Digital Paths to University President Prestige

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Spring is in the air and once again schools, colleges and universities are aiming to finish strong and to reach their annual fund goals. While reflecting this week on the principles that make reaching these goals a reality, I came across an excellent post on Inside Higher Ed that reminded me of the truthful adage that “people don’t give money to institutions, they give money to people.”

Although most institutions use every means possible to make president names known, a recent survey study by Vanity Fair stated that a whopping 68% of alumni cannot name the president of their alma mater.

This stat = sad news for advancement pros.

Yet, with digital tools abound, there remains plenty of hope for university presidents to become more accessible and known to alumni. University presidents flocking to Twitter provide a great example of such promise. Amherst College;s Biddy Martin and The Ohio State University’s Gordon Gee run individual accounts that are responsive to community needs. Other accounts, such as Thayne McCulloh of Gonzaga University and Renu Khator of University of Houston, have been made with future university presidents in mind with handles such as @UHPrez and @Gonzaga_Prez. (See a whole list of HigherEd Admins worth following here).

Twitter is not the only place for digital presidential prestige; other outlets like video can also make a significant impact.

Bowdoin College, for example, has hosted live webcasts with their president, Barry Mills. These webcasts allow for alumni to participate with real-time questions, and help break down barriers between the greater school community and leadership.  Whether checking-in during the holidays or taking part in viral sensations, like President Benson of Southern Utah University getting in on the Harlem Shake with students, any opportunity for alumni to see institutional leaders in a more human helps foster stronger relationships and ties to the institution.

In what ways does your institutional leadership connect with your constituents?

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