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C2C Digital Magazine (Spring / Summer 2019)

Colleague 2 Colleague, Author

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Dr. Katie Linder: #bestlife Living by Radical Self-Trust

By Katie Linder, SIDLIT2019 Keynote Speaker, Director of the Oregon State University Ecampus Research Unit 

Note:  Dr. Katie Linder recently agreed to collaborate around a Q&A based on her leadership, research work, prolific writing and publishing, and her thinking.  

Q:  Would you describe your work for the Oregon State University Research Office? What are some of the projects you are working on?  

A: As the director of the Oregon State University Ecampus Research Unit (ECRU), I get to collaborate with an amazing team. In our work, we respond to and forecasts the needs and challenges of the online education field through conducting original research; foster strategic collaborations with faculty at OSU and researchers from across the world; and create evidence-based resources and tools that contribute to effective online teaching, learning and program administration.

In particular, we focus on the following areas:

  • Exploring the efficacy of modalities, technologies and pedagogical methods
  • Promoting research literacy and evidence-based decision-making
  • Building communities to support and encourage research networks

Q:  What is the role of collaboration in your professional life?  You seem to balance a lot of collaborations along with individual work (like writing).  

A: Collaboration has been central to so much of my work. From interviewing scholars for the “Research in Action” podcast, to co-authoring studies and books, to building new tools to support the field of online teaching and learning, I have had the pleasure to work with colleagues all over the world on projects where we can put our heads together and see the benefits of diverse thinking and ideas. Most recently, the ECRU team has been collaborating with researchers from across the U.S. in our seminars program, which helps to train researchers on large-scale collaborative research projects.

Professional Inspiration and Energy

Q:  You’re highly accomplished with many professional dimensions—published books, leadership, research, and a high social media personality profile, among others.  Where do you find the energy and inspiration to constantly innovate?  

A: One of my core professional values is creativity and I get a lot of energy from creating content, working on website design, developing systems, and documenting what I create so that others can benefit from the lessons I have learned along the way. Several times a year I set aside time for what I call “creative retreats” where I take about 10 days to work on larger creative projects like books or designing a new website. These retreats help me ensure that I am giving my creativity the time it needs to flourish in the midst of a busy schedule of research and writing. I also respect my creativity a lot and make sure to take breaks when I need to in order to make sure I stay refreshed and rested.

Q:  What is “radical self-trust”?  How did you come across this idea and practice?  How do you practice self-awareness and self-loyalty?  What are the easiest and hardest parts of practicing radical self-trust?  How do you know when you’re on-track vs. off-track?  

A: Radical self-trust is a personal philosophy that I identified in the summer of 2018. I define it as one’s capacity for steadfast self-awareness and self-loyalty. This philosophy offers me a guide for how I choose to live out my personal and professional values. It’s based on six core concepts: seeking self-knowledge, living core values with intention, nurturing your superpowers, practicing loving-kindness toward yourself and others, playfully experimenting, and settling into your life’s purpose. I also use radical self-trust principles in the coaching work that I do with individual clients and groups to help my clients build confidence and live with more intention.

Figure 1Radical Self-trust Framework (courtesy of Katie Linder) 

Q:  Executive coaching sounds like something that is practiced by CEOs and other leadership.  Is this for the elites, or is this for everyone?  

A: Coaching is definitely for everyone. I use the term “executive” because one definition of that word is the power to put plans into effect or to take action or create change. Everyone has the power to do those things in their own lives and sometimes coaching can offer a roadmap of the steps or path forward that would best help a person to achieve the goals that are most meaningful to them.


Q:  How do you get inspired to research and write books?  What is the process of book writing like for you?  What sort of research goes into each book (and are they different)?  (Could you go through your book publishing history and cite the books you’ve written a little about what you’ve learned in the writing of each of them?) Are you a writer who meets her deadlines?  

A: Book writing is one of my favorite mediums of expression. As a systems thinker, I like to take large ideas and break them into manageable pieces and books are a perfect way to do that. A lot of my books have focused on taking something that seems complex on the surface and breaking that process down into smaller steps that are easier to accomplish. A couple examples are my books on blended course design and on managing professional identity online.

Every book I write has had a different process since I have written them at different stages of my career when I had different constraints on my time. Some are written on nights and weekends, others have been drafted primarily through my creative retreats. Since I write so much for my day-job, I need to make sure that I carve out time for the books since they take the same kind of creative energy.

More recently, I have been working on edited collections (one on High-Impact Practices in Online Education and the other on The Business of Innovating Online). Those kinds of projects are more focused on project management and collaboration since they include so many contributors, and that has allowed me to save some of my writing energy for my next book on alternative academic careers (available from Stylus Publishing in January 2020).

I learn something about each book’s topic, and about myself as a writer, through each project. For example, I love the process of planning out the structure of a book in a lot of detail. That helps me to more easily fill in the gaps as I write it. That structural approach also helps me to meet deadlines since I can plan for how long each section will take to write based on how much content I want to include.  (Her Amazon Central page features her books.)  

