Category Archives: Student Voices

Students, We Want Your Voices!

focusgroups

WIC is turning 11 years old this month, and we’re planning to give the space a refresh! If you are an undergraduate who studies at WIC, we’d like to hear your voice. We are holding student focus groups throughout April to get feedback on how we might improve our spaces and services to better accommodate student needs.

We will have Insomnia Cookies and giveaways for all who attend! Please register for a session below. All focus groups will be held in the WIC Seminar Room (Rm 124).

Sara Leavens: Communications, Marketing, and Social Media Coordinator

This blog post is the kick-off for a series of profiles that I will be doing on Penn Libraries staff and how their work coincides with the use of social media to reach patrons both traditionally (as in, in-person) and digitally (as in, via blogs, social media, websites, etc.).

The Penn Libraries has been a personal, intellectual home for me over the last five years, and as I wrap up my time as a graduate student here, I hope to share with you some behind-the-scenes insight into the people and resources that have made it possible for someone like me–a non-traditional graduate student–to do the amazing work I’ve been able to do with social media and working directly with library patrons.

My hope is that by the end of this short series, you will come to appreciate all the Penn Libraries has to offer its patrons, and share in my wonder that we have access to these space and resources.

–Jaime Marie Estrada
Social Media Intern, Weigle Information Commons, Penn Libraries
Master of Liberal Arts Candidate, Philosophy and Communications, 2017

For the first blog post of the series “Social Media at Penn Libraries,” I’d like to introduce you to Sara Leavens, a recent addition to the Penn Libraries staff. Sara Leavens came to UPenn from the University of Kansas where she studied creative writing. Sara’s strengths lie in that she understands how to engage with students, faculty, and staff to make the resources available at the libraries more visible using social media and other forms of communications and marketing.

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Sara and learn how she came to Penn and what her first few months on the job were like:

Sara Leavens started at the Penn Libraries as Communications, Marketing, and Social Media Coordinator in 2015.

Since Sara comes from a creative writing background, some of her role comes naturally to her! Sara has an MFA in Creative Writing and had originally planned on being a professor. However, she didn’t want to pursue a PhD, and with a technical communications background from her undergraduate work, she realized there was a need for social media at her academic department at the University of Kansas. Sara started the department’s Twitter and FB pages at the University of Kansas. Eventually, these pages became the most visited departmental pages at UKansas from 2013-2015.

When Sara first started at the Penn Libraries as Communications, Marketing, and Social Media Coordinator in 2015, she found the libraries’ many social media accounts to be quite established. She described her first few months here as a “good will tour,” where she met with head librarians and directors of the 14 (!!!) libraries, to learn about their current social media management and future needs.

From there, Sara went about the challenging and fun work of trying to ascertain and corral all of the social media accounts that each center and library had established for itself. In some cases, it took her as long as two years to hunt down and redirect some of the accounts! Centralizing communications and social media is a common trend being undertaken by many college and university campuses as they are starting to see social media less as a grassroots initiative and as more central to the branding and marketing of higher education to its most important audience: the students.

Continue reading Sara Leavens: Communications, Marketing, and Social Media Coordinator

Social Media Outside of the Classroom

As the graduate intern for social media, I’ve been teaching social media workshops for Penn students, faculty, and staff at the Weigle Information Commons for over two years now. When I first started, it still was not clear what the purpose of social media was in the classroom or in academic life for that matter. However, more and more people are now buying into the idea of personal/professional branding and using social media platforms as learning tools.

In the last two years, we have all noted the rise of social media usage and how the lines between personal, professional, and useful are blurring. With the close of election 2016, the beginning of 2017, and the resurgence of using social media to organize in-person gatherings and protests, there is absolutely no doubt that social media will continue to rise in importance for college-age Americans and those who serve them as educators, mentors, colleagues, and support staff.

Here at the Penn Libraries, January has been an exciting time. On Saturday, the 14th, a hundred or so librarians, scientists, coders, hackers, and interested parties gathered to scrape data from NOAA.gov and other websites prior to the new administration potentially removing it from those sites. In addition, we have a series of workshops on identifying and avoiding “Fake News.” Individually, neither of these events is about “social media” in the way that my social media workshops are, but they are inherently linked to how undergraduate, graduate, and professional students use social media in their everyday lives on-and-off campus, in-and-out of the classroom.

Fake news is often perpetuated through news feeds on social sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc. In addition, accessing real news, and learning about real “threats” such as losing valuable information about climate change or other public scientific data, also occurs on social media sites. Most of us access our news digitally and many of us access our news on social media platforms.

