On Friday, our team geared up for our third #UMichChat. Unlike the previous Twitter chats, which featured several guests throughout the allotted time, we were fortunate enough to sit one-on-one with E. Royster Harper, V.P. for Student Life, and discuss “Creating Community at Michigan” for the full hour. As a student, I regularly receive emails from V.P. Harper regarding new campus initiatives and important student events. It was a unique experience to finally have the opportunity to sit down with the person behind it all, and be able to hear her advice first-hand. At one point, I joked about being indecisive about graduate school and looked to V.P. Harper for her response, off the record. She responded with a smile and said, “Tweet it at me!” Of course I did, allowing us to begin to see the conversation come full-circle online, which was very exciting.


The goal for this chat involved reflecting on the campus community at the University of Michigan, learning more about what V.P. Harper’s role entails, and how the Student Life office works to address student concerns, make accommodations, and take into consideration student wants and needs. At UMSocial, we want each #UMichChat to be relevant and engaging for our Wolverines, and so topics depend on what is happening at that moment within the campus community, but also larger trending issues in which we can join and add value to the conversation. We want our followers to be passionate about each discussion, and engaged throughout the course of the hour. V.P. E. Royster Harper was the perfect individual to address everything from small-scale student initiatives to large, on-campus protests, and so we are thankful that she was able to direct this conversation in a meaningful way.

Chat questions ranged from ice-breaker topics, “Have you ever fed a Michigan squirrel?” to more pressing issues of campus diversity, inclusion, and safety. Placing a leader of V.P. Harper’s caliber in this format provides students, and our entire social audience, unprecedented access to their thoughts and insights. In this case, the genuine and caring nature of V.P. Harper for both the University and all of its students shone through. In order to prepare for each chat, the UMSocial team solicits questions from all of our online communities during the week leading up to the discussion. We enter each #UMichChat with a lengthy script of questions, and work to continuously monitor the hashtag and pull submissions from the community live as the conversation unfolds.

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See the full #UMichChat recap here: http://storify.com/umichigan/umichchat

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Throughout the course of the chat, V.P. Harper was sincere in her answers, and responded honestly to even the toughest of questions. When asked about responding to criticism and negative publicity, she acknowledged that, “At first, it hurts. We’re human, and we are not doing this work to cause others stress or pain. We then look for ways to respond to what people are telling us.” She continued by praising the student body for its continual commitment to discovering their voice: “It is about students discovering their power & voice. Whether that is in a protest or a letter to the @michigandaily…” It was rewarding to see students responding and engaging with @umich and V.P. Harper’s own account, with a number of individuals proactively asking questions the entire time!

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E. Royster Harper gets ready to kick off the third #UMichChat!

In terms of engagement, this #UMichChat garnered 912K impressions and an estimated reach of 325K. Thanks to everyone who took time to submit questions and jump into the conversation! Join us next month as we discuss innovation, entrepreneurship, and Michigan’s future with Governor Rick Snyder and Thomas Zurbuchen, associate dean for entrepreneurial programs at UMich. It’s certain to be a wonderful time!

Have any future speakers or topics in mind? You know where to find us: @umich.

This post was written by Katie Szymanski, Communication and Digital Studies senior; #UMsocial editorial intern