‘OpEd Project’ helps give voice to DePaul thought leaders
January 24, 2013
By Carol Hughes
OpEds —opinion columns that appear in editorial sections of newspapers and more often these days online — have the power to shift public debate. Yet, according to architects of The OpEd Project, most of the voices heard “come from a tiny fraction of society — mostly western, white, privileged and overwhelmingly male.”
The OpEd Project, which calls itself a social venture, is working with a core group of top universities, including DePaul, “to dramatically increase the influence of women and other diverse scholars as thought leaders whose ideas shape the important conversations of our age,” says Interim Provost Patricia O’Donoghue.
DePaul has 20 faculty members and university communication professionals participating in The OpEd Project’s Public Voices Thought Leadership Greenhouse. Fellows are learning how to share their research expertise and insights with a broader population using national media outlets.
The three-month program that involves hands-on day-long and half-day seminars launched last year at Yale, Stanford and Princeton. This year, besides DePaul, the program also is being held at Northwestern University.
DePaul held the first seminar in early December, and one week later, Mona Shattell, an associate professor in the School of Nursing, had a column written and published in the Huffington Post, titled “When the Most Trusted Profession Falls Prey.”
Other OpEds followed, in Forbes by Kelly Pope, an associate professor of accounting; in the Chicago Sun-Times by Ximena Beltran, a new media specialist in the Office of Public Relations and Communications; and in the Daily Beast, HuffPost and Quartz by Kathryn Ibata-Arens, an associate professor of political science.
Also, in the Atlantic by Carolyn Bronstein, an associate professor of communication; in Windy City Times by Francesca Royster, a professor of English; in Forbes by Christine Gallagher Kearney, president of the DePaul Women’s Network; and in HuffPost by Dusty Goltz, assistant professor of communication studies.
Other OpEds were published in HuffPost by Elizabeth Clements, a senior writer in the Office of Public Relations and Communications; and at The Byline Blog by Gary Cestaro, an associate professor of modern languages; and more are in the queue.
The “big goal” of The OpEd Project is to “change the world,” says Deborah Siegel, one of two seminar leaders and mentor-editors working with the DePaul cohort. “The more power you have, the more power you have to change the world,” she says, explaining that OpEd writers are thought leaders who have the opportunity to become a consistent part of public debate.
The other mentor-editor, Teresa Puente, is an assistant professor of journalism at Columbia College Chicago. She is the editor and publisher of Latina Voices and has been working with the DePaul fellows to bring personal experience into their columns.
According to Liz Ortiz, vice president for institutional diversity and equity, The OpEd Project can be a mechanism to showcase DePaul and the talent of its faculty and staff through their voices in the media. “It reflects the rich diversity that is DePaul,” she told the fellows during a break in their first workshop.
“I am struck by the richness (of topics) … the creativity and thoughtfulness,” O’Donoghue said after hearing the group share their ideas for OpEds. “The kinds of things you are thinking about have great value.”
The OpEd Project Public Voices Fellowship at DePaul is sponsored by the College of Communication, Office of Public Relations and Communications, Office of the Provost, Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity, and DePaul Women’s Network.
The initiative is designed to enrich and diversify the world’s conversation by increasing the range of voices, especially women’s voices and the voices of diverse racial and ethnic groups. It works to expand public debate, with an immediate focus on enlarging the pool of experts who are accessing (and accessible to) the opinion forums and editors who need them. More information is online at http://www.theopedproject.org.