Spiritual Life, Theology blogs get the word out about GCU
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
Grand Canyon University reaches out to students — both on campus and online, both current and prospective — in a number of ways, and this week it added a new one: blogs.
Two of them, with many more to come. Blogs for Spiritual Life and the College of Theology debuted Tuesday on www.gcu.edu and on news.gcu.edu (the links also can be found on the Spiritual Life and Theology home pages). Other colleges are scheduled to have their own sites in the coming months, and there also will be a main blog site that will serve as a feeder to the blogs for individual colleges and groups.
“From an enrollment standpoint, the goal is to get more traffic to www.gcu.edu and help people know more about who we are as a University,” said Erica Vejrostek, senior manager for digital marketing. “They get more students, we get engaging content.”
Spiritual Life and Theology are leading off because of an interesting evolution that began when Josh Sugata, team lead for faculty training and development, approached GCU’s Dean of Students Pastor Tim Griffin about doing a video blog in which Griffin would do daily devotionals that could be posted online. That was the start of True North, housed on the University’s YouTube portal.
After one of their filming sessions next to the campus swimming pool, Griffin said something that made waves, about whether the video blogs could grow into something bigger that the University could display on its website. At the same time, the Marketing team was having similar conversations, and before long the talks went viral around the offices of the University’s executive team.
“It was one of those unique, God-timing things,” Sugata said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think a side comment from Tim would turn into a project of this magnitude.”
The fact that Sugata is involved in the project is one of those God-timing things, too. It’s not part of his job description in faculty development, but he felt a calling to suggest it, prayed with his wife, Stacey, about it for a weekend and came away feeling empowered to follow his instincts.
“He’s really been the guy,” Griffin said. “There’s no better word for it — he’s been the heartbeat.”
Sugata said he is grateful for the cooperation he has gotten from his supervisor, John Cotoia, in allowing him to attend blog meetings as long as it doesn’t interfere with his other work. The process of turning the idea into reality — making the sites look slick, attractive and easy to navigate — took months, and Spiritual Life was chosen to go first because the idea originated there. It was only natural to have Theology launch at the same time.
It helps that both groups have taken the project so seriously. Both have formed editorial boards to manage content and inspire each other. Most of the blogs are by faculty and staff although Griffin lauds the input of one student, Paige Ferrari, who has been a driving force behind the devotionals on the Spiritual Life site. “She’s a real gifted writer and obviously has a great student perspective,” he said.
The Spiritual Life blog includes a devotional, instructive messages and recaps of Chapel and theGathering. “It’s turned into a big effort,” Griffin said.
The Theology blog, called “Living Faith,” has posts by the college’s dean, Dr. Jason Hiles, and faculty members with such titles as “Are you Biblically qualified for ministry?” and “Is all sin equal in God’s view?”
“We’re asking the faculty to be themselves,” Hiles said. “If you want to get something out there, own it. We want people to get to know who we are and what we stand for. Sometimes when people find that (a blog on the site), it’s the first time they’ve thought about it.”
The Theology site, like those of other colleges at the University when they go live, is more academic than Spiritual Life, which is more focused on inspiration and spiritual events.
Sugata said that watching his idea come to fruition was “like Facebook hitting a million users.” But the main thing for him: “It’s just fun.”
Contact Rick Vacek at 602-639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.