Q:  Your book titles are so diverse—from cases on rampage violence to online identities to blended course designs to online education to innovating online.  How do you envision your target readers?  Do you have a mental model of ideal readers?  Then, when you engage with your readers, do they match your expectations?  

A: A lot of my books have been written because they were something I wish that I had and could not find in the literature, so each one is filling a particular gap. With the exception of my first book (kind of an outlier since it was based on my dissertation), my primary audience is academic practitioners; that is, faculty and higher education professionals who are looking for practical guidance on aspects of their work such as course design, professional identity, or pedagogical innovation.

Professional Speaking

Q:  You have a high profile as a well-traveled public speaker.  Would you describe some of those experiences on the road?  What have you learned about people while speaking publicly?  Professional life?  Yourself?  

A: Public speaking has become one of my favorite forms of sharing ideas at scale. Since I like to break down large ideas into manageable pieces, giving talks and facilitating workshops are perfect mediums to share process and lessons learned. One fun aspect of traveling is meeting people who have learned of my work or projects through things like my podcasts or following me on social media. When they come find me after a talk, it’s like connecting with an old friend since they always have insightful questions and comments from following my work through other avenues.

As an introvert, I have learned a lot in the past several years about how to be a successful public speaker while also carving out recovery time for myself. I work pretty hard to balance being “on” and interacting with a lot of people when I visit an institution or organization and also getting “down time” to make sure I have enough solitude and quiet.

Being Playful to be Creative

Q:  You’ve written that it’s important to be “playful” to maintain creativity.  How do you get yourself into a state of play that is conducive to work and thinking?  How would you advise others to discover their inner playful self?   

A: I think experimentation is one of the most important components of creativity and staying engaged in our work. We need to try new things when older ideas no longer work for us. I am definitely a believer in not staying with the same idea just because that is how it has always been done in the past. Experimentation brings good energy and that fosters creativity and innovation.

Thinking Different re: Research

Q:  What appeals to you in terms of novel research?  How do you know when a research question has traction and is doable?  Are there some ideas you’ve started that you found out later did not work?  

A: For a lot of my research, I look for the gaps. The interesting thing is that sometimes that gaps are in surprising places. For example, we may have assumed that an idea had data to back it up, but then digging around the literature will show that the data does not exist. Those gaps are the ones that are most interesting to me because I get to challenge our assumptions of what we think we know is true and that usually leads to some pretty interesting results. 

Q:  What are some research ideas that you are working on currently?  Some projects?  

A: Right now, the team at ECRU is working on a large qualitative interview project exploring the experiences of online instructors in higher education. We have been interviewing instructors with a range of experience levels to learn more about how they got started teaching online, what it means to take risks in their teaching, how their approaches to online education have changed over time, and a range of other questions. This is one of about half a dozen projects we have in our pipeline right now, but it is the one I’m most excited about. 

Q:  It is way too early to talk about legacy as you have so much ahead of you, too.  But do you have an initial sense of what you want to achieve in your lifetime?  

A: One of the things I have tried to do throughout my career is to work on my own terms. For me, that’s meant carving out an alternative academic identity outside of the traditional tenure-track ladder. Each career choice I have made has led me to more creativity, freedom, autonomy, and collaborations that have taught me more about myself and how I can bring about positive impact from where I am uniquely situated. That foundation makes me very excited to see what the future will hold. 

Thank you so much for your insights!  

About the Author 

Dr. Katie Linder is currently the director of the Ecampus Research Unit at Oregon State University where she hosts the Research in Action podcast and helps to make research actionable in the field of online teaching and learning. She is also an Associate Certified Coach through the International Coach Federation.

Katie is an avid writer and researcher with a passion for process and peeking behind the scenes at what it takes to be a successful academic. For the past several years, her work has focused on blended course design best practices, institutional supports for accessible online learning, and research literacy for scholarship of teaching and learning practitioners and distance education stakeholders. She speaks on topics related to writing and publication; creativity and productivity; self-promotion and personal branding, and teaching and learning with technology.

Her latest works include Managing Your Professional Identity Online: A Guide for Faculty, Staff, and Administrators (Stylus, 2018) and High-Impact Practices in Online Education (Stylus, 2018). She is also the author of The Blended Course Design Workbook: A Practical Guide (Stylus, 2016). Currently, Katie is under contract for her fourth book Going Alt-Ac: A Guide to Alternative Academic Careers (co-authored with Kevin Kelly and Tom Tobin) to be released in 2019. She is also the editor of a forthcoming book series, Thrive Online, due for release from Stylus Publishing in 2019.

Katie earned her BA in English Literature from Whitworth University in Spokane, WA, and her MA and PhD in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from The Ohio State University.  Her email is  

(This Q&A was co-created with Dr. Shalin Hai-Jew.)  

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