It is hard to believe that graduation was just over a month ago and I am now the holder of two degrees, my masters and my bachelors. It seems like just yesterday I started as a freshman at RIT and was living in the dorms. It is amazing to think back on all that I accomplished and experienced. My friends told me in high school that they believed I was destined for college, college was going to be my best experience to date and they were right. College was so much better than high school for me at least but for others it is a different story and that is okay because everyone’s path is different. College for some people is an extension of high school, they don’t learn anything new in the sense of life experiences, they may pick up a few new math equations or understand new subjects but they don’t experience what college has to offer in the sense of growing up. For me college was a time of coming into my own, figuring out who I was a person and who I wanted to be in the future. Now I am not saying I have all the answers but who really does. During this month off, I have spent time reading by the pool and really relaxing. Reading nothing of great importance in my life but just reading because I enjoy it. My latest book that I finished in three sunny days by the pool was, I Just Graduated…Now What?” by Katherine Schwarzenegger and if you are like me a recently graduated student, I highly recommend reading it this summer. I do not know if I would have picked it up had I not won it from Barnes and Noble in their end of term twitter contest but I am very glad I tweeted my piece of advice for college students because it allowed me the chance to realize I am not alone in how I am feeling post-graduation. My copy is signed by the author; however, she may never know who I am. If by some chance she does happen to read this post I want her to know that we have a lot in common in the sense that we both strive to do good in the world, leave our own mark and break out of the shadows (her shadows may be more public than mine but none the less what I saw from reading her book is that a name does not get you everything – you have to work just as hard if not harder to prove your worth). Katherine, if you are reading this, I hope that one day I have the chance to meet with you, maybe collaborate on a project together or just pick your brain on different things. As was stated in your book, you are young but can still have a voice. You may not have all the answers but who really does? Growing up is about finding your path because every piece of the puzzle makes for the journey. Hopefully one day our journeys will cross because your book was truly inspiring. Sorry to my readers for my slight tangent, I Just Graduated…Now What?, is a compilation of interviews of famous people who have been down the road before the graduates of today. Katherine interviews: athletes, actors, comedians, DJs, politicians, talk show hosts, entrepreneurs, rising chefs and many other public figures whom you may or may not know, who struggled with the What Now question. Katherine tells her story of her recent graduation in the Spring of 2012 from USC along with many others in a youthful way that will keep you turning each page because it is extremely relatable. Whether you read it to make yourself feel better about where you are at, to see that you are not alone or to be inspired to follow your dreams, this is a must read during the summer after you graduate! Going to college at Rochester Institute of Technology may not have been my dream school growing up; however, after a few weeks on campus, I knew it was meant to be. It is hard to believe I almost crossed it off my list thanks to a terrible recruiting visit there during October of my Senior Year of High School. Life is funny sometimes, at RIT the campus looks flat and boring at first sight, the bricks all look the same and there appears to be no character. But when you take a closer look and join the RIT community, you realize like each student attending, the bricks are all unique. The unique blend of cultures, majors, colleges, ethnicities, programs, clubs and teams at RIT – offers students a one of kind experience. RIT is no longer just for the techies but I will say if you do not believe at least a little part of you is a nerd, RIT is not the school for you. Looking at RIT from a distance people may say, how did you go there for four years? Why stay? Because RIT was my home, RIT was where I was supposed to be and RIT is a huge part of who I am today. I believe that you define your own college experience, you choose your own level of involvement and you decide if you will be the type of student that embraces the opportunities given to them or sits in the back of the room and does not give anyone a chance to get to know them. I was not the later of the two options if you can not tell. I took every opportunity I could to become someone who was recognizable and not just because of athletics. I made sure my professors knew me as the student so that when it was time to come looking for career advice, they were willing to help me. I was very fortunate to have some great professors in both my undergraduate programs and masters programs. I would not have traded the experience for the world. People have asked me, “If you could go back, knowing what you know now would you choose a different school?” Without hesitation my answer is “no shot”! The next question that tends to follow is, “Would you have gone back for your MBA right away if you could do it again?” My answer may be more calculated but it is along the same lines, “Yes, I would because I had many loose ends left to tie up. As an NCAA athlete you are given four seasons for your sport, just four. Having only used three of them, I had my class, my seniors, my senior year, and my team to return too, they weren’t finished with me and I wasn’t finished with them. I also had a lot of goals that were not accomplished yet and when I set goals, I plan to achieve them unless it is not physically possible. There are not a lot of people in the world who get to say they were a student-athlete let alone a four year student-athlete. It takes commitment, sacrifice, desire and passion to play all four years because it is stressful but it can be done and I am proud to say I am a part of the four year student-athlete club. I am the type of person who completes what I set out to accomplish and I had committed to four years of basketball at the division three level and I was not willing to walk away just yet from that promise simply because I was faster at school than the average student. I believe that the commitment and loyalty shown in college is just as important to perspective employers as past work experience. The lessons and work ethic learned on a team in college are life lessons I will carry through with me to the real world. Plus, had I not gone back to RIT I wouldn’t have been able to redefine and grow the Tiger Den program and make all of the connections I did this year. But if I was asked had I not completed my undergraduate career in three years and done it in the traditional four, I can’t answer that question because I was not in that situation.” A masters was always in my future it was just the timing and for me, four years and two degrees later, I could not be happier. Remember that everything you do, each step you take whether you feel like it is a step towards something or not, is a step on your path. My biggest advice is try to live your life with no regrets. If you think it is something you could regret by not doing, just do it. I knew that if I did not take my selfie crossing the stage during graduation then I would regret it. What harm could come from me doing it? Well, the picture may not have come out perfect but seeing the look on the Mr. Saunders face, yes, E. Philip Saunders, the namesake of my college, was a look I will never forget. He was cracking up and smiling and I hope will now remember me. It may be something as little as that but those little things will add up to a lifetime of memories.
