How Blogging Plays an Important Role in Education

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Dorene Petersen Interview - Author's Picture

Before we get to talk about ACHS’s Health and Wellness blog, tell us a bit about American College of Healthcare Sciences in general – how did you got to the idea of founding it?

I founded ACHS in New Zealand—where I’m originally from—in 1978. While studying for my New Zealand ND degree I was asked by my alma mater, South Pacific College of Natural Therapies (SPCNT), to set up an extramural department of herbal medicine. The program was delivered at a distance, but not the online format we know today: everything was pen, paper, and the New Zealand postal service. Upon graduation, the SPCNT restructured and closed the department but gave me their blessing to continue. I have always believed in the power of education and the power of each and every individual to take control of their own life and wellness. Initially, however, my goal was just to take care of the students that were already in the program as I was busy in my newly established natural health clinic, and I had two small daughters to raise. But, the college had a mind of its own and it continued to grow. I am always tempted to say that establishing in the USA was a business decision, but it was a love decision and still is. We opened our doors in the United States in 1989. My two wonderful daughters, who are both committed to holistic health and have been a part of the college from the very beginning when they were toddlers, joined me here in the USA and continue to be an important part of the amazing team we now have based in Portland, Oregon. Today, ACHS has grown to become one of the few USDOE-recognized accredited colleges specializing in online holistic health education, with undergraduate and graduate certificate, diploma, and degree programs. I’m extremely proud of how far the college has come. We have graduates all over the world making a difference in the health of our global community. From operating mobile holistic health clinics to spearheading leading research journals to developing aromatherapy patches for hospitals, it’s incredible to see our graduates affecting positive change.

Holistic healthcare is a diverse field of alternative medicine and many of us are not very much familiar with it and its approach. Can you provide a bit better insight on holistic health and wellness?

In holistic health and complementary alternative medicine (CAM), our focus is always to bring the body back into balance for optimal wellness. Holistic practitioners believe that achieving true wellness comes from caring for the whole spectrum of human health—body, mind, and spirit—not simply treating symptoms. This general philosophy also recognizes that we are all individuals and require individualized holistic wellness plans. Since much of CAM is based on traditional medicine, there is a wide range of holistic modalities. At ACHS, we specialize in aromatherapy, holistic nutrition, herbal medicine, flower essences, iridology, and homeopathy with a focus on the latest research.

Obviously, the end result of your work is out there for everyone to see, but it’s probably safe to say that’s the outcome of lots of behind the scenes work?

Absolutely! Our team of staff and faculty are crucial to our success and the success of our students and graduates. I take great pride in having a team that I can trust and rely on to keep our student satisfaction rate at 98%. It’s also extremely important to me to create a healthy workplace for our employees. We make it a priority to offer great benefits (such as family leave, telecommuting options, and an employee assistance program), but we also help employees live better lives through volunteering, wellness programs, education, and training. We’re dedicated to helping every team member find the “joy” in their role at ACHS. And in 2016, ACHS was recognized with a When Work Works Award for its exemplary workplace practices, including paid parental leave and flexible schedules.

Dorene Petersen Interview - ACHS Website Screenshot

Now to the blogging part – when did you get an idea to launch ACHS blog and how important is for you be online today?

The ACHS Health and Wellness blog is part of our overall social mission to share reliable science-based, integrative health knowledge with the public. We love educating students in virtual classrooms, but we’re also committed to sharing free health knowledge with a greater audience. I deeply believe in the power of holistic modalities to help people find wellness, and our blog—along with webinars, eBooks, social media, and white papers—is a fantastic way to spread the “well-th.”
In our digital world, and especially as an online college, it’s crucial for ACHS to have a web presence. Many of our students found us by reading a blog, attending a webinar, or downloading one of our free eBooks. It’s exciting to me that a student can find value in our free resources and be inspired to keep learning with us in our classrooms.

How much time do you spend blogging? Do you find material for writing easily?

I spend a lot of time researching, traveling, and gathering information for our ACHS courses, which often translates into a blog post, webinar, or eBook. For example, in 2016, I focused heavily on researching essential oils for memory. I shared my findings in a presentation at the 2016 Asian Aromatherapy Conference in Delhi, India this past April, but I also presented an ACHS webcast and wrote a post for our blog. I find that whatever I’m currently researching often lends itself well to our blog, and our marketing team does a great job of integrating those pieces into ACHS’s campaigns.
We also have a wonderful marketing team that manages and edits the ACHS Health and Wellness blog. The team aligns the blog schedule with our overall marketing campaigns and institutional goals. Since consistency is crucial for a healthy blog, we generally try to publish two articles per week. We also value sharing a variety of voices on our blog. We publish blog submissions from students, alumni, faculty, industry experts, and our staff. This gives our blog readers a vast knowledgebase.

Dorene Petersen Interview - ACHS Logo

I see you also practice social media sharing – how’s that going on for you? And which social media sites do you consider the most important?

We love social media! As an online college, it is a great way to connect with our students and graduates. ACHS has social pages on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.
We make sure to follow the “cocktail party rule” of social media—it’s not all about us, and we share engaging articles and posts from around the web as well as our own content and news.
Every social media outlet has its pros and cons… and the “most important” site depends on your company. It’s about finding your audience and meeting them where they are. Are they on Twitter? Or do they engage more on Facebook? It will take some experimenting and time, but it’s important to know where your target market engages and focus your attention on those social outlets. Don’t spread yourself too thin.

How much time is too much time on social media – according to you?

I am a big fan of social media—it brings us together, allows us to share moments and thoughts with loved ones from afar, lets us share knowledge and research—it’s wonderful! For example, I recently traveled to Nepal as a volunteer with Winrock International and USAID to train union members on essential oil distillation, strategic marketing, and high-quality production skills. While I was there, I was able to post photos and status updates to Facebook and Twitter, so my loved ones, friends, and the ACHS team could follow my journey in real time. That’s pretty incredible!
Of course, as with all things in holistic health, there needs to be balance. I try to limit my time spent on social media, and I always make sure what I post is meaningful and intentional. There is a lot of “noise” in the digital world, and it’s important to know when to turn off the phone, computer, and TV, and simply have human-to-human interaction with loved ones.

Would you encourage other people to get online?

Of course! As I mentioned, there is a ton of valuable content out there on the web and through social media. Again, it’s about finding a balance and researching where your potential clients are engaging online.

Please give us some advice for new holistic health and wellness enthusiasts who are considering blogging, as a way to share their vision with the world?

Start small. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re first starting a blog. You’ll be wondering things like, “How often should I post?” “Where can I find ideas?” “How do I get people to share my blog?” While it’s great to have big goals, it’s more important to just get started. My advice is to set a schedule of posting one article per week. It doesn’t have to be long or complex—even 500 words is enough for a blog post. Once you have a few articles published, grow from there.

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