For many years, I’ve heard concerns from older generations that millennials and younger generations consume news and “real information” differently and perhaps less intentionally. This quote from the Media Insight Project’s study on how millennials get their news is illuminating:

The worry is that Millennials’ awareness of the world, as a result, is narrow, their discovery of events is incidental and passive, and that news is just one of many random elements in a social feed.

This has been the concern of older generations of educators since I started working professionally with social media in college in 2010 and continues through to today. From my experience, students at both the graduate and undergraduate levels are very concerned that they are accessing and publishing the right information. There is a lot of social anxiety around what our brands look like online and building those brands requires a certain level of familiarity and comfort with using social media. For intellectual spaces like Penn, it also means that there is growing concern among active users of social media that their intellectual growth and learning empowers them to understand what they read and take action on it. Here are some of that 2014 study’s findings about how millennials consume news:

  • While Millennials are highly equipped, it is not true they are constantly connected. More than 90 percent of adults age 18-34 surveyed own smartphones, and half own tablets. But only half (51 percent) say they are online most or all of the day.

  • Email is the most common digital activity, but news is a significant part of the online lives of Millennials, as well. Fully 69 percent report getting news at least once a day — 40 percent several times a day.

  • Millennials acquire news for many reasons, which include a fairly even mix of civic motivations (74 percent), problem-solving needs (63 percent), and social factors (67 percent) such as talking about it with friends.

As we look forward into this new year, I plan to attend as many workshops and teach as many workshops as possible about how to continue to be a responsible consumer of media. Keep the Penn Weigle Information Commons and the Penn Libraries’ programming sites bookmarked as these are themes that we continue to explore as a university and a community.

If you’re interested attending our ongoing workshops relating to media consumption, digital, and social media, here are a few:

(Jan. 30) Shoddy News

(Feb. 8) Creating Meaningful Graphics

(Feb. 15) Creating Video Presentations

Why Social Media?

Why social media at Penn? Social media at Penn and in college, graduate school, and in the professional world is not about scrubbing all traces of who you are off the internet. It’s about creating content that you are “sincerely” passionate about engaging with and making connections online that will lead to IRL experiences like your next research project, a career, a new friend, or an amazing conference experience.

I’ve now had this conversation countless times. As the Saturday consultant at the Weigle Information Commons, I’ve taught social media workshops at the Penn Libraries for two years now. Now and then, I publish a blog post on a particular social platform or tool. Every few months, a friend, a patron, a colleague, or a stranger asks about my work with social media and says, “Oh, I should really do more online!”

Continue reading Why Social Media?

What’s so great about Snapchat?

alexThis guest post by Alex Burns C’16 describes the mobile messaging application Snapchat. Alex is a recent graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Jenna Wortham’s recent New York Times Magazine article on Snapchat raised some very interesting points about the nature of social media usage today. The fundamental appeal of Snapchat is its “re-humanization” of social media interactions. Unlike Facebook and Instagram, where users upload polished photos and constantly interact with companies & brands, Snapchat utilizes low-resolution, real-time photos & short videos, making for a less manufactured, more authentic social interaction.

Snapchat messages, referred to as Snaps, are appealing to me because they are so much more raw than other forms of social media. While various filters can be utilized, these messages must be taken in real time and are only visible to most users temporarily. In an age where digital footprints seemingly follow you everywhere, it is refreshing to send messages that might be visible to your most of your friends for a matter of seconds.  As a result of the short-lived nature of snaps, there is much less pressure to look attractive or cool. People are less afraid to be themselves in photos that will soon be forgotten. The fact that these photos must be taken in real time make snaps more honest than other forms of social media.  You can’t spend time photo-shopping or uploading photos taken by other people at past dates. Snaps represent what you are doing at that very moment in time. Like life experiences, Snaps are mostly temporary. In Jenna’s words:

Snapchat isn’t the place where you go to be pretty. It’s the place where you go to be yourself.”

Not only is Snapchat refreshingly authentic, it has also changing the way we communicate. When emoji were introduced in 2011, they forever changed the austere nature of text messages by allowing users to supplement texts with graphics relaying various emotions. Emoji helped humanize text messages. While emoji have been widely embraced, there is a limit to what can be expressed through them. As Jenna writes, “though the catalog of emoji has expanded in response to user demand, it still struggles to keep up with the multiplicity of human experiences.” Snapchat has helped fill this void by allowing users to send more personalized graphics in real time. In a way, Snapchat allows users to create their own emoji. Whether it is drawing a picture, or conveying emotion through a personal photo, Snapchat has shifted the format of an instant message from a message based in text, to a message made up primarily of a graphic image which can be supplemented with text. This greater ability to customize messages is transforming communication and making it even more enjoyable.