Over the last month I have had time to look back on what happened over my school experience. I have been able to actually relax for the first time in 4 years, go on vacation (blog post to come) and to go home to spend time with my family and friends. Spending time at home allowed me to realize how lucky I was to grow up in the town I did. Cortland may be small and definitely has gone down hill since my experience going through the school system; however, it was the sense of community that formed my experience. I love my neighborhood and I will be sad when the day comes in the next few weeks when my mom calls me to let me know the house has officially sold.
But getting to spend time with my high school friends allowed me to reflect on how different my college experience was vs. my high school time. Because of my busy schedule with basketball and school and co-oping in the summer, I wasn’t able to go home for more than a few days at a time during the four years so I hadn’t seen my friends more than a handful of times. I realized how much I had missed them but I also realized that there were people in my town that hadn’t grown up since leaving high school…to put it simply, a lot of things were the same as if it were four years ago, only this time, I was different, along with a handful of others. I am sure it is the same in a lot of other small towns but for me the only experience I have to go on is my own.
Catching up over drinks with some of the girls, I realized that my high school experience wasn’t as unique as I had thought in the sense that when I felt excluded, I wasn’t the only one. High school was not my favorite time, I had my friends but I got used and walked all over just because I wanted to fit in. High school is filled with “mean girls” or “popular people” that feel that they are better than others. Sadly a lot of them don’t realize that they are the stereotypical mean person. Now, I am not saying my school was like the movie, Mean Girls but I think every high school has their similarities.
I am very fortunate to have been able to go to a school like RIT because of its diverse nature, everyones willingness to except virtually everyone and how “real” most people are. I think in high school everyone is trying so desperately to fit in and find their way or define who they are, they tend to just go with the crowd.
Now I am sure there are some that might read this and go, “what the hell is she talking about” because I appeared to have a really good high school experience and was friends with the “popular” people and don’t get me wrong, I did but it wasn’t my favorite time but I know I did not have it the worst, my situation could have been so much worse and I am sorry for those who were mistreated or victimized in high school by bullies, either mentally or physically. I was never a victim of physical violence; however, I definitely had my fair share of mind games played on me. Looking back on it, I think that high school was the way it was for me because I knew I had so much more in my future that was outside of this town so I just let it be and didn’t fight for something better. By the end of my senior year I was sick of being taken advantage of, coming in second place for plans with people and ready for a change and ready to make my mark on the world at RIT and beyond.
So for those of you reading this, that felt like me in high school, the girl that didn’t want to go out and drink, who would rather watch a movie with her mom than be out trying to sneak into a bar, read a book on the weekend instead of hanging out at the mall, who put everything she could into getting better on the court for her team, or set a goal and did everything in her power to accomplished it, this post is for you. Life is so much better when you are true to yourself, when you believe in yourself and know that you can accomplish anything you set your mind too. Know that the mean girls in high school will probably still be stuck in high school (figuratively) in four years and know that if you allow yourself to get out of your town, you will be embraced for who you are.
I haven’t changed much since high school, though some would (and have) said I have changed. But for those who believe I have changed, I have changed for the better. I no longer allow people to walk all over me, I have grown up and believe in myself and try and better myself. When I have a problem with someone I don’t spread gossip I confront that person nor do spread gossip that was shared with me. However, in my opinion I am not far from that girl who choose to be home with her mom and sister watching a movie over sneaking into a bar. I would rather have a chill night with friends and some drinks than get hammered at a club. I would still rather not waste hours at the mall and I continuously challenge myself in new ways mentally and athletically (though no longer for a team) and strive to reach every goal I set.
So to that girl in high school, who was just like me…I promise, life is so much better when you choose the way you want to live.
The education world is constantly evolving to meet the changing strategies and technologies in the digital space. Social media adds a new marketing medium for educators, recruiters, and students to use. The digital space is often confused with being an easy marketing tool and strategies are not thought out within the college space. Problems with social media have plagued colleges during the digital era. Educators and college departments have made attempts at grabbing the students attention with whatever platform they currently are on, but a lot of campaigns lack one huge component: the student voice.
