation. First, Meg will start us off with a warm up question that's a little personal, but that gets us thinking outside the box. 

[00:01:10] Meg Palladino: [00:01:10] Hi Karen. Today's question is: When somebody finds out what you do for a living or where you're from, what questions do they always ask you?

[00:01:21] Karen Costa: [00:01:21] I'm thinking of something I tweeted out this week that I'm going to put on my tombstone, or it was either my tombstone or my memoir.

[00:01:30] It was going to be called “Various. Various,” because I have various jobs at various institutions, and whenever I fill out a form, it asks me for my one role at my one institution, and I've just taken to writing various, various. So, I'm super complicated and I move in a lot of directions. So when people ask me what I do, I kind of just like mumble under my breath and they seem to take that as a sign to change the subject.

[00:02:00] Mary Churchill: [00:02:00] What do you say, Meg? 

[00:02:01] Meg Palladino: [00:02:01] What do I have to say? Well, in terms of work, when I tell someone that I'm the director of Yale summer session, the first question I always get is, Oh, so you only work in the summer? And, you know, it really actually takes 12 months to do.

[00:02:19] Mary Churchill: [00:02:19] Oh, I like that. 

[00:02:20] Lee Skallerup Bessette: [00:02:20] I get so many varied reactions depending on where, like you said, I'm originally from Canada, and so everybody's like, Oh. Why are you here? No, I know. So I always get those varied reactions. But then, when people find out I’m at Georgetown, everybody gets very impressed. 

[00:02:37] Mary Churchill: [00:02:37] I know. Isn't it funny? 

[00:02:38] Meg Palladino: [00:02:38] When you throw Yale around, people don't want to talk to you anymore, basically. 

[00:02:43] Mary Churchill: [00:02:43] I think for me, a lot of people I talk to are not in higher ed, so it's various levels of explaining --- What does an associate dean do? How are places organized? All of that, right? So when I say I'm at a given university -- I've been in full time administration since 2006 -- So when people say, oh, you're at X, Y university, do you teach? What does an administrator do? So it's such a complicated conversation 

[00:03:14] Karen Costa: [00:03:14] Yeah. And no one realizes that higher ed admin, you know, that it's kind of a hidden career. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I didn't discover it until well after college. So, we could probably do a better job of letting people know that it's a great career path.

[00:03:31] Mary Churchill: [00:03:31] Karen, you and I first met through Women in Higher Ed, an online publication focused on women in higher ed. Can you tell us a little about how WIHE helps facilitate online networks for women in higher ed?

[00:03:47] Karen Costa: [00:03:47] Sure. So, just a little bit of background for folks. Women in Higher Ed is a Wiley publication. We're a monthly practitioner’s newsletter, so not an academic journal. We are, you know, very hands on, very practical. You can find profiles of women and telling their stories. You can find a lot of practical articles with tips about things like leadership or developing a meditation practice or books that we've been reading that we think folks should be considering.

[00:04:17] And, you know, for me what stands out there is that we create a space for women to tell their stories --- women working in higher ed. I can't say much else without mentioning our editor, Kelly Baker, who's really amazing, and she's just so supportive and of course, we all love her writing, which is brave and smart and accessible.

[00:04:43] So, she's a big part of creating that community. So, women can read our articles. Kelly shares free articles each month. She gets very excited about that. We all do. Free articles day to access stories of women working in higher ed. So a big part of what we do is write profiles. My job, which is really cool.

[00:05:04] I get to kind of scan the higher ed environment and just keep my eye out for women who inspire me or who are doing really cool work. And I get to reach out to them and ask if they're willing to chat with me about their work. And. So those are included in our newsletter. We share them with the world, and hopefully folks are able to use those stories to build their networks and to start thinking about potential collaborations.

[00:05:30] I'll also mention we have a really robust job site on the Women in Higher Ed website that you can check out and something I really love. If you follow Women in Higher Ed on Twitter, when women get promoted into new roles at their institutions, they share that. And those are just like, I've been having like a really tough day on a certain day and when I see one of those, I am able to take a breath and it just gives me a little bit of hope. So, you know. Reach out to women that you're reading about in those profiles, reach out to me or to the other Women in Higher Ed writers. If you know somebody who you think would make a great profile, and we'll just keep telling women's stories and connecting folks.

