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Brandeis junior writes for Huffington Posts

Published: March 2, 2012
Section: Features

The Huffington Post published an article last month in their religion section with a byline that is familiar even to Brandeis students who do not frequently read the left-wing tilting, Web-only newspaper.

Erica Shapps ’13 wrote a blog post on Feb. 24 on the New York Police Department’s occasional monitoring of college students involved in Muslim student associations. She condemned the practice as discriminatory, recollecting her own experience with faith and interactions with students of different religious backgrounds.

The organization Interfaith Youth Corps, which Shapps called a group “devoted to promoting the culture of religious pluralism, interfaith dialogue and faith-related service projects on college campuses,” solicited posts from students previously involved with the group and said their responses had the potential to be picked up by The Huffington Post.

This week, Shapps was invited to write for The Huffington Post’s religion section on a regular basis. “They just sent me a log-in and said to write on interfaith blogging,” she said.

Shapps, a founder of the Brandeis Interfaith Group, has been a student fellow with the IYC since high school. When she got their e-mail about blogging, she was initially hesitant, though it was in her area of passion.

“At first I didn’t like the idea, it’s just not my thing [journalism, blogging], but I ended up really enjoying it,” she said. “I’ve always loved writing, but I’d never really shared it with others before.”

But the invitation to write “on the intersection of interfaith work with college life and my own experiences and service work,” could not be passed up. So now, she will be writing for HP recurrently.

It took even longer, Shapps said, to decide about which topic in the interfaith realm to blog.

“I really struggled with it for a while, this was probably the most public forum I was ever going to get,” she said. “Originally, I started with contraception,” and the recent furor over the Obama administration’s rules on employers’ providing it.

“I wrote a draft of that,” Shapps said, “but just wasn’t the type of passionate article I had been looking for, so I started reading The Huffington Post religion section itself for ideas.”

The NYPD watch story was, for Shapps, “one of the stories that make you want to write about it, and that’s one of the ways you know you should—it pulls at your emotions, that’s why its worth writing about it,” she said.
And because of its focus on college students and a minority faith, it was “very relevant to my life and experiences,” Shapps, who is Jewish, said.

Shapps will not be paid for her posts in the future—no bloggers for Huffington are—but she will get the audience the famous site provides. As she put it, “From Bill Clinton down to me, we don’t get paid.”