It certainly is a new era in Higher Education, and social media provides all the Barnum and Bailey we need to make it one of the most fascinating and innovative eras in the history of Higher Ed.
At Southwestern College in Santa Fe, we just hired a Vice-President of Academic Affairs & Dean, Dr. Ann Filemyr. Our relationship with Ann began on Facebook, where we friended her maybe seven years ago. She was the Academic Dean at the Institute of American Indian Arts here in Santa Fe at that time. She eventually became a member of our Board of Trustees, and then when our Academic Dean position opened, the next thing we knew, our Facebook Friend became VPAA.
Ann is decidedly my personal "succession plan", as well as the succession plan for Katherine Ninos, our Executive Vice President. So the future of Southwestern College is indebted to Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook. Isn't that a hoot.
Stuart Cline will begin teaching in Southwestern College's Art Therapy/Counseling program in the fall of 2014. I met him on Linked In, searching around for licensed Art Therapists in New Mexico. I invited him to be a "Connection", then we had lunch in Santa Fe, and next thing you know, he is our first male Art Therapy instructor in many years. How cool is that?
Cynthia Fulreader -- same story. Found her on Linked In, and we went back and forth, and the next thing you know, she is adjunct faculty at Southwestern College... There's a trend here...
Nowadays, when our Director of Admissions brings a prospective student to my office for introduction, there is about an 85% chance that they have read many of my blog posts, that they follow Southwestern College on Facebook, or are even a personal Friend of mine on Facebook, or a connection on Linked In. Many have seen our images on Pinterest, or follow us on Instagram. They have watched our You Tube videos. It's the first thing they mention when we meet. "I kind of feel like I know you already..." I love it.
This is the new era. It is happening in social media. I get a lot of mileage out of the fact that I am on Facebook, that I promote the school, comment on the World Cup games, post Pink Floyd or Talking Heads videos that I find particularly compelling, post job listings for Counselors and Art Therapists all over the country, and regularly post photos of my recently passed wire haired fox terrier, Barney.
We are an alternative, holistic and fully accredited graduate school. Students love that I do all of this, and that I might even engage in, or create good-natured controversy. Probably this presidential presence does not fly at The Ohio State University, my alma mater. But it sails well here. Also, it is fun. And it grows the College.
Anybody who still sings that tired old line about "but these aren't 'real' relationships" is not able to tune into the reality that this is not a fad, nor a developmental stage, but a multicultural issue. Social media is a culture; it is one of the key ways many of us choose to relate, and live, and connect these days. Nobody would go to Chinatown and tell folks they should be eating at Boston Market or Olive Garden, saying "that stuff you guys cook is not real food..." How do we presume to tell the digital natives that their texting, and Instagram-ing is not "real connection", and that when they are more fully developed as human beings, they will connect the way we did back in the day -- the REAL way? It's crazy. Sorry. Side rant. I teach "Ethics and Social Media", and I can get going on this one.
It is 2014. Nobody knows where this is all going. In Higher Education, you have to build your next super turbo jet engine while keeping the plane flying at 35,000, because there is not enough down time to land, and create a strategic plan around engines. The new era will not abide such ass-dragging.
It just won't. At least not in my neighborhood of Higher Ed.
Well, I have to get online, and check out all of my Facebook and Linked In groups, see what is going on, make some more connections, blog a little, like, comment and share, and post photos of Barney I took on my campus the week before he passed over to pure positive energy.
Oh, yeah, and I will probably meet some new Higher Ed folks too -- that's where the leaders of the future hang out...