The VPM Blog

Case Study: How to Engage Students

Posted by Piper.vpm on May 22, 2013 5:45:53 AM

Universities need to keep their students engaged. Duh, right? It may seem obvious, but it’s easier said than done. So, how do universities effectively keep students connected and interested? These three universities seem to have it figured out:

Susquehanna University in central Pennsylvania is obviously aware that students appreciate free...well, anything. They host a “Spring Weekend” at the end of each year to help students celebrate the completion of exams. Ranging from raves to laser tag to carnivals, Spring Weekend at Susquehanna has it all. The rave provides free alcohol, free glow sticks, free admission, a free DJ...I mean, what else could students possibly need to celebrate?

Visiting for the week, I was able to attend, and I witnessed quite the student response. One student mentioned that Spring Weekend always refreshes her connection with the University. She described it as a bonding experience, almost an apology from the University for forcing her to take exams. Okay, maybe that’s an odd take on the event, but whatever works, right? A couple hundred students showed up to the event, after all. Looks like the best things in life really are free.

West Virginia University is also social, but in a different way. They engage their students on Twitter, constantly retweeting students, personally responding to them, and tweeting about fun activities around campus as well as important educational topics. They even created the hashtag #wvugrad and have used it throughout the past weeks to allow people to easily find anything and everything on graduation -- whether it be something a graduating senior tweeted or pictures of the graduation ceremony.

Tricia Petty, the associate vice president for Marketing and Operations at West Virginia University, says their secret is not being afraid to try new things. They’ve found that the best way to reach their audience is through social media, and as it continues to evolve, so does their technique in using it. WVU even won the 2013 Shorty Award for the most social campus. Obviously they are doing something right.

University of South Florida takes student engagement to the next level by creating student-alumni connections through LinkedIn. They keep alumni updated on the university and connect students through a wide variety of professions, industries, and locations. The university has a countless number of groups, ranging from groups by college, groups by location, groups by connected companies, etc. They even have a group for how to use LinkedIn.

One student described how he had no prior work experience, but graduation was approaching quickly and, thus, the infamous job search. Instead of panicking (like the rest of the country), he joined LinkedIn and connected with the USF alumni group. After posting his job interests, an alumni almost immediately reached out to him with an available position. The alumni put in a good word for the graduate and, poof, he got the job. Through frequent USF updates on LinkedIn, the alumni knew the university was continuing to produce qualified students, so he was happy to help out the recent grad. Association by association, if you will.

There are countless ways to engage and connect with students both on- and offline, you just have to find what works best for your university. Have warm weather? Throw a pool party. Lots of school spirit? Take advantage and connect with LinkedIn. Beautiful campus? Reach out with Instagram. Like these universities, all you have to do is be flexible, be creative, and be fun. #GetSocial

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Author: Piper Donnelly is our Summer Editor, Word-Smith and Communications Connoisseur here at Verge Pipe Media. Verge Pipe Media assists public institutions, enterprises and the non-profit sector with Imaginative Inbound Marketing strategies + campaigns. We also have a development team chock full of Marvelous Mobile Migrators, poised to help transition our clients into a mobile + social world with custom software, iOS and Android mobile apps.

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Topics: higher education, Social Media, Alumni Relations