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2012 July 9 - 12:00 am

TRACKING TRENDS : La. College Presidents in The Tweeting World

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) — After a campus meeting about using social media, LSU-Shreveport’s Paul Sisson joined Twitter and Facebook to reach out to the community.

His first tweet? “Hello Twitter! I am the Interim Chancellor at LSUS. I would love for (hash)LSUS students to follow me and show me how to tweet!”

Other Northwest Louisiana higher education leaders on social media include Jim Henderson, chancellor of Bossier Parish Community College in Bossier City, and David Rowe, president of Centenary College in Shreveport.

Sisson has been tweeting from every place and meeting he’s been, to give the public an inside peek into the role of a university chancellor. But he admits to still being on training wheels. “I’m not going to claim that I jumped in and I am great. I’ve had help.”

Henderson, named by Converge Magazine as one of the 45 most active community college presidents on Twitter, says tweeting has been a great way for people to get to know him and the community. It’s “a great way to convey succinct message to an ever-expanding network.

“Telling the BPCC story of innovation and responsiveness with hashtags is not only a productive means of communication, it’s fun,” Henderson said. “The synchronization across other social media sites enhances the effectiveness and allows me to touch base with students, employers, faculty and staff from anywhere at any time.”

Centenary’s Rowe also lauds Twitter for enabling him to reach out to students and share information quickly. “Using Twitter, I am able to easily share information college presidents have access to that others might not — for example, tweeting comments from a speaker at a national conference to a wider audience.

“It also keeps me closely connected to our current student body, alumni, faculty, staff and prospective students,” Rowe said.

“Oh, and, of course, my Twitter followers are the first to know if the college is closed for the odd snow day.”

Seeing a college president tweet is very powerful for connecting with students and recruiting prospective students, says J.R. Ramsey, social media specialist for Centenary.

“It’s strong with the incoming students because they grew up with it.”

Ramsey remembers the humble beginnings of social media, MySpace, Xanga and other sites. Though those were popular mainly with younger users at the time, the rules have changed.

“It almost blows my mind that even then social media was scratching the surface,” Ramsey said. “It’s rare to meet someone not on Facebook.”

Centenary spokeswoman Margo Shielder agrees. “This is clearly how the up and coming generation communicates. If you’re going to be a leader of a higher education institution, you have to be behind these new mediums of communications.”

LSUS’ Sisson hopes to see students use the medium to ask questions or even say hello. “One of the biggest advantages is that we are small and friendly campus. Students know me, and they know I keep on teaching every fall and every spring. I tell them to say hello. Hopefully, through Twitter they’ll also say hello.”

Comments: ccweekblog

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