On December 9-10, 2013 the new cohort of OpEd Fellows for 2014 met at DePaul University. Leaders Deborah Siegel and Amy Gutman provided our group of 20 faculty and staff with enormous inspiration to write for public media and the practical tools to do so (though not formulaic!). A diverse group of professors of English, Nursing, Psychology, History, Law, Geography, Public Service, Communications, Management, Advertising and Education among others joined the Vice President of the Office of Institutional Diversity & Equity, staff from the Office of the General Council, and staff from the Office of the President to create an energetic, supportive, and often humor-laden pair of workshop sessions. Two things stood out during our time together: one was the genuine desire on the part of participants to make the world a better place and the understanding that they have a responsibility to do so by contributing their expertise to the public forum of ideas; and second was the exceptional mentorship and outstanding commitment to the dissemination of unheard voices demonstrated by Deborah and Amy. The notion that we are thought leaders is an exciting extension of life in academia.
While many of my colleagues and I left exhausted after the first day (it was a lot to take in!), fully half arrived the second morning with a good draft of a well-argued oped. Most of the others came to the session with several strong ledes or drafts in progress. We work-shopped whatever we had with mentor-editors Deborah and Amy and everyone came away enriched, their game upped a few notches, ready to further develop or polish pieces for submission. Some colleagues chose to work on triangulating their areas of expertise and they seemed thrilled to have expanded their idea of their own expertise. Ideas for opeds included the benefits of medicinal cannabis for children with epilepsy, the importance of signing up for health insurance via ACA for Millennials, how urban planning can better serve children, what the legalization of gay marriage in Illinois means for gay and lesbian couples who have already married themselves, and how, when it comes to the work/life conversation, rather than encouraging women to play the existing game better, it’s time to consider how to rewrite the rules of the game.
Overall, it was a terrific start to our year as OpEd Project Fellows and I think I can speak for my colleagues when I say thank you to Deborah Siegel and Amy Gutman (and a special shout-out to Carolyn Bronstein, who thought to bring the Project to DePaul) for their leadership and mentorship so far and for the many hours yet to come as we go courageously forward changing the world word by word.