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Online forum facilitates academic life dialogue

Nicole Toczauer | Thursday, October 6, 2011

As an online forum for students, by students, The Hub works to spark dialogue about academic life at Notre Dame through a digital medium.

As The Hub nears its first anniversary, seniors and Co-Editors-in-Chief Kirsten Adam and Paul Baranay said the website successfully established creative conversation at the University during the past year.

“We wanted it to be a forum for academic dialogue, but we wanted to redefine the definition of academic,” Baranay said. “To us, your academic life isn’t just what you do in the classroom.”

Adam said any student with a Notre Dame ID could post on the website, found at thehub.nd.edu, about research, study abroad experiences, service, written work or any idea that gets them ticking.

“It’s peer discussion, studies with professors, or even just issues people want to talk about,” Adam said.

When the two began planning the website in spring of 2010, their first objective was rallying a staff around the project. After they assembled a team of nine students, The Hub editors worked on realizing content in a web interface.

“The biggest hurdle was the technical one — coding and developing the site,” Baranay said.

Baranay said once the team overcame this first challenge, they pitched the idea of The Hub to different academic offices on campus. The website received sponsorships from nine different offices, he said.

Once autumn arrived, The Hub made its debut. Since its launch, The Hub has gained a following of at least 450 visitors per week.

The editors-in-chief said the website grew in popularity mainly through word of mouth, though they recently launched the “Poster Wall” campaign.

“Charles Xu, an editor, put it together and it’s been the most popular lately,” Baranay said. “It shows posters for everything from lectures to dorm or club events.”

The Hub also created a spotlight for smaller publications on campus, as well as study abroad and service experiences, Adam said.

“I think one of the great things about making it so anyone can write articles is that you hear about study abroad and service,” she said. “People can get a feel for how they would really fit into it.”

One recent top pick — both by editors and visitors — was a series of articles about an internship at the Salvation Army.

In “Interning with the Salvation Army: the Food Pantry,” Christian Moore, an editor on staff for The Hub, documented his work at the internship.

Adam said Moore’s article highlighted the goals of The Hub — to share experiences, open discussion and inspire others.

“There’s so many people at Notre Dame doing interesting things,” she said. “But you don’t learn about those things unless you know them.”

Baranay said The Hub planned to bring the dialogue to the students through events next semester.

“One thing we have planned for the spring is a symposium called ‘Notre Dame Thinks Big,'” he said. “In it 10 professors and people of the community will give talks on things students can get involved with.”

Until spring, however, The Hub editors-in-chief said they would focus on continuing to improve the website.

Adam said while many people visit the website and read its articles, she would love to see more students contribute content.

Submissions of student research, experiences abroad or in service, poetry, short stories and even informal blogs were welcome, Adam said.

“You just need a Notre Dame ID to contribute in a post,” she said. “We’re always looking for people with more ideas.”

A one-year birthday party for The Hub will be held in the CUSE Think Tank, found at 233 Geddes Hall, Wednesday, Oct. 26 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. The gathering will include food and casual conversation, Baranay said.