What’s Your Story? Using Text-Based Video Marketing (guest post by Amanda Greenhoe of Calvin College)

August 24, 2012

Recently, my team set out to tailor a marketing piece to a primary audience (donors), while still engaging other facets of our school’s constituents. To do this, we told a story that touches them all.

Great things are happening where I work, at Calvin College. It’s a 4,000-student, Christian liberal arts college in Grand Rapids, Michigan. And whether or not you have heard of it, students here are being prepared to serve around the corner and across the globe. Our grads are humble, not timid. They’re principled, not closed-minded. They’re deep thinkers, not surface skimmers.

That’s why our donors give. So, in order to tell them the story of Calvin’s 2011–12 academic and fiscal year, we needed to tell the story of our students. But while our recently-released year-in-review video is first and foremost a gift of gratitude to our supporters, it reaches beyond its primary audience.

After watching the video, students feel privileged to be here. Prospective students want to check this place out. Emeriti, faculty and staff are reminded of their impact. Parents are reminded of the school’s value. The public takes notice. And it’s all because we told a story.

Now, not all storytelling is a home run. This video was effectively distributed to donors via a thank-you email and mail piece that directed them to view the video online. It also gave a voice to many areas of the college, which fostered institutional buy-in.

Let’s not forget that this video is also successful because of its format. It combines engaging text and well done typography with fun, high-quality animation, which makes it watchable and shareable (and re-watchable and re-shareable!) While text-based videos do not offer the immediate visual connection that a photo of a student can bring, these types of videos will not be rendered outdated due to graduated students or updated buildings. Text-based videos bring a visual variety in a marketing field filled with videos of talking heads and those that rely too heavily on voice-overs.

The freelancer we worked with used Adobe After Effects to animate our script. If you are considering using a text-based video, I recommend writing your script in-house and relying on the animator for graphics and music. By writing the script in-house, we saved valuable resources. In terms of writing style, the script is short and to the point, which is key for this type of video.

For these reasons, members of the Calvin community are sharing this video via social media, and thereby spreading the word about the ways Calvin is inspiring students to live fully and faithfully.

Is it time for your school to do some storytelling? Know your story, know your audiences, and tell your narrative well.

How are you sharing your institution’s story and encouraging your students to contribute? Please share your comments below. All who comment will be entered into a raffle to win a Calvin College t-shirt and a copy of the book Okay for Now by Calvin professor Gary D. Schmidt.

Amanda Greenhoe serves as Coordinator for Development Communications and Marketing at Calvin College and as a freelance copywriter. She worked for a magazine, a newspaper, and a publishing house before finding her home in higher ed. She loves talking all things marketing and communications. Contact her via email, Twitter, LinkedIn, or her blog, Reach and Rally.

So You Want to Be a Vice President of Student Affairs (Guest Post by Dr. Linda D. Koch, D.Ed.)

August 2, 2011

Almost forty years ago, I decided I wanted to become a student affairs professional. As an undergraduate student, I was like many soon to be student affairs professionals in that I was a student government officer, in charge of the program board, involved in any number of clubs and organizations and little did I realize that would become my career path.  While working at my alma mater [East Stroudsburg], I was asked to fill in for a student affairs professional that needed to be on leave for a year. It was the beginning of what became a lifetime commitment to students.

I learned very early in this career that I needed to be credentialed appropriately. I watched many of my professional colleagues with lots of ability never chosen to be more than an Assistant or Associate Dean. Some by their own choosing but many because they felt it was not necessary to have a terminal degree. I should note that many of them were also female and that could also be another reason for not being selected. I made certain if I was not going to move up the career ladder there would be a good reason for it and it was not because I did not fit the academic requirement of a terminal degree.

My goal was to have all of my education completed by the time I was thirty. I missed it by about six months. It meant sacrifice and living on a budget that now seems quite meager. I commuted from Shippensburg, PA to State College, PA for two years before I realized I needed to spend the better part of a year getting the doctorate finished. There was a point in time that I also considered going to law school and not finishing the doctorate but I am glad I made the choice I did and completed a degree in Higher Education.

Our profession is an odd one in that there is no one degree that is preferred over another for the senior student affairs officer. The only criteria that I think is invaluable are the ability to speak in complete thoughts and also write them in communications to our academic colleagues. I have seen very intelligent professionals fail to achieve their goals because they neglect to write well and without grammatical mistakes and can barely engage others in conversation.

All of us read materials by professionals who are published in journals that are pertinent to what we do. Being a senior level administrator, however, does not necessarily mean you need to be published or even know how to conduct research. In these troubled times in all of education, we need to be able to analyze data, put together a plan that will work and become part of every committee on campus that needs to be reminded that students are our customer.

