“How we did it” is an occasional post in which we ask schools about the things they've tried or the work they're doing. In this post, Patricia Paddey, communications director at Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto, writes about success on launching a blog to raise her school’s awareness. (See below to send us your ideas.)

In the beginning, launching a new blog may not have been the most popular initiative among faculty. Who can blame them? Adding to the workload of already busy people by giving them one more task each semester was no doubt met with some private eye-rolling (and perhaps a bit of grumbling behind the closed door of faculty meetings). But our new principal was enthusiastic. So in January 2017 Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto, an evangelical graduate school of theology rooted in the Anglican tradition, launched its community blog, Vestigia Dei.

The Latin term, meaning “traces of God” is associated with natural theology – the view that there are vestiges of God within creation. Our hope was that readers might glimpse evidences for God as our writers interacted with the wider world. It is a “community” initiative because the blog also features the reflections of students, staff, adjuncts, alumni, and guests.

The blog’s architecture had been built into the website design, but other than featuring a welcome message in September 2015, followed by a series of Lenten meditations, it had remained silent. Getting things going from a technical perspective was just a matter of loading content. The larger challenge was figuring out the kinds of things we wanted to say and then encouraging writers to give up the security blanket of their usual academic style of writing.

Our goal? To generate new content that would be helpful to both our broader community and to potential students, content that would be sharable through social media and would attract visitors to our college website via search engines, thus raising both institutional visibility and the profile of faculty members.

Topically, we’ve experimented, asking writers to address cultural issues such as euthanasia, the #MeToo movement, and a Christian response to whatever was hitting the headlines at the moment. We also asked faculty members to write on subjects we thought people might be searching for: what it’s like to do a Ph.D.; how to combine graduate study with raising a family; why it’s never too late to study theology. Some of our most popular posts have dealt with evergreen topics that continue to get hits long after they were first published: when bad things happen to good people, women preaching, which Bible versions to use.

Sign-up sheets are distributed well ahead of the beginning of each semester, and reminders are emailed to writers two weeks in advance of their deadline.

Today Vestigia Dei regularly attracts a quarter of all visitors to the WycliffeCollege.ca website. The vast majority of readers, many of whom are first time visitors, spend an appropriate amount of time on a post – scrolling to the bottom – indicating they are actually reading it. Healthy numbers go on to further explore our website checking out our programs and courses, faculty, or admissions pages.

As for our faculty, they’ve heard the analytics. Having seen the reward for their efforts it’s safe to say they’ve embraced blog writing, even expressing appreciation for having been pushed to do something that was initially outside of their comfort zone.  

What’s your story? Tell us how you tried something – for better or worse – at your school. Send an email to us here

Posted: Aus. 27, 2021