Hello and Welcome to LiveMaas! My name is Wesley Maas and it is absolutely a pleasure to meet you. This is my introduction into blogging, so please feel free to click the link to learn a little more about me and my background here:
My hope is to take advantage of this incredible resource to bring you information and insight into areas of Higher Education, Academic Support as it relates to NCAA Athletics and Leadership.
It will become evident to you that I am not a professional writer. I do not reference MLA, APA or Chicago style and my sentences will range from fragments to run-ons with very little editing in between. Lets start our conversation surrounding one of our most important topics: Communication.
We have a saying in our program, the Student-Athlete Academic Center (SAAC) at Florida International University (FIU), that Communication is critical to our success. In order to effectively communicate, however, you have to know where your target audience is ‘listening’.
Many professionals in our field rely on email as their primary driver for communicating with the students under our care. This was the standard operating procedure for communication for our profession when we entered the field; so we learned it and adopted it as our own. I don’t know about you, but relying on email for communication simply does not work for our students here at FIU anymore. Please allow me to clarify, I have long been a proponent of documentation in a world where fingers are constantly pointed. Using email as a form of documentation is a necessary evil in our world. However, to communicate with the students where they are listening means we have to take advantage of the modes of communication that are available to us that our students actually use! Yes, Social Media & texting or social media platforms….
I’ve worked in Athletic Academic Support in some capacity for the past 17 years of my professional life, that is 4 years longer than FaceBook and our other social media platforms have existed. I did not grow up with social media or even the age of the internet. The internet through a dial up modem wasn’t truly available until my junior year of undergrad. I didn’t get a cell phone until my senior year, and that was kept in my car for emergencies while traveling back and forth between Florida and South Carolina for school. I find myself constantly trying to learn what is organically being taught to our current students through the resources available to them.
In the past ten years however, the trend for social connection has exploded – mostly due to the invention of smartphones such as the iPhone (2007). With the presence of social media channels such as Twitter (2006), Instagram (2010) and SnapChat (2011) alongside the combination of increased opportunities for social interaction through Kik (2010), WhatsApp (2010) and WeChat (2011), we are losing the battle of connecting with our students. We have two conflicting trains of thought between our students and those of us in the profession. The way we were taught and the mode in which we communicate to other professionals (Email) vs our students ability for Immediate interaction (SnapChat, WhatsApp, Social Media). I am confident we as higher education professionals need to find our footing in the ever changing social media landscape.
We are left with two specific questions:
1. Why don’t we take more advantage of the free texting/chat apps or social media channels that surround us?
2. Why do we continue to use email as our primary driver for communication with our students when the ROI is so low?
To me – it is simple – we want to communicate on our terms, at times that are convenient to us – not the time that is best, or in the way that best fits our intended audience. We unintentionally put the burden on our target audience to be responsible for the information. We need to change this mindset and embrace the opportunities that are being presented to us to connect with our students at a higher level and with more ROI.
We thrive at FIU because every decision we make is made in the best interest of our student-athletes. This includes communication. We have quickly become active on social media (FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram and SnapChat). We take advantage of the text/chat services available to us (iMessage, WhatsApp, Kik) to communicate to our students on their terms and the ROI has been immediate and impactful. Through our additional communication efforts our feedback from our student-athlete population has become increasingly positive. We have also been able to post the highest GPA in the History of the FIU Athletics Program. Increased communication leads to increased opportunities to connect and support our target audience.
So, as professionals, what do we do? For my first blog post – this is where our conversation hopefully starts. What are your thoughts on communication and how we can actively engage and motivate our students? How can we better serve them by supplying them with the information they need to be successful in the channel they most consume? What are Your daily drivers for communication to your students – and is it successful? How do we help integrate their styles of communication with what will be expected of them beyond graduation? We must find a way to meet them where they are and in their style of communication, while also teaching them the necessary skills to be equipped to handle themselves as adults once they leave our institution. I make it a point to provide my cell phone number to all those I interact with – so please feel free to add it to your contacts: (307) 223-6429.
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Twitter: @WesDMaas Instagram: @WesDMaas