Working with all of the faculty and staff on a campus is always a part of the expectation for the senior student affairs officer. This is particularly true during troubled times and during an emergency, like a student tragedy. We have too many, most of the time, audiences that need to hear our voices. I believe it is critical that the Vice President for Student Affairs learns to be the spokesperson for the campus not only for student matters but in times of great sadness as well as joy. We are one of only a few administrators who can handle matters effectively when there needs to be one voice.

All of the experiences in higher education matter as you wander down the path that leads to the senior officer position. Most of us come out of housing and/or residence life. This is the only way to learn about how an institution functions. As a professional, I also think it is essential to move up through appropriate levels of experience, i.e. Assistant/Associate Dean, Dean and even Assistant Vice President. Learning takes place at all levels of responsibility but different settings are also important. I have worked at five different universities during my career and each one had a different way of doing things. That provided me with more perspective than I could possibly have hoped for.

Take advantage of professional development opportunities outside of the student affairs profession. Time I spent at Harvard’s Institute for Educational Management has been irreplaceable. Find someone on your campus who can nominate you for this program once you become a Vice President. Also, I have thoroughly enjoyed and learned a great deal by becoming a peer evaluator for Middle States Regional Accrediting Agency.  Visiting a campus that has just completed several years of studying itself and telling you about it, is a great way to gain ideas that may help you on your campus.

As your campus looks for leaders to participate on committees that are a part of various processes, volunteer to help. Volunteer to be a part of the selection processes for important positions on your campus, you will learn a great deal.

Making a campus better for students is all of our jobs and sometimes we do it well and other times we do not. In these financially troubled times, it will take more than the Vice President for Student Affairs to do that. As anyone begins the search process for such a position, ask others to help you. Practice questions for interviews are essential as you prepare for such an experience. Doing homework on the institutions you apply to is also critical in the process.

Finally, all of us work for a boss. Get to know your President and clearly let him or her know that you are a team player who wants to make the campus a better place for everyone. Being politically savvy and able to talk with other professionals is imperative to making sure you are successful.

Linda D. Koch, D.Ed. has been the only Vice President for Student Affairs in the history of Lock Haven University. She holds a BA and an MA in History from East Stroudsburg University; an M. S. in Counseling from Ohio University and a D. Ed. in Higher Education from Penn State University. A native of Pennsylvania, she has worked for East Stroudsburg University as an Assistant Dean; Ohio University as a Resident Director and Teaching Assistant; Shippensburg University as an Assistant Dean; Western Connecticut as Associate Dean and Lock Haven University as a Dean of Student Affairs and Vice President for Student Affairs. She resides in Lock Haven with four male cats!

Is It Time for an Action Learning Revolution? (Guest Post)

December 21, 2010

By Dr. Greg Waddell

How do people keep a bicycle upright when they ride it? Ask your students that question some time, and you will get some interesting answers. You are not likely, however, to receive the scientific answer that has something to do with centrifugal force and shifting the angle of the wheel in inverse proportion to the bicycle’s angle to the earth when it begins to fall. This is because we intuitively understand that learning to ride a bicycle is more than conceptualization. In fact, learning has not really taken place until the learner puts the concepts into practice, until they get on the bicycle and begin riding.

One study of highly effective managers found that the decisive factors were not academic achievement but skills in management, problem solving, planning, delegating, inspiring, leading change, resolving conflicts, and interpersonal communicating, all of which are people-intensive skills. In most universities today, however, students are given only a smattering of real-time workplace experience. They learn theories about management in the sterile context of the classroom–theories often based on solutions that were designed to answer yesterday’s questions–many of which must be unlearned because they no longer make sense in today’s business environment.

A fresh approach is needed in the educational world, one that seeks to recover the ancient practice of learning by doing. Before the industrialization of education, students would experiment with possible solutions to problems, test their solutions, ponder the results, adjust their theories to the realities of their results, and then come back and tackle the problem again. This is the cycle of Action Learning.

The time has come to break out of the mold of mass-produced education, education that is only supposed to take place in specially-designated rooms called “classrooms,” education that measures learning in precisely-defined chunks of time called credit hours, education that answers questions before they are asked, education that consists primarily of filling empty heads with words. An approach is needed that fuses good information with good practice and thereby prepares students for today’s challenges.

More important than learning a “body of information,” management students today need to gain the ability to adapt to real-life situations they will face in the workplace. A farmer’s seed has no effect until it is planted in the soil. In the same way, cognitive learning has no effect until it is planted in the soil of real-time experience. Leadership quality is produced in the crucible of life experience.

