When June Thomquist ’18 moved to Arcadia from Oregon, she likened the southeastern Pennsylvania weather to a tropical climate, a far cry from what she was used to in the Pacific Northwest. It was one of a few adjustments to life at Arcadia; living with someone she’d only met the day before and understanding Philadelphia accents were others. Like any first-year student, Thomquist had to deal with a new, sometimes-strange environment.
Seeking an outlet for the transition, she took to blogging about it for the University.
Thomquist writes for Because Arcadia, a student-written blog that’s a collaboration between students and the Offices of University Communications and Enrollment Management.
Thomquist’s first day is just one of the experiences shared by the Because Arcadia writers: The blog also offers readers opportunities to visit tourist spots of London with Francesca Mayr ’16, discover the beauty of mathematics with Jessica Mallepalle ’16, and navigate the workings of web design alongside Janna Andrews ’17.
Started in 2013, Because Arcadia showcases more than 180 posts from Arcadia students ranging from first-years to seniors. This second year brings a new roster of 15 student writers: joining Andrews, Mallepalle, Mayr, and Thomquist are Michael Barbalace ’16, Jordan Cameron ’17, Casey Coen ’18, Megan D’Avella ’16, Frances Dumlao ’15, Marcella Haddad ’18, Jasmine Henderson ’15, David Klein ’15, Kyle O’Kane ’18, Tatiana Redden ’17, and Jamie Stewart ’17.
Each writer proposes and covers a beat, which helps create a thematic arc for their posts. Haddad’s beat, for instance, is storytelling. She wants to look at the way people tell stories at Arcadia from events like the art department’s annual wearable sculptures show to street performers in Philadelphia.
Klein, who is contributing to Because Arcadia for the first time this semester, appreciates the freedom he gets in choosing topics. One of his goals with his community service beat is to help other students not only learn about the Community Service Office but also to get involved. In addition, he hopes that, by offering a student voice, he’ll help prospective students understand what it’s like to go to Arcadia.
“Working with prospective and incoming students has always been important to me, especially due to the fact that I decided to come to Arcadia based on my interactions with current students,” he said. “If my blog helps people with making their decision about the University, that would be great.”
Creating an Award-winning Blog
In the summer of 2013, blog curator Jen Retter ’13 worked with University Communications staff researching successful blogs, visual design options, and marketing tools, as well as drafting writers’ guidelines and selecting bloggers. By the fall, the site launched with a full roster of writers.
The work has paid off. In its first year, Because Arcadia has received recognition for its intuitive layout and enticing student-driven content. The blog is a finalist for Best Blog in PR Daily’s Content Marketing Awards (up against websites from international clothing retailer Anthropologie and global cloud computing company SalesForce.com), has won multiple WebAwards from the Web Marketing Association, and received Silver Awards of Distinction for Websites and Content Marketing in the Academy of Interactive & Visual Arts’ Communicator Awards competition.
Though awards and recognition bring a certain kind of satisfaction, the blog and authors themselves have given Retter a more personal reward.
“These posts not only introduce me to many successful and motivated students but remind me of all of the great things that go on at Arcadia year round,” she said.
For the authors, the blog also serves as an applied learning experience, strengthening their communication skills, getting them more involved in the community, and teaching them to meet deadlines and manage their time.
“I know each week I have a draft due, and I have to stay on top of it,” said Haddad. “It forces me to write and be responsible, and those are valuable skills for an aspiring writer.”
To read stories from Haddad, Klein, and the rest of the Because Arcadia bloggers, visit because.arcadia.edu.