[00:06:08] Mary Churchill: [00:06:08] Excellent. I love the Twitter posts on promotions or getting hired at another institution. I think that's just, it's really affirming and when I recognize people, I know it's really wonderful to see that. I mean, Inside Higher Ed does a little of that, but it's not just women. And it's really great to see you do that.  So, thank you. 

[00:06:28] Lee Skallerup Bessette: [00:06:28] All right, so just this past January, you started a #HigherEdReads initiative that includes a Twitter tea and chat. Could you tell us a little bit about that and why you started it and how's it going? 

[00:06:43] Karen Costa: [00:06:43] Yeah, so I love books and I love to read but I was noticing that I wasn't making time for my professional reading. So, I can devour fiction. There's no need for me to schedule time for that or to get motivated for that. You know, it's just constant. But I wasn't making time for my professional readings. So, I started sometime last year. I was tweeting and I was like, you know, how do we make time for this? And I always got a lot of responses like, yes, we need to do this, I want to do this as well. And whenever I did make time for it and I would share what I was reading, I would just feel really good and positive and invigorated. And I was like, I need to do more of this. And then, so sometime in late fall, I tweeted it again and a bunch of people were responding: yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

[00:07:30] And I, you know, for whatever reason in that moment I said, Oh my gosh, I'm just going to do this. Let's just try this. So, chatted with people online, got some ideas. We didn't want to be a book club and that for me, I'm like a book club dropout. I can't, I cannot have people tell me what to read. Like it's just like it's too personal for me or something.

[00:07:51] I don't know. Like I love getting recommendations from people, but for me it's like the book I choose to read in this moment is like, I just feel like it's very specific to my needs at this point in my life and I need to have the power to choose that for myself. So I didn't want to do a book club, but I wanted people to be able to support each other in sharing some professional reading goals.

[00:08:11] And my friend Clea Mahoney, she's my partner in crime from NYU. She had been trying to get a Twitter tea off the ground for folks in higher ed to just get together a couple of times a month and chat. So, we kind of merged the two ideas and how we had a, you know, I had a like little graphic made and we put together. Love canvas.

[00:08:31] We designed a couple tags and started in January, and we've had lots of people sharing. Lots of people came to the Twitter chat. It was very active. We were a little overwhelmed by it, which was a good thing. And yeah. You know where it all comes back to is I've been making progress on my professional reading goals because I have some accountability in place now, and I've been reading every weekday morning for just about 15 minutes and I don't think I would be doing that if it wasn't for this group.

[00:09:00] So I'm really excited for myself and that it's gotten me in gear to do this. It's really important to me like to just get my, to learn something new and to get my brain going through that professional reading and I've loved the sense of community that's developing. We're thinking about next steps and we want to really reach out to more authors and maybe get a website going.

[00:09:20] We'd love feedback from anybody who's interested. We have stickers. If anybody wants stickers, I still have a few, so let me know and I'll make sure you get one. 

[00:09:28] Mary Churchill: [00:09:28] Excellent. I've seen the tweets of them online: I've got my sticker! 

[00:09:32] Karen Costa: [00:09:32] I'm a…yeah, I love books and stickers. So those are my things. 

[00:09:36] Lee Skallerup Bessette: [00:09:36] So, what are you reading right now? What are you reading in your 15 minutes every morning? 

[00:09:41] Karen Costa: [00:09:41] I'm reading a book called Indistractable. The author’s name is Nir Eyal and he was one of the people who kind of was part of designing the apps or programs that kind of get us hooked on our devices, and then he realized that wasn't such a great thing.

[00:09:56] And now he's written a book about how to be more moderate with our screen use on our devices. And I kind of hate, like, I wanted to hate it because I was like, you can't do that. Like you can't have your cake and eat it too. You can't be on both sides. But it's really, really good. And he's got a lot of really good recommendations.

[00:10:13] He's not anti-screen. He's not pro screen. It's just about, you know, being more mindful and making good choices. I love the chapters. They're short chapters. I'm a big fan of short chapters for my attention span, and so I can sit down and read a chapter and just have like an immediate strategy that I can apply. So it's really, really good. 

[00:10:32] Lee Skallerup Bessette: [00:10:32] Awesome. Yeah, I'm taking notes. I'm going to go get that one. So speaking of that, this actually transitions really, really nicely into the next question, which is: In your work, you're also focused on health and wellness. And how does having a robust online network help with health and wellness? And also, as you know, as explicitly said by the author of the book, how does that also hurt? 