Managing Social Media at the Commons


michelle joMichelle Bookyung Jo is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences studying communication. In this post, she shares her experiences working at Weigle Information Commons as a Social Media Manager and discusses our strategies for actively engaging the Penn community.

I have always known that Weigle Information Commons has a lot going on, on top of the study booths and group study rooms students reserve throughout the semester. Working as a social media student worker at WIC for the past academic year, I not only learned more about what WIC is but also gained important hands-on experiences managing social media accounts to connect with WIC’s audience.

WIC has various online channels through which it reaches the Penn community. It has its own Twitter and Instagram account and also contributes to the Penn Libraries social media channels: @upennlib on Twitter, InstagramFacebook; pennlibraries on Youtube; and University of Pennsylvania Libraries on Flickr. Focusing on Twitter and Instagram, I got to see who WIC connects with and what WIC is for the Penn community.

My most basic job responsibility was scheduling tweets for WIC’s weekly workshops, but I explored more ways to leverage social media channels and use Twitter as a way to promote WIC as a resource for everyone. Some weeks I focused on updating the audience about various types of digital support WIC offers including digital device rentals. Some other weeks, I focused on major upcoming events in WIC such as the Engaging Students through Technology Symposium and Diversi-Tea sessions. More importantly, trying to see WIC’s social media presence from an undergraduate student’s perspective, I tried to make the social media channels as current as possible, posting pictures of workshops and any ongoing events at WIC.

The most challenging part of my job was to make sure that our content reaches not just Penn faculty but Penn students as well. We understand that following many subsidiary accounts within the University may not be as appealing as following the main “uofpenn” account, but I still wanted to make sure that there will be content for students should they find us interesting and look for more. Such an effort was mostly made on WIC’s Instagram account, and it has been a channel where I post more up-to-date content about WIC.

As an undergraduate student worker, I realized that there is a lot going on at WIC. I would like to invite fellow undergraduate students to know that any digital or technology-related support is available at WIC and encourage everyone to check our blog and social media channels from time to time.

Wall of Rejection @ WIC

Image of one of rejections that was posted to the wall. It says, "I am not my rejections and lists several clubs and internships from which the student was rejected.

Oh, rejection… We’ve all been there. From the minor everyday letdowns of our social media posts remaining unliked to the major devastations of not getting into our preferred school, rejection is a very real component of the student experience.

In his TED Talk on emotional pain, psychologist Guy Winch refers to rejection as a “psychological wound,” and it really does feel this way sometimes. Winch writes, “Rejection destabilizes our need to belong, leaving us feeling unsettled and socially untethered.” Yes, it’s normal and happens to everyone, but in that moment, it can be difficult to keep things in perspective. We have a tendency to withdraw to protect ourselves.

One imagines these feelings of isolation and disappointment that we experience through rejection are only amplified in a highly competitive academic environment such as Penn’s. Regarding the complex issues relating to campus student culture and mental health, college junior Rebecca Brown wrote an op-ed piece for the The Daily Pennsylvanian. Brown writes,

In internships, in graduate school admissions and especially in student activities. We slap on the Penn Face and pretend rejection doesn’t happen, or at least it doesn’t happen to us.

She calls for an increased culture of openness at Penn in which to discuss and destigmatize rejection. To help facilitate this process, she and other fellow student leaders recently created Penn’s first Wall of Rejection.

Image of the wall of rejection.

The student-managed exhibit sponsored by the Office of Student Affairs was hosted by WIC and students contributed items from April 25th to the 29th. The Weingarten Learning Resources Center (VPUL) is a partner in the soon-to-be-launched PennFaces website that will feature interviews with the Penn Wall student organizers. The entire Penn community was encouraged to come and share their rejection stories on the wall by filling out a notecard and having a polaroid photo taken.

image of a student's photo being taken for the wall

This patchwork of rejection tales coalesce into an inspiring narrative of camaraderie and support. Brown writes, “To make rejection a more acceptable topic at Penn is no easy task. Naturally, there is a sense of embarrassment that accompanies rejection. But thinking of rejection as a shared experience helps.”

Penn Benjamin’s Peer Counseling also shares this attitude and provides undergraduate students with in-person peer counseling as part of WIC’s Student Assistance Services.

The Penn Wall of Rejection is in good company. A few weeks ago, Princeton professor Johannes Haushofer’s CV of failures made headlines.

Well-known author J.K. Rowling also recently shared two of her rejection letters on Twitter to inspire future writers.

The Wall of Rejection is on display at WIC until commencement, and many members of the Penn community have participated–including myself! Brown intends to hold the event again next year and hopes that a broader collective of Penn students will contribute their rejection experiences.