I’m suggesting that maybe the professor’s role needs to change from that of a source of information to that of a process facilitator, one who facilitates the process of learning by experience. According to this model, curriculum changes from answers to unasked questions into answers to student-initiated questions that are born from experience. Once action spawns questions, these questions can also direct the educational institution so that the institution itself learns better how to prepare leaders. By expansively understanding today’s business context and the people with whom they will have to relate, students in an Action Learning project will be better prepared for management in the real world.

Action Learning is an educational model that sees learning as the product of tackling real problems in real situations. By taking the approach of Action Learning students would not have to wait until they have graduated to begin doing something real. Their education would not be hypothetical; instead of learning prior to action, they would learn through action.

Particularly for those pursuing a career as a leader or manager, learning divorced from action can produce only a caricature of leadership. To avoid this, the student’s education needs to include the development of people skills and these can only be learned by engaging in real management. What about a system where, each year, new recruits would join an Action Management Cohort Team that would take on a real entrepreneurial project? What if the main evidence for a successful education would be the launching of a new small business enterprise? How would the world be different if educational institutions all began to measure success by the production of workable solutions and not just by the regurgitation of information?

Dr. Greg Waddell is a student of Organizational Development, Strategic Planning, and Theology. He received his doctorate in Strategic Leadership from Regent University. He is currently serving as Professor of Leadership Studies and as the Director of Institutional Improvement at Mid-South Christian College in Memphis, TN. Dr. Waddell is a technology enthusiast, connoisseur of classic rock, husband & father of 32 yrs, former missionary of 21 years, & a striving Christ follower. For more articles by Dr. Waddell, see his blog site: SpiritOfOrganization.com.

10 Resourceful Leadership Tweeps You Should Follow

November 12, 2010

Twitter has established itself as a critical and useful social media tool.  Simply by using the # (hash sign) coupled with your choice topic, you can tune into a global conversation with immediate results. As student leaders, graduate assistants, and higher education professionals, your interest in leadership and getting the most up-to-date and best leadership content is paramount to your work. 

@Studentlifeguru has been following #Leadership for nearly a year.  Below is a listing of the Top 10 Tweeters of quality leadership resources:

1. @LeadershipNow – Michael McKinney from Pasadena, CA posts great leadership insight, quotes, articles and resources. Profile: Lead From Where You Are. LeadershipNow works to build leaders at all levels and in all contexts. http://www.leadershipnow.com

2. @TheLeaderLab – With over 10,000 followers, LeaderLab prides itself in the advancement of leadership theory and practice. Profile: LeaderLab is a community of resources dedicated to the advancement of leadership theory. http://theleaderlab.org

3. @LeaderInfluence – LeaderInfluence is hosting an online event by posting video of 30 influential leaders for you to view for free. Profile: LEADERSHIP & INFLUENCE SUMMIT. A free online event. 30+ Leading Experts Share Strategies on How To Maximize Leadership and Influence Effectiveness. http://www.LeadershipAndInfluenceSummit.com

4. @LeadershipFreak – Dan Rockwell is the face behind LeadershipFreak and hosts a comprehensive blog that covers leadership topics ranging from conflict resolution to personal growth. Profile: Blogger, committed to helping leaders reach higher in 300 words or less. Connecting, listening, learning. MBA-Happily married. http://www.leadershipfreak.wordpress.com

5. @DrJohnMcGinn – Dr. John McGinn publishes a free newsletter, and as an incentive for signing up for his newsletter, you can receive a free e-book entitled “How to Build Self-Esteem.” Profile: Executive Coach, Leadership Consultant: Helping others achieve a more compelling, goal-oriented life, filled with significance and success. http://drjohnmcginn.com

6. @JohnCMaxwell – John C. Maxwell is one of foremost authorites on leadership on the globe. He is most well-known for his books, including The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You and The 360 Degree Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization. Profile: Bestselling author & speaker on leadership. Christian. Blogger. World traveler. Assisted here by Stephanie Wetzel (SW) admin@johnmaxwellonleadership.com http://johnmaxwellonleadership.com

7. @LeaderTalk – LeaderTalk is an awesome leadership blog  hosted by Mountain State University’s School of Leadership & Professional Development in Beckley, WV. They offer advice and free resources that you’ll find helpful! Profile: Mountain State University’s leadership blog. http://leadertalk.mountainstate.edu

8. @simonsinek – Simon Sinek hails from New York and offers insightful nuggets of information that are thought-provoking and useful in working with and leading people. Profile: To run and jump and laugh and cry and love and hope and imagine…to experience as much as I can all for one purpose: to inspire. http://www.simonsinek.com