[00:10:56] Karen Costa: [00:10:56] So, yeah, I'm interested in health and wellness. I'm kind of weird and that I don't know how to really talk about that within higher ed. I feel like sometimes it's kind of not something that's encouraged for us to talk about our bodies, minds, and spirits. You know, we're very…, we've got the mind part and the thinking part down really well. So I'm still trying to figure out how to, to do that health and wellness work in higher ed. I have a yoga teaching background as well as my work in higher ed and that certainly influences what I do.

[00:11:26] I've studied the brain and how it relates to how we learn and how we teach. And I'm very passionate about learning about stress and helping people realize how stress impacts them. So, but, that's a tough, sometimes a tough conversation to have in higher ed. I think, you know, what comes to mind is the word loneliness in terms of online networks.

[00:11:45] And I was just meeting with a team last week. We're working on a project to do some, to develop some curriculum for faculty to help them to explore this concept of wellness and learn how to take care of themselves, learn about stress and its impact on how they think and work and live so that they can not only take care of themselves, but also bring that into the classroom.

[00:12:06] And one of the things that one of my team members, they've done some initial research. One of the things that came out was that faculty shared with them that this concept of loneliness kept coming up. And I don't know if we often think of loneliness as part of health and wellness.

[00:12:21] You know, in our culture it's like, you know, there's a very external vision of what health and wellness is. Not feeling connected to others is absolutely part of health and wellness. So I work from home, fully remote. So if I didn't have my online networks and I didn't have them for a while. When I first started working from home, I was absolutely lonely and that was impacting my health and wellness.

[00:12:43] So being able to connect with others, particularly other women, has been really important to me in feeling less lonely and to feeling healthier and well, and I think that's really important to talk about, to give people that sense of connection, which I get through - I do get that through social media.

[00:13:00] The flip side of that is when it starts to be something that feels like it's deciding for me instead of me deciding when I'm using it, and for me it's about taking breaks and not just like 15 minute breaks and stepping away and clearing my head and clarifying my goals for those communities and finding that balance is really important. 

[00:13:17] Lee Skallerup Bessette: [00:13:17] Okay, that's great. And I think you're right that that loneliness is one of those ones where, or even a sense of isolation, that one of the biggest things when I moved into an alt-ac role, and one of the things I say is that it's so much more collaborative, right? And I have so much more of a connection to the work and the people that I work with because we're always working together as opposed – and, I mean, that's, it's, I mean, I’m a humanities scholars, so it's traditionally the single author in those kinds of things. So I think that that is a really important one, and certainly, I know how valuable social media can be to finding those connections too. So definitely. That's great. 

[00:13:55] Meg Palladino: [00:13:55] Karen, you are really full of innovative ideas on ways to help women network. What's next for you? 

[00:14:02] Karen Costa: [00:14:02] I really have, I have no idea, and I've just been kind of seeing, trying to do the next best thing, which is one of my life philosophies, but what I guess what I'm curious about, you know, the past few months I've been thinking about the idea of collaborating beyond institutions. That phrase, “beyond institutions,” came up in a conversation I was having on social media.

[00:14:28] I got together with a group of women for a virtual tea there, you know, at the start of the new year, and there were 20 of us and everybody just got, you know, came there and shared their goals and hopes for the new year. Kind of spun off of that, we have a Google doc going -- Women Working in Higher Ed -- who want to add their contact information. You can search for it and find potential collaborations or just, you know, email somebody for a zoom chat. And what I loved about that is that it wasn't attached to any institution, it wasn't attached to any conference. It was beyond institutions. And you know, what I've realized is that we don't need anyone's permission to gather, and that.

[00:15:10] I think that's really important for us to remember. So I've had women, you know, reach out to me, ask me for a zoom coffee date, and I do the same. And those have been some of the most fruitful conversations that I've had for the past couple of years. And they're just, you know, women reaching out to each other.

[00:15:27] So I'm curious to see where those, you know, beyond institutional collaborations take me, I suppose, in the next year or so.

