Back in the High(er ed) Life Again!... and a Great Idea to Boot

I'm back!!! And I sincerely hope - as the great poet, philosopher, and soft rock impresario Steve Winwood once sang - that all the eyes that watched me once will smile and take me in.

Quick update on my life: in September 2015, I stopped working at the University of Portland and began a full-time, intensive one-year master's program in multimedia journalism at the University of Oregon. (Thankfully, the program is based in Portland and not Eugene, so I didn't have to move.) It's been weird and wonderful returning to school, but as a consequence I haven't had a whole lot of time for blogging or monitoring higher ed social media. Oh, and I also got engaged a few months ago, so I'm in the throes of wedding planning on top of everything else.

But recently I have felt an itch to return to this blog, and since it's my spring break I figured I would take advantage of the off-time to get back in the habit and maybe for once get my act together and actually schedule some posts for the future, so I won't fall behind. Speaking of which, I am moving to a Monday-Wednesday-Friday posting schedule for now, and I might even branch out a bit and share some ideas/thoughts from the world outside of higher ed. We'll see how that goes.

I do have a handful of good ideas that I will be sharing in the coming weeks, but since I have been out of the game a bit, I would love for people to share some ideas with me via the submission box to the right. And no need for it to be super recent... anything from the 2015-16 school year would be great!

OK... enough talk, let's rock!

Long-time readers of the blog will not be surprised at all to learn that the first great social media idea I want to share with you is... my own!  :)  And in fact, this actually isn't even a project I did while at University of Portland - it was a project I did as part of my master's program called Write Portland a Love Letter.

Here's a video, shot and edited (gulp!) by yours truly:

(Here's a pic of the envelope board, for those who don't feel like watching the whole thing.)

The basic gist of the idea is to set up a board with empty envelopes tapes on it (in this video, the color and design of the envelopes corresponded to the Portland city flag), and then set up a table next to it with notecards and pens. I made the board out of a 4x8 sheet of plywood and a couple of 2x4s. I painted it with black paint, used letter stencils I bought online from Alphabet Signs, and used double-sided tape to stick on the envelopes. I also set up a simple Tumblr blog where I posted some of the best letters I received... in retrospect, I wish I would have taken photos of all the letters instead of re-typing them.

I'm a big, big fan of participatory and "placemaking" public art projects. I think they are fantastic at creating memories, bringing joy, and making people feel proud and excited that things like this happen in their community. College campuses are AMAZING places to do projects like this, and I highly encourage anyone working in higher ed social media to try doing something like it. 

I also think it's important to provide college students a place where they can provide positive feedback about the place they go to school. It's so easy to complain about things online (on social media or YikYak or wherever), and snark and cynicism are almost always the one of choice. Creating chances for them to reflect a bit and feel something deeper is important - in the short-term and in the long-term. I also think the intimacy of writing a letter, especially given the feeling of anonymity and secrecy that goes along with a project like this, helps elicit more genuine responses.

As you can see in the video, pretty much everyone who wrote a letter also took a picture of the board, presumably to post on social media. The best part is that people don't even need any encouragement to do this... they naturally will bring whatever project you are doing in the real world and share it in the digital space.

And don't overlook the social media content opportunities a project like this offers your page - you can make a video (the assignment for the video above was a "story without words"... I could definitely see something with a lot less of the "making" in the front and then having people reading their letters working really well); you can take pictures of the best letters; you can do a timelapse; you can create quote graphics... so many different things you could do!

OK... that's all for now. It's good to be back, and stay tuned for a new post on Wednesday!


Amazing Alumni Engagement Program

Great Social Media Idea: Lemons, Lemonade, etc.