9. @BrianKDodd – Brian Dodd is from Woodstock, GA and has an interesting and neat spin on leadership with a religious flair and a penchant for sports and pop culture. Profile: Brian Dodd is a church stewardship & leadership consultant. http://www.briandoddonleadership.com

10. @Nunavut_Teacher – Our friend from the Great White North (Nunavut, Canada) is a dedicated educator. I contend that leaders are teachers, and Brian offers great Tweets that any leader can benefit from! Profile: Grade9Teacher, thinker, change advocate, idea man, guitar man, technology guy, self directed learner, adding creativity into everything I do. http://nunavutteacher.blogspot.com/

Feel free to comment to this post, and let us know who you follow that offers great leadership advice, resources, and inspiration.

Student Affairs & Graduate School: A Brief “How-To”

October 26, 2010

I remember the day I decided to pursue a career in student affairs as if it was yesterday. I was sitting in my apartment and texting back and forth with my supervisor. He said he was going to Penn State University in the coming days to register for dissertation classes and to speak with his advisor. He asked if I wanted to go and talk with the chair of the master’s program to see if this would be a career I would be interested in.

Prior to this conversation, I had my life planned out. I was going to teach, become a principal, earn a doctorate, and become a superintendent.

I thought about my experiences as a RA, student government member, and Student Trustee. I really enjoyed my experience at Bloomsburg University, but was this something I wanted to make into a career?

After speaking with the program chair and a bit more with my supervisor, I decided to apply to graduate school. After a two-month rat race of researching schools, registering for the GRE and speaking with advisors and professors, I submitted application materials to schools. After several interviews and campus visits, I accepted an offer from Bowling Green State University. There I would have a two-year assistantship as a Graduate Hall Director in the Office of Residence Life.

As I think back to my journey from undergrad to graduate school, I want to offer advice for those considering going to grad school for a master’s in student affairs.

  • Know thyself – I took a chance on a new career path and it has been rewarding. However, graduate school and student affairs are not for everyone. Graduate school should not be an avenue to delay “the real world” (for those going from undergrad straight to grad school). Likewise, viewing student affairs as an extension of undergrad or to “relive the best days” are two poisonous thoughts. Going into student affairs is a commitment to helping college students develop the necessary skills to be successful and mature adults.
  • Start early – My journey was unique. I did not make a decision until the end of September that graduate school was my next step. As a result, I rushed through certain steps and did not get the recommended preparation time for the GRE. Give yourself enough time to make correct decisions on how many and which schools to submit applications, who to ask for recommendations, drafting application essays, and proper preparation for the GRE.
  • Be prepared to get and give rejection – One of the key words you will hear on your search is “fit.” Just as schools are considering you, you have to consider the institution, program, and location. I interviewed with several schools (who accepted me into their program), but I felt it was not the best “fit” for me. Likewise, I was rejected from many programs where I thought I had a good “fit.” I learned to be honest with each school through the process. If you feel it is not a good fit, be open and honest with the department/program chair.
  • Patience – Everyone works with deadlines. Every school has a different deadline date, review date, and interview date(s). Being patient and trusting the process is all part of the application process.
  • M.A., M.S., or M.Ed.? The difference between the types of degrees depends on whom you ask. Traditionally, the M.A. is viewed as a generalist degree; having transferrable skills and prepares one for a variety of jobs. The M.S. is viewed as a degree with one specific focus such as microbiology or organic chemistry. The M.Ed. is rooted in educational disciplines such as guidance counseling, curriculum & instruction, or instructional technology. Whatever the type of degree it is, it will vary institution to institution, and in most instances, you will find answers in the program curriculum guide.
  • Type of Program – When researching student affairs graduate programs you will come across a variety of program names. Some of the more common program names include College Student Personnel (CSP), Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA), Educational Leadership with a focus in Higher Education, and Higher Education Administration (HEA). While these names sound similar, their functions can be different. Some programs are student development focused while others are geared towards the administration within student affairs and/or higher education in general.

Below are two excellent web resources you can use when considering graduate schools for student affairs:

American College Personnel Association’s Directory of Graduate Programs

National Association of Student Personnel Administrator’s Graduate Program Directory

Steve Knepp (@stevenknepp) is currently finishing his first year as a full-time professional in higher education. His areas of interest include residence life, student government, and student leadership development. Steve earned his B.S. in Elementary Education from Bloomsburg University and his M.A. in College Student Personnel from Bowling Green State University. His hobbies include camping, golf, and traveling. You can follow Steve on his blog at http://steve0709.wordpress.com

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