[00:15:35] Mary Churchill: [00:15:35] Excellent. Well, so as our wrap up, we like to do takeaways, right? So kind of, and the topic for this, session with you is online networks for women plus in higher ed. And I would say, and interested in higher ed, right? Kind of that broad category. And so I can start us off, but kind of when you were talking, you know, it always comes back to why we started our blog, University of Venus in the first place is really Meg and I were working together. We felt somewhat isolated, even though we had one another, isolated in our working environment, and we wanted to be able to reach out to other women and also wanted to create a space where other women could reach out to one another, not necessarily at their institutions, but kind of, you know, here's my problem I'm facing at this institution, what would you do? And so, when we created University of Venus, it was that. And so I think that having that online space that you can dip into as anonymously as you want to at any time of the day, any day of the week is really important. Particularly given what you said about loneliness and isolation. I think the faculty role in particular is very, very isolating and you power through your writing and your research and your reading and your teaching. And there are times when you just need to reach out to people, and I think the online networks can really do that. If you're in those and you facilitate those, you can really use those effectively. 

[00:17:04] Karen Costa: [00:17:04] Absolutely.

[00:17:05]Meg Palladino: [00:17:05] I really appreciate that you talked about loneliness because I think people don't talk about it enough, and certainly reaching out and making connections, you know, really combats that. I also feel like I should be making more time for my professional reading, very little time to read. 

[00:17:24] Karen Costa: [00:17:24] It seems to be the first thing. It's one of those things that it's like the first thing to go when we get really busy, right? And, but I think it's important. What I found is that sometimes it can feel like if we only have five minutes, it's like, what's the point? But I'm amazed at how much I can get done when I actually focus for five minutes. 

[00:17:41] Lee Skallerup Bessette: [00:17:41] That's the trick, right? Actually focusing. 

[00:17:44] Karen Costa: [00:17:44] Yup. 

[00:17:45] Lee Skallerup Bessette: [00:17:45] And I think that, for me, the online networks, I've been talking a lot to various people about, you know, coming back around to social media and coming back around to digital communities and mentoring and those kinds of things.

[00:17:59] And I think that not only was it good for me mentally and just, you know, combating the loneliness, but it's just been incredible how much support I've received from it, right? Where it's people, like we were saying about the tweeting out of a women in higher education, seeing people being promoted.

[00:18:20] Like we lift each other up to a certain extent and we know the spaces that we can go to and the people that we can go to who will remind us of who we are, be our cheerleaders, celebrate our victories with us, what to say when things don't go well and just those kinds of relationships that are built have been extraordinarily powerful in my career.

[00:18:44] And I think that that's also kind of an undervalued part of it, right? Where people are just like, well, you have to build your network in order to get a job. And I'm like, yes, but it's so much more than much more than that. It's so much more than that. 

[00:18:57] Karen Costa: [00:18:57] Absolutely. And I feel like I haven't recommended enough books. So I'm just going to say two books that are coming to mind on this topic of community and isolation. The first is Social by Matthew Lieberman. I love it. It made me rethink what it means to be an introvert and realize that I still need people. And also Hive Mind by the wonderful Sarah Rose Kavanaugh, where she covers a lot of these topics around online communities. So yeah, I needed to share some more books. 

[00:19:24] Mary Churchill: [00:19:24] Excellent. Well, and I have one to add before I say goodbye to everyone, which is Generous Thinking, Kathleen Fitzpatrick's. She's got a whole big section on reading together. 

[00:19:35] Karen Costa: [00:19:35] I am writing this down. 

[00:19:37] Mary Churchill: [00:19:37] And it's so, it's wonderful because it's reminded me and kind of what you were saying too, there's something about reading as an accountability or reading together in a book club or just reading together and in a way that is not just for a class, but, in a really enjoyable, pleasurable way and critical way. But it is, it's very community, it's very social. So even if it's virtual and online, if you're reading together, I think there's something really wonderful about that 

[00:20:03] Lee Skallerup Bessette: [00:20:03] That that also reminds me of what Hannah McGregor said when she was on here. They started a podcast around rereading Harry Potter together and being able, and something, again, very powerful about reading together.

[00:20:15] Karen Costa: [00:20:15] Yeah. I love that. 

[00:20:17] Mary Churchill: [00:20:17] So this was wonderful. Thank you so much. 

[00:20:20] Karen Costa: [00:20:20] Thank you all so much. 

[00:20:23] Mary Churchill: [00:20:23] Okay, listeners, here's this week's assignment. Try out one of our recommendations and push yourself to grow your online network and share your story with us on IG, Twitter, or Facebook, and tag us @UVenus and we'll retweet, share in our story and post on Facebook.

[00:20:38] As always, thank you for joining us. And we'll be back next week with Kimberly Lee talking about her work with the ACE Women's Network.