Educators often lack the understanding of how students talk, communicate, get engaged with different things. What are the secrets behind student engagement? For the past year I have been working at Rochester Institute of Technology on the social media marketing campaign for our new Student Information System with ITS and the more recently (since July 2012) on the Semester Conversion campaign. The SIS campaign began as my six-month co-op and turned into a part-time job when I returned to classes in the Fall. I became part of the semester conversion campaign during the end of my co-op when I was approached for ideas regarding creating awareness to the student population about the major transition that RIT was entering (the transition from quarters to semesters).
To give some metrics from my campaigns:
- We had over 1,300 likes for our SIS page when the transition was happening and 259 followers on Twitter (and growing)
- Both pages have given out prizes including: gift cards and iPads
- We have over 328 likes on our Facebook page and growing for Semester Conversion and 45 followers on Twitter (and growing as the conversion approaches)
- The SIS blog has received over 13000 views in under a year, while the Semester Conversion blog has received over 1000 views.
- We monitored Reddit and watched to make sure that student’s were giving out correct information online and put the correct information out there when there was a problem.
So what did I learn? How should my knowledge help people in higher education trying to reach students with the power of social media?
Here is a short list that I learned that can help other schools trying find their way with Student Engagement Online.
If I learned one thing, it was the power of blogging. If you are going to have a social media campaign, you better have a blog and use it. If you are unsure about blogging, the proof comes from my campaign, 13000 views, retweets on Facebook and Twitter. A blog can be the ultimate bank for canned responses in higher education. A blog allows you to give the correct information and then post it on Facebook and Twitter to create a dialogue with your users.
2. Create Content that Students Want to Read
Social Media is not about just giving information and promoting yourself. You want to engage your users to ask questions and give you feedback, especially if you are targeting a student population. They already get spammed by college emails that are sent out to the massive population. Students want to feel connected to something more than an auto-reply. I tried to create content that was original, yet informative at the same time. When you stop feeding students facts and give them something that makes them want to “like” a post and say that is cute, it can be the difference between maintaining the like and the student “un-liking” your page especially for a specific campaign. It can also be the difference between the student remember the information in the post and just glancing over it.
3. Never Delete
The only reason to ever delete any feedback or comments is if they are spammed links. If you delete something off of social media it can create an even bigger fall-out. Positive or negative feedback all deserves a response. There is a fine line between ignoring someone because they are being annoying and asking useless questions and addressing serious concerns or negative feedback. The new SIS system at RIT received a lot of negative press and we had to address student, staff and faculty concerns. We had “trollers” (excessive posters) and we found that when you monitor what you say to them, answer the necessary questions and do not give them any reason to post further, they will start to go away or in our case other students will start to call them out on their trolling and unnecessary commenting.
4. Not Everything Is Going to Be Liked By Everyone
It is extremely important to stand by what you post, if you make a mistake than you can correct yourself; however, you should not delete the mistake.
I know for me on Twitter, I just recently made a mistake regarding when final grades were due. Unfortunately, I confused a staff member and they tweeted back to me. Before this campaign I would have deleted the original tweet and tweeted out the correct information. However, I personally apologized for the error and tweeted the correct date.
5. Never Assume
Assuming can lead to negative comments by students. When you make a mistake, students will find it and they will call you out on it.
The same mistake I made on Twitter, came from assuming. I did not check the academic calendar because after 7 previous finals weeks and grades, I assumed that grades were due by Sunday night at midnight as it had always been or as I had always received my .
Working in social media is about creating engagement. If you are creating a buzz and creating awareness than you are doing your job as a campaign manager in higher education. Most campaigns that will be run in higher education will be awareness campaigns, you want students to learn or get to know something know something. My two campaigns created the awareness that the Student Information System was changing and that RIT was converting to semesters for the 2013-14 academic year. We did not have any students complain that they did not know that the SIS was changing nor say that we were unaware we were converting to semesters. The semester conversion campaign was more about getting the information out while the SIS campaign was about making sure that students were informed and understood how to use the system.
In higher education the powers of a university often forget how to utilize your students. Releasing power is often hard but why not let students talk to students or come up with ideas about how to create awareness when it effects them.
I urge anyone to comment or contact me regarding their experience with using students to do work in higher education or create engagement through a social media campaign.
To be in the world of marketing you have to dare to be different and always challenge yourself. It is not always about you but the company you are working for. But on a personal level your own branding is so important in order to improve and be the person you want to be.
In today’s day and age you can basically learn anything on the internet so people begin to question, “why go to school?” I can not answer that for everyone, but I can answer it for myself. I love learning and bettering myself. I believe you gain opportunities based on who you know, what you know, how well you have done things in the past, and how hard you work. I have been given so many opportunities by working hard and attending RIT. We may not be known for our business school because our engineering programs are nationally known; however, our business school is in the top 5% of the country.
At RIT we are given the opportunity to gain the hands on experience of working with technical students, engineers, computer science majors, photography majors, art majors, and deaf students. RIT is unique and I am proud to say that I go to Rochester Institute of Technology.
What is your Brand Image?