Tag Archives: Higher Education

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

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offer the immediate visual connection that a photo of a student can bring, these types of videos will not be rendered outdated due to graduated students or updated buildings.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.)

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)

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.